Financial services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers believes that health and wellbeing initiatives are an integral part of trying to create a great place to work, says David Woods
Health has been given top priority at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in its bid to attract and retain employees. For years it had offered various health and wellbeing policies across the company, but lacked a central integrated approach. However, in 2004 it launched a comprehensive occupational health strategy, called Health Matters.
Vicki Broadhurst, manager of Health Matters, explains: “As an organisation, we knew that the management of health and wellbeing was important to us, and would be central to our continuing programme to attract and retain employees, and provide a great place to work. We set up a working group with members leading individual work streams examining sickness absence data, sick pay policy, health benefits, long-term absence management and wellbeing initiatives.”
These sessions enabled the organisation to ascertain which healthcare benefits would be most valued by staff and should be included.
The scheme comprises three main strands. Firstly, employees receive a core level of private medical insurance (PMI), income protection and personal accident insurance cover and death-in-service benefits through the company’s flexible benefits scheme, Choices. Staff can then choose to select and pay for further health and wellbeing perks through flex, including health screening, critical illness insurance, personal injury insurance and a cycle-to-work scheme, the latter of which was introduced in October 2006.
Secondly, all employees are provided with access to an occupational health and employee assistance programme (EAP) whereby they can receive advice on a range of issues in the workplace over the telephone, online or face to face, for themselves and their immediate family.
Thirdly, PwC offers staff a variety of on-site wellbeing perks through its Zest for Life scheme. These include onsite dentists, physiotherapy, reflexology, massage, meditation, yoga, Pilates, walk-in health clinics and wellbeing workshops, some of which are funded by the company, while others are paid for by employees. Staff are also provided with discounted gym membership.
“Zest for Life allows staff the opportunity to receive information about health, as well as the support to make a choice about their own wellbeing,” Broadhurst explains.
The take up for these options has been encouraging. “Across the company, we have had over 6,000 appointments for these services in the last financial year,” she adds.
As staff at the professional services firm spend the majority of their working day at their desks, one of the wellbeing workshops on offer, Desk Survival, focuses on what individuals can do to be healthier while at work. The course consists of a one-hour session led by the company’s health and fitness team who travel to office locations nationwide. The session is built around what it calls ‘the three Rs’- ‘refuelling’, which looks at the best and healthiest foods to eat while at work, ‘rejuvenate’, looking at the best exercises for staff to carry out at their desk and ‘refresh’ which educates staff about the best way to sit at their desk for safety, comfort and to avoid musculo-skeletal injuries. So far, 754 employees have attended this seminar and the organisation hopes to roll it out to all UK branches by July 2008.
This is just one of a number of seminar topics. “We also had 178 workshops on smoking cessation which were attended by 229 employees. A third of them confirmed that they had not smoked within a sixweek period following the sessions,” explains Broadhurst.
To help develop the scheme further, PwC has a number of employee health champions, who have an interest in health and wellbeing, and volunteer to help develop the health scheme at a grass roots level. “Our health champions meet every few months to discuss what staff would like to see in the health scheme and come up with new ideas. In Birmingham, a health champion recommended a massage option for staff, and a health champion in Cardiff helped usher in a running group,” explains Broadhurst.
She adds that communication is also important to the success of the strategy. “Information on our health programme is available through our internal UK portal [intranet site]. The Health, Fitness and Wellbeing module holds a wealth of information and educational articles. We also have regular information in our quarterly internal magazine Perspectives and in our annual Life magazine.”
The Health Matters team are also committed to connecting the health and fitness strategy to community affairs. “Staff often take part in sporting activities linked with charity events such as marathons. We try to help them prepare with nutritional advice and a training plan,” says Broadhurst.
The health scheme is managed through a combination of outsourced services, for example, Axa PPP Healthcare manages PwC’s PMI cover, and an in-house team, led by Broadhurst. Its occupational health service is also outsourced.
PwC is continually looking to the future and its main plan for the development of its health scheme is to add variety. “One of our biggest challenges is to develop our health offerings regionally. We hope to introduce a wellness day for staff, educating them about their body mass index (BMI) and other health related issues in more detail than the Desk Survival course. Also, we hope to offer staff taster sessions for massage and reflexology. We really want to link everything together,” she says.
The overall rewards strategy at PwC is geared towards engaging staff with the company and demonstrating that it is a “great place to work”. Broadhurst believes it is no longer as important to provide benefits which are solely finance-based. “We have a very diverse population and we try to recognise individual aspects of that. Some staff would like financial benefits and some want something different. We try to put benefits in place to show that we are working with people. This fits in with our overall policy of diversity.”
Broadhurst recognises that some companies, which are similar in size to PwC, have benefits of a comparable magnitude, but says: “The health benefits are one part of our overall reward programme, which is competitive within the market to attract the best people.”
The health scheme is evidently working well at the company, given that its absence levels in the UK are below 2%. Broadhurst puts this down to the holistic approach taken towards health. “We believe that providing health-related benefits within our overall rewards strategy makes our people’s lives better, and in turn, employees with better healthcare benefits and advice provides us with a healthier, fitter and ultimately stronger workforce,” she explains.
At a glance
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was created from the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand in 1998, to form the world’s largest professional services firm. The company audits more than 40% of the FTSE 100 and employs 149,000 members of staff in 149 countries worldwide.
In the UK, PwC employs around 16,000 employees in 37 offices and was ranked eighth in The Sunday Times’ Top best 20 big companies to work for 2007.
PwC specialises in assurance, tax, corporate finance, performance improvement consulting, business recovery services and HR services.
Career Profile: Vicki Broadhurst
Vicki Broadhurst is the manager of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Matters programme. Working with the internal health and fitness team and external specialist providers, she is responsible for the health and wellbeing strategy and benefits for PwC’s 16,000 employees across the UK.
Broadhurst completed a masters degree in Human Resource Management and a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) qualification at Leeds University in 1996. While undertaking her masters qualification, she served as payroll officer at Tetleys Brewery from 1995-1996 before moving to a job in customer services at Bass Brewery from 1996-1997. Prior to taking on the position at PwC, Broadhurst was payroll and personnel officer at Leeds City Council.
Broadhurst joined PwC’s Human Capital (HC) team for business recovery services in October 1997 and since then has worked across both specialist areas of the business and shared services. With the development of a shared services HC team in 1999, she took responsibility for supporting the firm’s HC information systems in Birmingham, and, in 2003, joined PwC’s tax practice as a human capital consultant.
As part of the development and implementation of a comprehensive health benefits policy and benefits system in 2004, Broadhurst was appointed to manage PwC’s Health Matters.