The law firm has about 5,000 staff globally, with almost 2,000 of these based at its one UK site in London. Owain Thomas explores how Freshfields created a long-term strategy to improve its workers' health and wellbeing.
In 2012, the firm started examining its health and wellbeing proposition, setting it as a priority area for the year – and, according to compensation and benefits senior manager Jackie Palmer who spoke at the [email protected] summit, it “realistically remains our focus this year and on into 2014”.
Palmer noted that the initiative had been well backed by senior leaders who were committed to establishing a market-leading proposition for staff – this included a top-of-the-range health and wellbeing programme.
“Freshfields only exists because of its people, so our people and business strategy are all about recruiting and retaining top talent and developing a health and wellbeing agenda that is market-leading to assist us with that,” she said.
“Specifically with health, we wanted to make some further investment in our on-site health and wellbeing services and facilities. We were doing lots of things already but weren’t that great at promoting what we had already achieved and signposting the services that already existed. So one of things we did was get much better at that – be sophisticated in our communications and maximise our tools, relationships and IT. We wanted to do everything we could to maximise the perception among our staff of what we did.”
The first thing Palmer put into action was the creation of a health and wellbeing brand.
This was put on the firm’s flexible benefits website for all health-related items and also used for all related communications, such as posters and emails. It was at another industry seminar that Palmer heard that only 14% of European employers had a wellbeing brand – something that sparked her interest.
“It is commonplace when you do a flexible benefits scheme to have imagery associated with that, but very few of us do that with health and wellbeing, so that was really helpful for us,” she continued.
“The sophistication on communications wasn’t just on the surface, we were also trying to achieve it by creating a wellbeing strategy – making sure those benefits we wanted to deploy were mapped to our health risk and spend areas. We are pursuing some measurement of return on investment and in the process shifting our agenda from treatment of ill health to wellness and the pursuit of a longer-term wellbeing strategy.”
Next on Palmer’s list was the opening of an on-site wellbeing suite, permitted by an office refurbishment which included moving some facilities around, primarily the staff restaurant. This yielded the space to build a gym three times the size of what was previously available, while a GP’s room, nurse’s room, dental suite, physiotherapy room, massage room and baby-changing station were built around that. All this also utilised the new health and wellbeing branding design where appropriate.
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