Case study: How a small tech firm is supporting its people

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

After it was named Britain’s Healthiest Workplace in the ‘Small Organisations’ category, we sat down with OpenCredo to hear how it is taking a ‘people-first’ approach to its workplace wellbeing strategy.

As OpenCredo focuses on helping a range of clients in the emerging technology space, you would be forgiven for assuming that its triumph in the 2022 Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) ‘Small Organisations’ category centred largely around high-tech systems. 

But this is only a small part of it. Whilst the London-based software development company, whose 40 employees work from a single office in Lavington Street, acknowledges that technology has helped, it attributes its success primarily to being a people-centric organisation. 

Indeed, the most common word chosen by its employees in the BHW survey to describe their workplace culture was “friendly” – with “inclusive” and “supportive” prominent amongst the runners up.

Nicki Watt, CEO and CTO at OpenCredo, says “It’s the old school methods like talking to people that work well for us. We prioritise people, and they have access to everyone in leadership. Making ourselves available to everyone is a key part of our ethos, although it’s not without its challenges.

“Our people are our company, so we want them to be healthy and happy, but the approach isn’t one dimensional. We try to look at things holistically and encourage employees to take responsibility for their own self-care and growth.”

Staff, who on average work two days a week in the office and three days at home, enjoy access to discount vouchers, internal coaching and activities ranging from mud runs and dragon boat racing to cookery workshops.

Monthly social evenings, which can include trips to the pub or cheese and wine nights, are estimated to enjoy an average take-up upwards of 50% over the course of the year – with Christmas and summer parties being particularly well attended.      

Chair massages offered every month also prove popular, as do the healthy free breakfasts provided on Thursdays.

Behind the BHW findings

So, whilst the presence of a running club and – more specifically – the incentive points that employees can earn from their Vitality health insurance scheme are seen as a real perk, the word “people” is normally amongst the first to be uttered when the company is asked to explain its impressive BHW results. 

Prominent amongst these are an unusually healthy Vitality Age Gap – which shows the difference between the average actual age compared to the average ‘Vitality Age’ (adjusted for the impact of lifestyle choice and risk factors).

The smaller the Vitality Age Gap the better, and OpenCredo’s is only 0.8 years – 1.8% lower than the overall survey benchmark.

As many as 86% of employees feel their line manager cares about their health and wellbeing, compared to the overall benchmark figure of 78%, and 90% report improved health after a health intervention (vs 85% overall benchmark.)

Donna Burgess, head of operations & people at OpenCredo, says “We use the term ‘team lead’ rather than line manager, and we’re very proud of the high proportion that feel the leadership team care about their wellbeing. It all boils down to humanity, and the most effective intervention is face-to-face interpersonal contact.”

But some survey findings can be linked to more specific practices. For example, 77% of employees feel they have a healthy work-life balance (vs 62% overall benchmark), and only 14% are reporting burnout (vs 20% overall benchmark.).

“We do quarterly reviews in which we ask people about work-life balance and then investigate the findings and, where appropriate, make adjustments” continues Burgess.

“And the subject sometimes surfaces during one-to-one projects as well. We also monitor burnout through the time-sheet system, which alerts us to anyone working long hours.”

Acting on the findings

Winning the category was considered a “lovely surprise”, as the main reason for entering BHW was to obtain a helpful source of information. So, not surprisingly, the findings have been far from ignored.

The results showed that less people than imagined were fully aware of the benefits available, so this stimulated efforts to communicate features like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs), mental health support, paid voluntary days and the Cycle to Work scheme.

The fact that 50% of employees were shown not to be eating their recommended daily portions of fruit and vegetables, and that only 18% felt they were supported to eat a healthy diet, also resulted in the reinstatement of the fruit bowl – which had disappeared during lockdown.

And to ensure that, where needed, improvements are made, anonymised data is used to address issues that will in turn help boost staff satisfaction. The results of a quarterly happiness survey, based on the work employees are doing, are regularly reported at board level. “Because the data is anonymised, we can’t tackle this on an individual basis, but we would look into it if the matter was raised,” says Donna Burgess.

Onwards and upwards

Despite the widely acknowledged BHW accolade, there is no room for complacency at OpenCredo when it comes to its workforce.   

Recent developments have included wellbeing surveys and a “Growth” initiative that brings together activities like coaching, mentoring and a new ‘growth road map’. Different types of training around neurodiversity are also being looked at. 

Helping employees to navigate the cost-of-living crisis is another ongoing priority. OpenCredo has also shared online webinars about understanding finances and has committed to maintaining all its employee benefits, including discount schemes, and to continuing all extras like the free food on Thursdays. 
  
With 64% of its employees having been shown by BHW to be experiencing financial concerns, the impact of such support at this time should not be underestimated. 

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace gives us a deep insight into the health and wellbeing of employees across the UK. Learn more and find out here how to take part.

A version of this article originally appeared on Vitality Adviser Insights Hub.

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