Why wellbeing works
Tristram King, our Director of Health, Safety and Compliance explains why wellbeing is important to us, and how we apply the principles practically for both our colleagues and customers.
“Wellbeing. It’s a term that is used a lot currently, but for us it’s much more than a buzz word. Wellbeing underpins how we run our business, how we manage homes, our customers’ experience of renting with us, and how we advise our clients.
“Over the last two years we have transformed our colleagues’ experience of working for Touchstone with our ‘Brilliant Place to Work’ (BP2W) project. It’s no coincidence that the first area colleagues asked us to look at was Health and Wellbeing. So, we relaxed our dress code, started yoga classes and gave our people porridge for breakfast. We improved the feel of our offices by adding plants, baskets of fresh fruit and yes, chocolate…Easter eggs and Advent calendars for everyone.
“We’re extremely proud to have recruited and trained 26 Mental Health First Aiders to our business, matching the number of mental health first aiders to physical health first aiders. We now have a culture that helps people be more open about any issues, before they become long term problems.
“Encouraging wellbeing also means giving our people the opportunity to make a difference, whether that’s matching their fundraising efforts, or giving our colleagues the opportunity to volunteer with local charities such as Developing Health and Independence (DHI) where they helped to renovate a home for Syrian refugees in Bath. Further afield, our partnership
with Habitat for Humanity GB over the last three years, sent three teams of Touchstone volunteers to Malawi where they built 24 homes. This year as we begin a new three year partnership with the charity, the first team from Touchstone will have the life changing opportunity to go to Cambodia to build homes.
“This got us thinking, a lot of these changes, from the big, to the small, have made a really positive impact for our colleagues. How could we then recreate that for our customers?
“We got started at one of our Build to Rent schemes. Our customers can pick up a fresh breakfast ‘to go’ in the morning, and we offer yoga classes, a running club, and this month have started a Fitbit challenge, allowing our customers to compete against each other for steps. Utilising open space there, we’re also about to start a gardening club.
“It’s trial and error, and we don’t always get it right – something we think will be popular with customers sometimes just doesn’t work for them. We thought offering Spinning classes in the evening at one of our schemes would be a real hit, but it didn’t get the take up we expected. But we learn from it - we now look at trends in a building. For example, at one of our schemes we saw that gym usage was spread throughout the day, often with just one or two people there. It didn’t make sense to run classes throughout the day so we worked with our client to introduce Wexer, an online fitness class, that can be started at any time – and our customers love it. We also place a great deal of importance on community and create events so our customers can get together, whether that’s for a glass of wine, a quiz night or a run.
“Wellbeing can begin before a building even exists. With our consultancy work, we work with developers to ensure wellbeing is factored in, right from the start. That could mean designing in a buggy park, or green space in a way they might not have considered it. Even if a client doesn’t have many amenities, there are still ways to increase wellbeing, such as a pet friendly policy so people can move in with their animals.
“Ultimately, our role is to help create a good quality place that customers can call home, where they are safe and happy.”