Staff are undoubtedly the biggest and most important asset of any organisation; they support your purpose and drive everything you do. Your reputation and success are wholly down to the strength and commitment of your team, and their connection with what you stand for. So, looking after the people who make you what you are is critical.
At Ruddocks, our team are the basis of our strength and longevity (some of our employees have been with us for over 40 years!) but as a family run organisation, our approach to our people is more than just business, we genuinely care about every member of our team, and this is a culture that has been developed through our leaders of the past and present who prioritise looking after the team.
It goes beyond basic physical well-being, morally, we have a duty of care to our staff and over the last few years we have realised the need to support in a more holistic way, and have invested in practical and sustainable ways to support both the physical and mental wellness of our colleagues.
Learning about mental health
Recognising the need to understand more about mental health issues and how to better support our people, we introduced a Mental Health First Aid England training course to learn more about what mental ill health looks like, when and where support might be needed and how best to provide that support.
One of the best takeaways from the course has been understanding how important ‘asking twice’ is. Often, the automatic response when someone asks if you are ok is ‘I’m fine’. If you ask the question again you might just get a different response. Speaking to some of the team who have taken part in the training there is a real sense of feeling empowered to be able to offer real support when it is needed.
A natural haven for everyone
2021 saw the beginnings of our garden project. This project – which has reinstated some of the land on our premises back into a natural space for our employees and the wider community to enjoy – has focused on encouraging biodiversity, growing natural produce and creating a peaceful environment, which is particularly important in what is a predominantly industrial area.
With the help of a local gardener, we have, over the last 18 months, built a wildlife and produce haven in our back garden. Our staff can get stuck in; tending the garden and harvesting produce we have grown, or just take a ‘much-needed breath of fresh air and moment of peace’. It’s something we are hugely proud of and the vision we had has truly come to life, in every sense of the word.
A bright and vibrant social space
The environment inside our business is just as important as the outside space, and earlier this year we completely renovated our staff kitchen. Having spoken to members of the team about creating a welcoming and refreshing space to take a break, make a coffee, have lunch or just sit to chat, we knew this investment would help to continue to promote the healthy practices we encourage around taking proper breaks away from screens, machines and phones. We’ve had so much positive feedback about the new kitchen. It’s easy to see a kitchen as simply functional, but our kitchens at home are social spaces; hubs where people come together, so we believe it should be no different at work.
Talking of socialising…
We believe that socialising with colleagues is key to good working relationships, but we know how hard it can be to get everyone together outside of work. Seven years ago, we introduced our annual staff summer party where for one afternoon each July, the business closes its doors to customers, and all staff are given time off to enjoy a few hours of food, drinks, games, chat and hopefully some sunshine! Come rain or shine, we always have a fabulous afternoon.
Birthday’s are not just another day at Ruddocks!
We have always tried to look at additional ways we can help make a big difference to the team and eight years ago we introduced an additional paid day off work for staff to take on or around their birthday. Chatting to another member of the production team they said this felt like a ‘real reward’ and ‘having this day off means I make plans to do things on my birthday which I didn’t do before this was introduced’.
Expert support outside of Ruddocks
We know that we don’t have all the knowledge and resources internally to support people in all the ways they might need so we have introduced some additional places staff can access mental, physical and financial support.
In 2021, we signed up to the Live Like Loyalty platform. This is an employee benefits package which gives employees discounts on local products and services such as coffee, meals out, experiences and more. Most of our team have signed up and through this service, also have access to an Employee Assistance Program, as well as medical advice and help to further support wellbeing.
Flexibility and work-life balance
People’s lives don’t always fit neatly around the 9-5 working pattern anymore, and for many years we have focussed on building a flexible and inclusive environment for all our staff, to accommodate individual circumstances.
We offer flexible working options including hybrid or fully remote working, part-time hours, compressed hours, or adjusted start and finish times, and we know that our flexible approach is widely valued and a significant factor in our employee retention (as well as productivity)!
We asked some of the team for feedback about our approach to flexible working. One of our account managers commented ‘The flexibility Ruddocks offers me is a massive support and means I can balance childcare and a successful career’. A member of our production team said: ‘The flexibility around work start and finish times is really helpful and one of the biggest benefits an employer could offer’.
The future of flexibility
Flexibility is critical to a healthy work-life balance, and we are currently in consultation with all the staff as to how this looks in the future through exploring the opportunities offered under a 9-day fortnight working pattern. This is essentially a version of compressed hours to give staff an additional day off every other week and whilst it does present some challenges, we are confident they are issues we can overcome. We have had some very positive feedback so far with a member of our design team commenting: ‘There’s a real need for employers to look at ways to support the work-life balance of their employees. It’s a positive step for Ruddocks which will give people additional downtime for themselves and more time with family.’
Supporting staff can also mean helping them to give back; to help people make a difference where they may not have the time to do so outside of work. Earlier this year, as part of our pledge to the Trussell Trust and our local foodbanks we began a volunteer program, where we give staff who wish to offer their time, two hours each week to be able to help at our local foodbank warehouse and distribution centres. As a business, we are proud to be able to help those people in our community who need it the most through our time and practical support.
One of our marketing team commented: ‘Being able to personally support the local foodbank is hugely rewarding. We are collectively making a real contribution to our local community.’
One of our account managers said: ‘We're very fortunate with the benefits Ruddocks' offer, we are all really supported, and it makes a real difference’.
Employees spend such a large proportion of their time at work employers have a responsibility to support them in as many ways as possible. A supportive, open and understanding culture is more likely to lead to healthy and happy people. Healthy and happy people build good teams and a positive working environment which can only be a good thing for organisations.
We have seen a real change over the last few years because of our ongoing focus on supporting our staff. We have a good, positive atmosphere and people are happy, which is reflected in all that we do.
Paul Banton continued: We also continue to promote an open-door policy which means people know they can always approach us with any issues, suggestions or feedback they may have.’
Find out more about our efforts to support our local communities.