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Melin Homes: Employee Wellbeing Q&A

Melin Homes: Employee Wellbeing Q&A

Melin Homes is a leading housing provider in south Wales and manages over 4,000 homes. With over 260 staff, Melin’s culture is built on strong values and they were ranked 6th in the Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For in 2020 .

We caught up with Fiona Williams, Communications Officer, to find out more about what it’s like to work at Melin and specifically about their award-winning employee health and wellbeing initiative, Zest.

How was your Zest initiative conceived? 

Zest was launched in September 2011 because we had a growing passion and enthusiasm to improve the health and wellbeing of our staff. We started small but had big ambitions, so a group of staff and board members got together to form the Zest group who meet monthly to plan all the activities and act as ambassadors for the group. 

Zest was the brainchild of Sharon Crockett, Director of Innovation and Culture. She has been the driving force behind the Zest group. Still, it is a great team effort with ambassadors across the organisation and several members of our board meeting monthly to plan and shape Zest though out the organisation. It's just become part of what we do as an organisation. 

Do you think employers have a responsibility to ensure that their staff are cared for from a wellbeing perspective? 

Zest has become a significant part of everyone's working life at Melin. Our staff team have become more active, stopped smoking, eat more healthily, have become less stressed, and they've also had fun doing a wide range of activities in learning about health and wellbeing. This has had a knock-on effect in Melin's sickness rate dropping, improved staff engagement and increased staff satisfaction levels. It's been a project that everyone loves and everyone has been touched by in one way or another. 

We believe that every employer has a responsibility to ensure their staff are looked after both mentally and physically. Our ethos is – it's the right thing to do. 

Can you tell us how your team benefit from Zest? 

Our staff, board, partners, residents and the local community all benefit from Zest. Zest has an extensive programme of events that all staff can take part in, including supporting various national campaigns such as stopping smoking, various cancer-related issues, mental health, heart, asthma and diabetes. These events raise awareness amongst staff and encourage them to spread the word to their families and friends too. Melin also supports the team by providing health insurance and health checks. We also have a free counselling service for all staff. 

Probably one of the most fun parts of Zest is our annual Zest Fest. All staff have been given the morning off three years running. We provide free healthy breakfast and unlimited drinks, free exercise classes, badminton, bouncy castles, ping pong, squash, and art and crafts. 

We also hold health events such as breakfast promotions, free fruit, healthy cooking lessons, reiki, yoga, massage, rock climbing, walking groups, hydration campaigns, hypnotherapy for slimming and smoking, personal trainer sessions, mindfulness, creative writing, counselling, weight management programmes, free swimming, singing lessons, and Spanish lessons. It's a great way to try out new things or food that you might not have done before.   

Zest even has its own choir called ‘Zing’ which we set up in 2013. We thought we would set it up as a bit of fun and to let staff get rid of some stress at lunchtimes. It's been so successful that Zing has performed for our residents and at some pretty big Melin events, and travel to our schemes every Christmas to entertain residents. 

Melin also operates a Cycle to Work scheme and in February 2014 Zest supported this by building a bike store next to our offices, and we even bought some bikes to encourage more staff to cycle to or for work. We regularly run activity challenges to encourage staff to be more active, last year’s winners each won a Fitbit.

For the last five years, we have also held a free family Zest event in a local park. We invite local companies to join us and organise fun activities. Green Meadow Community Farm brought along several animals for a meet-and-greet while Cycle Training Wales ensured visitors' bikes were in tip-top condition with a free service.  Visitors were able to sample massage, free fruit, some free goodies and balloons. 

This year with everything going on, it sadly looks as though it will be cancelled, but next year we will be back bigger and better than ever. 

Do you have plans to develop this initiative in the future? 

We are always refreshing what we do and consulting with staff. We already do so much and we will keep doing what we're doing. The Zest group meet monthly, every two weeks via Zoom at the moment to ensure staff are ok at these difficult times. We've increased our Zest communications recently and regularly ask staff ‘How are you today?’. For Mental Health Awareness Week, we have organised a Zoom workshop for staff focusing on becoming resourceful, resilient and free from anxiety. 

We have a staff recognition scheme, where staff can thank each other called 'Diolch' (thank you in Welsh.) Since lockdown, you can see how much of a family Melin is with everyone working together to help others. The number of diolch awards has increased. Staff can choose from donating to our charity of the year, planting trees, or a box of chocolates. All the free fruit from our office is currently donated to local food banks. 

How can Zest help with team members who may be struggling? 

Everybody knows who the Zest representatives are and everyone is encouraged to chat with them. Melin also offer a face-to-face counselling service (under normal circumstances) and telephone guidance and support service; we also have access to an employee assistance programme full of advice. Managers at Melin are very approachable and we have a great open 'virtual' door relationship with the leadership team. 

Is there anything else you can tell us about Zest, such as the awards you have won and the reasons why? 

We made it to number six in the 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For in 2020, smashing our corporate target to be in the top 10. For the second year in a row, we were awarded a three-star accreditation for extraordinary levels of workplace engagement. To celebrate, we ordered cupcakes, animal-themed sweets and booked the zoo to come to the office to fly the flag for the best companies theme #CelebrateYourTribe and #GoWild. We have also won the 2019 South Wales Argus Best Place to Work Award and we were re-awarded our Gold and Platinum Corporate Health Standard from the Welsh Government in 2018. 

Thanks to Fiona Williams at Melin Homes for taking time to share their Zest initiative in this Q&A. Find out more about Melin Homes here.

Image courtesy of Melin Homes.

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