You are an HR consultant and have been contacted by Brian Matthews who runs a local marketing and event organising business. The business employs 150 people in a range of professional, technical and administrative roles. Brian owns the company and has a very ‘hands-on’ approach to management. He has 8 managers who report to him and who are responsible for their own teams. Employee turnover in the company is fairly low and 20% of the workforce has been with the company since it started 15 years ago.
Earlier this year, one of his project managers committed suicide and there has been some suggestion locally that stressful working conditions contributed to Peter’s death. Brian disputes this but is worried about the effect that this bad press may have on his customers. Brian has asked you to come and talk to him about wellbeing in the company and would like suggestions about what he should be doing. You have asked him to outline the problem and this is what he says,“Peter had worked in my department for nearly 5 years. He was an excellent employee and was the sort of person who was always willing to help out, you knew that if you gave him something to do it would be done well. This did mean that he often took on extra things as not everyone was as obliging as Peter and, if I’m honest, he probably took on more than his fair share of jobs.
I suppose he was very busy, but he didn’t complain, not like some of the others. A couple of his colleagues were always complaining that they had too much to do yet they didn’t always achieve much. They kept asking for meetings to discuss their work and even suggested setting up an employee consultative committee, but we weren’t keen on this. More talk than work seemed to be what they wanted. We did meet with them to talk about the work but there wasn’t much we could do, if the customers send in work then we need to complete it to their deadlines, if we don’t, we lose the contract. We just have to buckle down and get on with it.
Peter didn’t seem to be struggling with work. I think he was having a bit of a tough time at home though as his wife left him last year and he did take a few days holiday to attend a hearing about custody for his children. He didn’t discuss this at work and was quite a private person. His sickness record was okay, he had a couple of days off for a migraine and then a couple of instances of sickness but nothing out of the ordinary.
I asked you here because, since Peter’s death the staff seem a bit unsettled. We have tried to carry on as normal, but more people have taken time off and everyone feels a bit more tense. There was an argument between staff in the finance team the other day as Lizzie, who has worked here for years, flew off the handle at one of the new accounts clerks over something little. I had to get them both in and warn them that they had to get on but now everyone is walking on eggshells around them. I have a business to run and I can’t let their personal arguments get in the way. Lizzie has now gone off on the sick with stress, I think this is just an excuse not to come in and face the issue. I need to keep an eye on this as she could string the absence out for a while, and we are already short staffed in the office.
I’ve spoken to Karen our office manager and she is worried that if staff are saying they are stressed, we may be liable and have to pay them for extended sickness. Staff like Karen and talk to her about all sorts of stuff and she has told me that we should think about putting some wellbeing initiatives in place. I don’t know what she expects, but I can tell you now that there is no way that everyone is going to be doing yoga instead of working. I want to be a good employer though; my team work hard and I want to be fair. We don’t have much spare money and staff don’t have much free time so we need to do things that will help and not just things that sound good. Cheap, cheerful and effective is my moto.
So, can you help? I’d like your recommendations of things that we can do to ensure that our staff are healthy, that they feel supported and that nobody is going to accuse us of causing stress. And as I said, we aren’t making much profit, so these things need to be cheap and effective. I’ve been told I need to ask for them to be based on evidence!”
Your task is to:
Develop recommendations that Matthews Marketing may introduce to improve employee wellbeing and ensure that the employees feel supported. Consider the main costs of each recommendation, any barriers which need to be overcome and the benefits that will be derived from their introduction.
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