The striving for leanness in manufacturing has taken people out of organisations, and this puts additional expectations and demands on those who remain, explains Roberts. “We’ve put measures in place to highlight that there are issues occurring, and if necessary get the support mechanisms in earlier,” he adds.
As well as using the questionnaire, managers have been trained to recognise the early signs of stress among workers. This includes keeping a check on working hours and watching out for those who are missing deadlines, arriving at work late, or are agitated with others.
Employees with problems can call on a resident occupational health doctor and nurse, and phone a confidential counselling helpline. They also receive private healthcare benefits.
On top of this, the company has given team leaders, managers and other senior staff training in neuro-linguistic programming. This is a technique that helps to understand and alter unconscious levels of thought and behaviour. Roberts says the courses have helped staff to understand themselves and their managers. “Doing that helps guard against moving into potential stress areas,” says Roberts.
Promoting worker well-being
Staff well-being and job satisfaction are fundamental considerations at Igus, the Northampton-based bearings and chains supplier that employs around 70 people. The company has deliberately implemented a flat management structure that encourages workers to make decisions rather than always referring upwards. This, it says, means staff take ownership and responsibility, and therefore feel empowered.
“Even the physical layout of the offices and factory is designed to create a spirit of openness,” says Matthew Aldridge, a director at Igus. “It’s mainly open plan, with some glass walls, and no obvious hierarchy. We promote a positive company culture and want staff to take responsibility. This is a way of ensuring that problems do not fall down cracks between departments.”
Igus took a decision several years ago to offer free hot food in its canteen. The aim is to allow staff to get in early for breakfast, and to lunch together, rather than go offsite. Aldridge says that this seemingly simple policy has had a profound effect on the business, helping to create high staff morale and subsequently low staff turnover. “We feel it’s really important,” says Aldridge.
“Directors, managers, engineers, shopfloor staff - everyone is encouraged to mix and to be comfortable in each other’s company. We have also found that the canteen acts as a melting pot for good ideas.”
Search for the right work/life balance
Paul Skidmore, 53, is purchasing manager at heat and controls firm Chromalox. He says: “Work frequently has to come first, so I’ve missed some of my children’s childhood. One of the biggest problems is the BlackBerry. Five years ago, you switched off on holiday. Now I constantly check my messages. The internet’s equally intrusive. Its accessibility encourages use, reducing family time.”
Malcolm Woodward, 69, co-founded Wulstan, which designs machine tools and associated equipment, in 1975. He says: “I do 45 to 50 hours per week Monday to Friday, and I frequently work weekends, to keep promises.
“I average 3,000-4,000 travel miles a year. I haven’t retired, as people keep ordering. There’s no guaranteed basic if you’re self-employed.”
Andy Earnshaw, 57, is a senior design engineer for Teledyne Cormon, producing corrosion detection equipment in Worthing. He also works long hours. “I work from 7.30 until 5-6pm, excluding weekends. Family life is important, but I would come in for a specific requirement.”
Which demands have increased? “Paperwork, in particular for the European pressure equipment directive.” And how does he plan to balance work with family life? “We’re recruiting. Staff training demands time, but it’ll be worth it.”
by Alan Dale
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