Interview with Helen Wester, HR Manager

The importance of health within Vivochem

Our employees spend a large part of their time at Vivochem. Therefore, we feel that it is important to pay attention to their health. But what does Vivochem do to promote the health of its employees? And why is this so important? Find out how our HR manager Helen views this topic in this interview.

What does workplace health mean for Vivochem?

Health is everything. It means a lot and it is something we take very seriously. At Vivochem, safety is very important as well, and oftentimes health and safety go hand in hand.

We have an extensive vitality policy. For each employee, we assess what he or she needs at that moment. What stage of life are they in and what needs do they have? We have frequent meetings to monitor how things are going and try to respond accordingly.

We also offer Preventive Medical Examinations (PME). Employees can voluntarily participate in these once every four years. It involves an extensive medical check-up. 

We also provide proper work equipment, such as sit/stand desks. Employees can also join a lunch walk and we provide fresh fruit every week. We try to encourage exercise by contributing to membership fees and by providing sportswear. In addition, we have a bicycle programme that people can join. To encourage relaxation, we have upgraded the cafeteria with a television and a dartboard.

You already mentioned sit/stand desks, can you tell us more about the approach regarding ergonomics?

After the PME, an occupational therapist visits the workplace and instructs everyone. We have also included these instructions in the new staff handbook.

There are different measures for different functions. For office staff we provide sit/stand desks, for warehouse staff we have instructions on pushing, pulling and lifting. In addition, the occupational therapist has shown truck staff how to adjust their seat, and sales representatives also received instructions on the best way to sit in the car.

Several of our employees structurally work from home, such as the sales representatives. We offer each of them a sit/stand desk for their home office. Similarly, we offer people who occasionally work from home the right equipment for their home office, depending on their needs. For these employees, monitors are arranged, for example.

Why does Vivochem believe that it is important to have vital and healthy employees?

When people are healthy and feel good, they are happier and therefore more productive. It is of course important to minimise sick leave, but we think about health in a much broader sense. Especially in this time of shortage in the job market, we aim to keep our people and reduce turnover. For this reason, we believe that it is important that our employees enjoy what they do. The goal is to ensure that work does not only consume energy but also gives energy!

How does Vivochem raise awareness about workplace health among employees?

This is often a result of the PME. The PME includes questionnaires and a concluding interview with the person conducting the PME. It is then examined what warning signs there are and what can be done about them. In addition, we pay particular attention to the individual employee. We also have a counsellor, for instance.

Safety is the most important thing in our organisation. We have a very extensive RI&E, for instance. As a result, the safety culture is well-established among everyone. One example is that if someone walks down the stairs without holding the handrail, colleagues are expected to point this out to this person. It is perfectly normal to talk to each other about these kinds of things. The focus on health has grown from this; for us, health is an extension of safety.

In 2020, Vivochem was named the 'Most Fit Company in Twente', what indicates that Vivochem still values vitality and health?

We are still trying to encourage exercise by providing sportswear, for example, but it goes beyond that. This competition also focused on energy boosters and the psychosocial impact of work. We continue to pay a lot of attention to these things because we believe it is important to have happy employees.

The goal is that work doesn't only cost energy, but also gives energy!

We also have a few questions about mental health in the workplace. How is employee mental health handled at Vivochem?

We consider the person behind the employee and pay attention to the work-life balance. Furthermore, we focus on employee happiness and believe it is important that our employees enjoy going to work.

We pay a lot of attention to the individual employee and what he or she needs at that moment. Each employee's wishes are different and each position is different. We try to be flexible when we can; we only say no when serious business interests are at stake.

If a person has young children they would like to drop off at school, they are welcome to start a little later if their role allows it. Another example is that our drivers work a lot of overtime, so they can exchange their overtime for a fixed day or afternoon off. Employees approaching retirement can participate in a soft landing; they can then reduce their working hours through a very appealing package while retaining pension accrual and the like. If employees wish to leave for an extended period, we'll explore the possibilities. Working part-time is also possible if someone prefers to do so. In short, it varies a lot, but we always try to find the right solution for the individual at that particular moment.

Is mental health becoming an increasingly important topic?

Yes, I think society has changed. Nowadays, everything is fast-paced and, as a result, people don’t have enough time to recharge their batteries. I believe this can be remedied as much as possible by ensuring employees have as little stress as possible while at work. That is why we feel it is important that employees can relax here in the cafeteria, for example, or by taking a lunch walk. It is also important to properly respond if someone indicates that they are getting too busy.

It is also increasingly common for people to want to work part-time or work from home sometimes. We allow employees to work from home one day a week if the job allows it.

"We pay a lot of attention to the individual employee and what that person needs at that moment."

What are things that were done in the past regarding health that have achieved the most for Vivochem and its employees?

I think probably encouraging sports. When we started providing sportswear, a lot of people entered running events such as the Twenterandrun. At that time, a few people were running quite enthusiastically and they brought a lot of people on board. At that time, many people were exercising.

Currently, we notice that the one-to-one conversations in which we look at the individual's needs are paying off. Employees often tell us that they appreciate the fact that we try to find solutions.

Are there any specific challenges or trends in workplace health that you are currently facing?

Yes, for a while that was the mental strain. Particularly the combination of work and personal life and, for example, children and a household. People simply have a lot to do these days. For a while, I noticed this more, but I think it's decreasing now.

Currently, we are in a positive flow; we are well-staffed and have very little turnover. You can tell that people are energised by this fact. And it benefits the team spirit. 

What would you like to do in terms of health in the future?

Ideally, I would like to have a silence area where you can retreat. This room should be equipped with a nice chair in which you can take a power nap. If someone has a headache, they can sit or lie down for a while.

We would also like to have a space for exercising. We don't have enough space for this, but we would like to have one in the future.

Helen, thank you so much for your time! We are very excited to see what the future holds for Vivochem in this area!