Guest column: Keeping in good health
In the first of our Women in Wholesale themed articles, JW Filshill’s Health & Safety Manager, Amanda Casey, explains how taking a keener focus on wellness could help wholesale be a more attractive place to work
When it comes to health and safety in the wholesale industry, there’s an immediate assumption that it means ensuring the safe operation of equipment such as forklifts in the depot or drivers following certain procedures when handling deliveries.
Obviously, that’s a key part of the piece but for wholesalers such as JW Filshill, there’s much more to it than sticking on a hi-vis vest and making sure all the safety check records are kept up to date.
I joined the Filshill family in the summer of 2020, during the first lockdown. As a company that has always taken the welfare of its staff very seriously, it was a case of existing procedures continuing while my initial focus was on ensuring the ongoing safety of staff, customers and shoppers as everyone grappled to adapt to the pandemic.
Very quickly we became confident that the workplace was secure from a Covid-19 perspective, allowing our focus to fall on the wider wellbeing of employees. There was an early recognition that the homeworking environment is different for everyone. It’s not one size fits all. While ensuring people had the correct equipment to work safely and effectively from home was relatively straightforward, it was more difficult to ascertain their mental wellbeing.
To help with that, we set up our Wellness Group, which bridges the gap between homeworkers and those on-site, to promote the physical health and mental wellbeing of all employees.
Activities are based around culture, sleep, exercise, meaningful activities, helping others, social connection and stress management. It’s been hugely successful and something I’d encourage other wholesalers to explore.
There’s no getting away from the fact that there is still a stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing – it’s not easy to admit you’re feeling anxious or need help. That’s why we take both a formal and informal approach: the formal approach consists of our wellbeing meetings and calendar of events, while the informal aspect involves ‘corridor conversations’, relaxed chats and engagement sessions.
We also introduced the concept of wellbeing check-ins at the start of all meetings, where employees can give an indication of how they are feeling on a scale of 1 to 10 if they feel comfortable doing so. This helps reduce the stigma of mental health over time because managers and leaders are encouraged to share their score too and explain why – signalling to colleagues it’s OK not to have a higher score.
Fast forward to 2022 and I’m delighted to be leading the Women in Wholesale Wellness Group, a quarterly meeting where I share what I’ve learned and experienced at Filshill and we support each other by discussing best practice.
The pandemic has raised awareness of the importance of ensuring we support our staff to ensure their wellbeing in all aspects of their life. At Filshill, we’ve repositioned our business to put mental health and wellbeing at the heart of everything we do – that is having a hugely positive effect on our people’s attitude to work and, ultimately, our performance.
For me personally, seeing some colleagues come out of their shell and engage with people in other departments, join in wellbeing meetings on Zoom, take part in some of the activities and embrace being part of the Filshill family has been such a highlight of my relatively short time with the company.
We all have a responsibility in ensuring wholesale is an attractive career choice for future generations and I believe focusing on mental health and wellbeing is key for us to recruit and retain talent.
It can sound like a cliche when companies say their people come first but really, it’s a no-brainer because when you do prioritise the welfare of your people, everything else then falls into place.covid-19 guest column health and wellbeing JW Filshill Women in Wholesale