Pier Marketing – a case study
Pier is an integrated communications agency specialising in retail, renewable energy, professional services and food & drink. Founded by Kate Bowden Smith in 2008, Pier has a team of nine working at its Felixstowe headquarters.
In 2018 Pier celebrated its 10th year in business and this, coupled with a place in the Future 50, gave them the drive to focus on the next 10 years. As a team they agreed that not only did they want to be known for doing great work for their clients, they wanted to have the best environmental credentials, increase employee engagement and champion workplace wellbeing. The team embarked on its own initiative to “Do Business Better” and demonstrate that no matter the size of business, it is possible to have a positive impact.
Following Pier’s participation in a series of ‘Improving Workplace Health’ workshops run by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, the Pier team set a goal of achieving accreditation in all eight categories of the Healthy Workplace Award by the end of 2019.
Chris Pyburn spoke to Pier’s managing director, Kate Bowden Smith, and office manager, Lisa Smith, about why they decided to apply for the award and what workplace wellbeing means to them.
Q: Why is it important for Pier to support the wellbeing of its workforce?
Kate Bowden Smith, MD: “As a business owner I really believe that people are our greatest asset. If they are healthy, happy and feel supported in the workplace then they become passionate ambassadors for the company. Whether talking about our work, our values or our workplace, that passion really shines through and is incredibly powerful, whether talking to a potential client, journalist, future employee or potential partner.
“Additionally, it also shows in the work that the team does. Sickness, absence and presenteeism can be real issues if employees don’t feel valued and engaged. Productivity is always going to be higher when a team has supportive line management and a culture where wellbeing is talked about openly.”
Q: How is Pier supporting the wellbeing of its workforce?
Lisa Smith, Office Manager: “We put people and wellbeing front and centre for our annual away day last year and asked the team what it meant to them. We carried out some group activities as a way of gathering feedback and suggestions about how they felt we were doing in terms of promoting and supporting positive workplace health, and what else they would like to see in place.
“We also incorporated wellbeing into our company values, with the values ‘Empowered’ and ‘Energetic’ playing a big part in our wellness initiatives. Engaging with the team and gathering their feedback informed our decisions about what to put in place and has allowed us to make some really significant progress in the last year.”
Q: Any examples of how this is being put into practice?
Lisa: “In October we published our Health & Wellbeing Policy signed by our MD, Kate. This outlined our commitment to promoting and supporting positive workplace health and gave an overview of what we as a responsible employer offer by way of support.”
Pier’s commitment to mental health
Lisa: “Last year, I took on the role of Mental Health Champion having attended training with Mental Health First Aid England and Suffolk Mind. The team know that they can grab me for a confidential chat, a lunchtime walk or drop me an email me if they need to talk.
“We now offer Wellness Action Plans to all our team as well as new starters. These plans, published by Mind, are a personalised, practical tool that can be used to help employees identify what keeps them well at work, what causes them (or may potentially cause them in the future) to become unwell, and how we can address a mental health problem at work together, should they ever experience one.
“As well as holding a Wellbeing in the Workplace workshop delivered by Wellbeing Suffolk, we give regular internal presentations around wellbeing including issues like stress and the importance of a healthy sleep pattern.
“All of our employees have access to Health Assured via our membership of the PRCA. This gives them access to an app and online portal containing wellbeing resources, webinars and guides, as well as a free telephone helpline.“
Support and signposting
Lisa: “We use simple noticeboards and posters to provide tips for wellbeing and signposting to outside agencies including OneLife Suffolk, Mental Health First Aid England and Suffolk Mind. These encompass a wide range of subjects such as healthy eating, support for smoking cessation and timetables for classes and swimming at local leisure centres.”
The importance of physical activity
Kate: “We’re keen to promote activity at Pier and the whole team get involved in encouraging each other to stay active. This can be anything from a walking meeting to using one of the standing desks or our desk cycle, through to the whole team taking part in “Walk All Over Cancer”. We always incorporate an ‘active’ afternoon into our annual away day too and the team are always keen to try new and different challenges to stay fit and active.
“Our Pier Pledges campaign, where we give back to charities, our community or the environment by carrying out a ‘pledge’ each month, also offers a great opportunity to get active. Team members have completed running, walking and cycling challenges for good causes, as well as taking part in beach cleans and giving their time to paint at a local school.”
A flexible attitude
Kate: “Offering flexible working where possible and working from home days every month to all staff is a key benefit to our team. Being flexible about appointments, children’s assemblies, parents’ evenings and other ‘life commitments’ also pays dividends. We have a great team of committed, ambitious professionals that really over deliver with the great work they do, so providing flexibility and a trusting environment where employees take charge of their own workload just makes business sense.”
Kate: “It is absolutely critical that senior management and line managers champion any wellbeing initiatives throughout their teams and the wider organisation. By incorporating wellness into our values, as well as making it a key element in our training and development programme, we ensure that wellbeing is a part of the everyday.
“As well as our annual appraisal and six-monthly review cycle, we have added in 1-to-1 MD catch-ups. These aren’t related to performance and offer the opportunity for staff to ‘check in’, ask any questions that they have about the business and voice any worries or ideas that they may have. We’re very lucky that the team is quite vocal in providing feedback on a regular basis but by offering these 1-to-1 sessions it makes sure we aren’t missing valuable feedback and input from all areas of the business, whilst checking that everyone is OK.”
Q: Why did Pier decide to apply for the Healthy Workplace Award?
Kate: “Although we were doing lots of positive things, we recognised that we weren’t so good at recording or formalising what we were doing.
“Going through the award submission process and gathering evidence was a great way to audit and review what we had achieved, benchmark ourselves and ensure that all of the positive work was captured in policies and procedures. The post assessment report gave us valuable feedback on what we are doing well and recommended some areas that we can continue to invest in and improve.
“I would highly recommend the process to other local businesses of all sizes looking to assess and improve on what they are offering their teams in terms of health and wellbeing support.”
Q: Now that you have been successful with the award, what comes next?
Kate: “We have done a lot of work over the past year; now we need to make sure we sustain that momentum and continue to visibly promote and support health and wellbeing throughout the organisation. We regularly review our values to ensure that we are living them, which includes workplace wellbeing.
“We need to continue to engage with the team and get their feedback. As we grow, we hope that these wellbeing initiatives will become the norm and will embed themselves throughout the organisation. New starters will benefit from them and it will just become the way we do things.”
Lisa: “Having gone through the process and achieved a Level 3 accreditation we have learnt a lot, and it would be great to share some of these learnings with other organisations looking to improve workplace health.”