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We have a responsibility to keep teams healthy of body & mind

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The Syensqo company, comprising the solutions, activities and markets represented in the article below, was spun off from Solvay group in December 2023.

Many tools exist to promote the wellbeing of our employees. We use them all.

Following the trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic, the relationship between people and their workplace has been transformed. For countless employees, going to the office is no longer a daily obligation, and many are enjoying the advantages this offers in terms of additional free time and work flexibility. But at the same time, occasions for exchanging informally with co-workers have diminished, and with that, the possibility to vent, confide, gather information, and just get one’s fill of social interactions.

With our long-standing dedication to employee wellbeing, Solvay strives to be the kind of company where providing people with a job goes hand-in-hand with paying attention to the immaterial, low-intensity signals of their psychological and physical wellness. From awareness workshops to sports activities, from assessment questionnaires to full-blown assistance, a wide range of programs and actions throughout the Group’s sites globally are there to inform the company about the wellbeing of its teams, support those most in need and help the others stay well. And with the combined action of increased awareness towards feeling good at work and of the aftermath of Covid, the number and reach of these programs has grown significantly.

Advocating awareness and resilience

In each region of the world, Solvay’s referent physicians are responsible for coordinating all that is done to make employees as safe, healthy and happy as possible. José Alberto Islas, for example, who is based in Mexico but oversees the Group’s 50 sites and 1500 employees across North America, mentions a variety of things such as awareness posters, weight watching programs, stress evaluation and 5-kilometer runs. Additionally, he has also resumed traveling to sites to keep his ear to the ground.

“During Covid, things were difficult,” he says. “Now we’re back to normal, but with a different perspective. We’ve all learned that not everything can be done remotely.” Especially things like “changing the culture” among managers about empathy and conflict management, for example, a recently implemented training program. “My boss was reluctant, but he attended the training, and now he’s convinced,” he smiles.

Training programs have also been launched for employees, specifically to navigate the post-Covid world and its uncertainties. One of these is ‘Resilience in Times of Change’, a series of workshops developed to help Solvay teams understand change and better react to it. 

“It’s very popular in Europe and North America,” says Ariel Shen, Solvay’s Medical Coordinator for its 41 sites across the Asia Pacific region. “In Asia, mental health is a rather new topic in some countries, but people as well as authorities are paying more attention to it. In fact, one of the topics in our occupational health roadmap for this year is wellbeing promotion, and we’re developing workshops for managers and employees to raise awareness and resilience, and strongly recommending and promoting them.”

The Covid crisis was a revealing and aggravating factor; it showed us that having support from your hierarchy and your colleagues is very important and protective.

Aline Hugé, Medical Coordinator

Efficient employee wellbeing monitoring

One tool for the protection of mental health that is available across Solvay is the Employee Assistance Program, which offers free psychological consultations and coaching. It’s open to employees as well as their families, and is available 24 hours a day. “What matters is that people know they can get help, but also that they are free to speak openly within the company about their difficulties with colleagues and managers,” says Aline Hugé, Medical Coordinator at Solvay’s Brussels headquarters. 

It's no mystery that certain employees at certain times can be faced with severe difficulties, which can range from personal issues such as family or financial problems to work-related stress or general anxiety. Whatever the case may be, for the employer, the difficulty is finding a way of detecting when an employee needs help. Surveys are a precious tool for that: with our “pulse questionnaire” submitted to all employees every three months, Solvay has implemented an effective monitoring system of its teams’ levels of stress. 

“Monitoring psycho-social risks is mandatory in the EU and other regions, and we used to conduct this survey in detail regularly,” continues Aline. “By doing a shorter survey every trimester, we get an additional  real-time snapshot of the situation, and based on that we can investigate stress factors and try to remedy them.”

Following the same principle, comprehensive medical exams are another great source of information to find out how employees are doing. In Brazil like in many countries, conducting annual check-ups for all employees is a legal requirement for employers, “which means that every year we have a lot of information on the health status of our teams, not just related to risk factors, but also to general health factors such as blood sugar levels, alcohol and tobacco consumption or exercising and dietary habits,” explains Valmir Azevedo, Solvay’s Medical Coordinator for South America and the Health Manager at the Paulinia site, north of São Paulo. “The main health problem at Paulinia for example is cholesterol, so we focus on raising awareness on the importance of a healthy diet and exercising and make sure to offer a balanced diet at the canteen.”


Protection and meaning in the workplace

Speaking of exercising, probably the simplest way for an employer to promote physical as well as mental health among its teams is to encourage sports activities. In Latin America, there is a strong tradition of putting together sporting events for employees, sometimes against other companies. In Asia, “each site has a local organization for sports and games, especially badminton, basketball, and table tennis. In fact, many sites have a ping pong table in the canteen.”

Put together, all these small actions contribute to one larger objective, making employees feel taken care of. “We need to increase what protects people,” sums up Aline. “If you know you have support, autonomy, recognition, it makes a big difference, it generates well being and satisfaction at work, and provides meaning. It’s not just about avoiding negative factors, but encouraging the positive too, and training our managers so they are aware and comfortable with that.”