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From the top floor to the shop floor

We’ve almost reached the end of Season 1 of the podcast and thank you for joining me on my journey through the world of employee wellbeing. We’ve certainly kicked the tyres, looked under the bonnet and challenged some of the orthodoxy surrounding this fast-growing sector.

So it seems appropriate that my final interview is with an organisation who have placed the wellbeing and welfare of workers at its very core since 1864.

The John Lewis Partnership is a uniquely employee owned business. What started as an experiment in industrial democracy has grown into one of the UK’s largest retailers spanning department stores, supermarkets and other businesses such as financial services and today employs some 80,000 people who as ‘partners’ have a powerful voice in how the partnership is run.

Sam Blevins is the organisation’s Clinical Health & Wellbeing Development Manager. A former A&E nurse, Sam developed a deep interest in Occupational Health and workplace wellbeing leading to her Specialist Community Health Qualification. In her role Sam supports some 1500 internal wellbeing champions tasked with helping deliver engaging, fun and socially led initiatives that contribute to the wellbeing of partners.

Is it fair to say knowledge workers have better access to wellbeing than front line workers? [02:59]

Sam agrees to a point with this statement particularly with regards to organisations who place a lot of their wellbeing services on an intranet which of course front-line workers have limited access to. The solution therefore is to be more creative and intentional in creating time to communicate to front-line workers.

What is the role of line / people managers in communicating wellbeing? [04:07]

Sam believes that wellbeing is not just an ‘add on’ discussion and individuals responsible for others really need to ‘get it’ and in turn this cohort need support in developing the skills to have these conversations. Sam highlights the role of the ‘Wellbeing Champions’ deployed across the partnership.

The importance of evidence based wellbeing initiatives [05:57]

Given her professional medical background, Sam agrees that organisations need to evaluate the efficacy of off-the-shelf wellbeing apps. As she says, it takes ‘more than reading a book or attending a one-day course!

Bring your whole self to work? [08:04]

Sam explains that the John Lewis Partnership is committed to psychological safety to ensure that partners are able to be themselves at work and how this link through to the purpose and ethos of the business.

Wellbeing initiatives the whole company can get involved with [09:07]

A challenge with such a diverse business in terms of roles and locations is finding wellbeing initiatives that cut-across such complexity. Sam outlines the firm’s partnership with buddy boost.

Top down bottom up approach [20:02]

Sam explains the importance of the senior leadership team in wellbeing initiatives and how supportive they’ve been with upping the profile of wellbeing across the partnership.

Financial wellbeing has ramped up! [21:04]

John Lewis Partnership have taken the cost of living crisis very seriously with the firm’s senior leadership team keen to explore how the business can help support workers.

John Lewis Partnership – A role model [27:03]

The unique structure of the business means that other organisations are frequently in touch to see how they might model some of the initiatives that JLP are known for.


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