Hannah Thaxter looks at how the Botanist is working to improve staff wellness on Islay.
Like foraging plants for medicine, wellbeing has its roots in ancient rituals. In 3,000BC Ayurveda was widely practiced in the world and is defined as “an holistic system that strives to create harmony between body, mind and spirit”. Crossing continents and centuries Ayurvedic practices – like yoga or mediation- are now used to combat some very modern-day stresses. The idea that each of us should consider our nutritional, exercise, social interaction and hygiene needs for our wellbeing has stood the test of time.
In 2021 we are infusing that knowledge into our work practices – our stated aim is “to support and nourish each member of the team through learning, development and wellbeing initiatives.”
Our HR department, Emma and assistant Julie are leading the wellness programme. It’s hard to talk about wellbeing without recognising the effect Covid and lockdown has had. “People’s priorities have completely changed in the pandemic,” Julie says.
In the past we have provided private health care and subsidised gym membership and encouraged cycling through bike purchase schemes and a community cycling club; these practical initiatives will carry on, but we recognise we need to go further. As a B Corp company we must measure how well our workers are looked after and in practice it means asking them how they are and providing the support they need to care for themselves.
Six Wellness Ambassadors have volunteered to help shape what happens in the future at the distillery, led by what our team say they want and need. The Ambassadors are being trained via a 2 day Mental Health First Aid course – a real eye-opener says Julie, who is one of the first aiders. “Since doing that, it has definitely helped how I would deal with a situation or maybe a difficult conversation,” she says.
Everyone at our distillery now has access to an online app to give advice and ideas for improving wellbeing and sleep and free 24-hour counselling service. One pandemic suggestion was to relieve stress with some “space to get true downtime as a team or individuals” and so a staff Wellness Day was born – a paid day off for people to do whatever they needed to recharge their batteries.
It’s an investment in staff wellbeing which we see as an essential ingredient of the spirits we make, and a vital part of the sustainability of our business.