UK: Giving the staff the stuff of life. (2 of 2)

UK: Giving the staff the stuff of life. (2 of 2) - Clare Roberts, of PA Consulting Group, confirms that PA's recent surveys of executive benefits have shown no increase in creche facilities to help working mothers.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Clare Roberts, of PA Consulting Group, confirms that PA's recent surveys of executive benefits have shown no increase in creche facilities to help working mothers.

Marks and Spencer, widely regarded as a model employer, offers flexible shifts to suit working mothers. The company believes that workplace nurseries are not the answer and is currently looking at a family care programme in which help for elderly parents will feature as well as care for children. At M and S the focus of employee welfare benefits for the 1990s is health and fitness. Facilities include breast screening for all women staff and wives of all male staff, a dental income plan and a gym at head office - "for the use of those who NEED exercise", says a spokesman.

So medical, sports and restaurant facilities now form a triumvirate of concerns in most major UK organisations. According to a survey of Britain's top 500 companies carried out by BUPA last summer, corporate fitness is now increasingly seen in terms of healthier eating at work, better sports facilities and, inevitably, more widespread restrictions on smoking. According to BUPA, seven out of 10 companies are now spending more on health care than they were three years ago and none are spending less. Significantly, BUPA now offers stress counselling as part of its health care programmes.

Sports facilities are widely seen as one way to let off steam. According to Rodney Cooper, senior partner with BDP Design, fitness is now a central preoccupation with those companies which are relocating to greenfield sites. "When we designed Gallaher's new building at Weybridge," he says, "the first thing that went on to the site was the jogging track." Improved sports provision is usually accompanied by more sophisticated food facilities.

The fact that better centralised sports and restaurant facilities can promote corporate cohesion and encourage teamwork has not been lost on a number of companies. Chase Manhattan Bank, for example, paid close attention to staff amenities when it relocated from half a dozen offices in the City to a brand new operations and administration centre in Bournemouth during the 1980s. The new centre, designed by architect TTSP on a 30-acre parkland site, was built in two phases at a total cost of £35.5 million. It now houses 1,500 staff in a high-tech development hailed as one of the most "intelligent" office buildings in Europe.

As part of the first phase, TTSP provided a 10,000 sq ft staff facilities building linked to the main complex by a covered walkway. This now has two restaurants, a bar, sports hall, showers and saunas. Outside there are tennis courts, plus five-a-side football facilities for the 25 staff teams at the bank. "The aim has been to create a team-building environment in which people from different walks of life will mix," says communications manager Ian Stewart. He is convinced that the combination of staff amenities and quality of light, space and country views makes working for the bank attractive.

Architect Derek Amos, who led the TTSP team which designed the Chase Manhattan complex, suggests that this level of staff facility is currently restricted to owner-occupiers moving to new buildings. Speculative office developers remain more functional in their provision because they cannot anticipate the specific needs of a particular tenant. But, says Amos, the Chase Manhattan example gives an indication of things to come. "Recent events have shown us that all shades of government will heavily tax company perks such as cars," he says. "The office environment is simply a more permanent way of providing for staff."

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