Fiona Barker: How Zebra Technologies promoted wellness among its European workforce


Zebra’s HR team has been running wellness events for a number of years, primarily based at the technology company’s main offices in the UK. We have the UK workforce covered.

But as a multinational corporation, Zebra regularly acquires other businesses. And it was the 2014 acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise business which dramatically increased the number of employees we have located across Europe and provided us with a new challenge: “How do we expand wellness across Europe?”

I came across the World Health Organization's initiative of World Health Day and felt this would be a perfect opportunity to promote wellbeing across our newly enlarged population. So the next question was: “How can I possibly do something across our 29 countries?”

City superhero

The answer was to enlist the help of our “superheroes”, also known as employee communication champions. We set up a Communication Champion Forum last year to improve communication of important messages from the organisation across our various locations.

An employee-led initiative

The forum is comprised of communication champions who represent a cross section of employees across different business functions, and who have taken on the roles outside of their main job responsibilities.

By involving them, World Health Day became less of an “HR initiative” and more of an employee-led celebration. They have provided great insight into what employees really think and what works best for their own regions.  

Our champions were empowered to come up with their own ideas to recognise World Health Day with two caveats: the activities had to take place on the day itself on 7th April, and there was no central budget so any costs had to be locally funded. We also gave them a few ideas to get them started.

Local wellness initiatives

The outcome was more varied than we had anticipated. Responses ranged from lunchtime walking groups to bringing in and sharing healthy snacks, to 5k runs. Competitions were held for wearing sportswear to work and sharing photos of employees in their hobbies. Our colleagues in Portugal enjoyed a round of golf!

The activities undertaken by employees around Europe demonstrated how wellness initiatives needed to make sense locally and how a one-size-fits-all approach does not apply to wellness.

The reward team’s role

Working with our communications manager, we provided some template emails and posters which our champions could use to assist them in publicising their events locally. 

Additionally, we linked up with our colleagues in Asia Pacific who arranged their own events including diabetes awareness talks and checks in Bangalore and free herbal teas in Sri Lanka.

We also held a wellness exhibition at our European headquarters with interactive health stands and voluntary tests for employees. This targeted the health and wellbeing profile of Zebra’s workforce, based on the company’s report from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace – a workplace wellness study.

One World Health Day itself, there was an uplift in energy and engagement. It was great to see some of our remote workers come together.

From receiving initial responses such as: “We can’t do this, as we mostly have remote workers” or “I’ve never heard of World Health Day”, to “Can we do this more often?” was an amazing journey to see. The events provided a sense of togetherness.

This proves that whilst World Health Day primarily focused on the wellbeing of individuals, it can do wonders for the soul of a company.

Fiona Barker is EMEA rewards partner at Zebra Technologies Europe




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