Corporate Wellbeing - How a healthy workforce is key to business success
CLA Shropshire member Andy Stevens was a keen sportsman in his youth and rose to become an international banker at the top of his game. Here he talks frankly about his past, and shares with members his plans to help others focus on their health and wellbeing through a new venture at Hencote Estate in the heart of Shropshire.
Andy Stevens spent almost all his adult life overseas. He played rugby for Hong Kong and travelled widely working for a multinational bank. He then joined a local bank in Qatar, where he rose to become CEO, and was instrumental in growing it into a leading Gulf bank with a multi-billion pound turnover.
But along the way, work took its toll. Andy explains: “I devoted my whole life to building that bank, and everything else - family, friendships and social life - came second.”
“I daresay that’s not an unusual situation among business leaders and executives, but and what invariably happens is that people simply wear out because they haven’t considered their own health or wellbeing. They wake up one day and find they’re not as well or healthy as they should be given the resources at their disposal!
“I reached that point in 2009 where, through no fault of our own, a lot of our hard work and drive came undone because of the global meltdown in financial markets. What should have been an outstanding year became a pretty average one – that was a huge disappointment.”
It was a moment to pause and reflect. Andy had spent so much time focussed on building the organisation that he’d let himself go physically. Tests revealed a metabolism akin to that of a 71-year-old even though he was only 50!
“I looked unhealthy, I was unfit and survived on very little quality sleep. I never had time for myself, family or friends. I had a warped sense of responsibility that suggested my role was first and foremost to the bank and not to myself and my family. I didn’t have a mechanism or any priority for dealing with stress or the physical and mental strains associated.
After starting to address his own situation, Andy realised that a rigorous process to assess the wellbeing of his executive team was also vital. A fairly rudimentary set of recommendations came back including more exercise, better nutrition, more relaxation.
“I thought at the time we were on the cutting edge of man management. I realise now that we’d only just opened the door and that we had to do much more. We were no different to the rest of industry losing talent; we were no longer able to retain key executives because they’d gone beyond the tipping point, worn out physically and mentally. And once you lose a key individual, you change the whole dynamics of the team.”
His message to others is clear: “It is vitally important that Boards, Chairmen, CEOs are aware of the physical and mental health of their people. They must be able to identify and respond appropriately if they are really serious about delivering sustainable high performance.”
After he eventually retired, Andy realised that the facilities he’d developed at Hencote had a great deal to offer the corporate world. It is almost in the middle of nowhere with a sense of escapism, yet close to Shrewsbury town and well placed centrally with good transport links.
Andy took particular care to assemble a top class team to help people take stock and reassess their lifestyles, nutrition, diet, exercise, conditioning, and mindfulness.
The Grange Manager Olivia Britton oversees all your needs during your stay and ensures that all your specific needs are considered by the team, especially the nutritionist and chef who work closely together to cook according to your requirements. The Director of Wellbeing handles massages, meditation and mindfulness and other specialist practitioners such as a personal trainer can be called upon as and when required.
“It’s not a boot camp. When people arrive, the first thing they want to do is to relax. The next day we might ease them in to a new start with yoga or a meditation walk, but it’s all about preparing the mind to voluntarily embrace change. If all they get is deep relaxation and but realise that they need to start to address their physical and mental health, then that is a step in the right direction. Where you go from there is entirely up to you.”
Neither is Hencote exclusively a wellbeing retreat. It’s a home from home boutique private hotel available to groups who want to book for a holiday, party, reunion or private event. Or as a place to come individually, perhaps to pursue a more holistic set of treatment for your own wellbeing. Of course Andy is already talking to organisations who might want to send management teams to ensure they are being properly looked after.
Andy summarises; “What we definitely don’t do is take blood and other samples! We are not a medical spa. If you want that, go to Harley Street.
“But we’ll help you discover for yourself what the best approach is for you.”
It’s the method Andy himself took, and is willing to share. And today he is a picture of health, the best advert for his own business.
So confident is Andy in the team at Hencote that he allowed the CLA’s very own wellbeing guru and events organiser Debbie Nicholson to road test the facilities, as well as being one of the first people to view the newly planted vineyard and explore the ancient wet woodlands on the estate.
In her own words, here is Debbie’s experience of Hencote.
“Arriving at Hencote on a gloomy wet Sunday afternoon, we were greeted warmly and immediately impressed by the stunning views. It was hard to believe we were so close to Shrewsbury Town Centre when the surroundings were so tranquil.
We were shown to our suite “Myddle” via the kitchen, we were delighted to see that our chef was none other than Marcus Bean, who was busy preparing our evening meal. The room was contemporary, light and airy yet very cosy with a free standing roll top bath and, tempting as it was to relax the afternoon away in here, we made our way down to the communal lounge area for coffee.
As the evening was drawing in, Olivia kitted us out with wellies and took us for a walk around the newly planted vineyard, accompanied by the dogs. Then it was yoga in the gym and the opportunity to view some of Andy’s fascinating sporting memorabilia. This was followed by an immensely enjoyable massage in a purpose-built pod in the garden.
By now, fully relaxed, there was even time for a dip in the tub before dinner. We gathered around the communal table in the spacious kitchen/dining area and met our fellow residents before Marcus presented us with our delicious, yet extremely healthy meal. There was a real home from home feel as we tucked in and then sat around chatting. Some guests had gone for the complete caffeine free approach while others happily finished with coffee.
After a restful night it was up and ready for energising yoga but, as usual, when passing through the kitchen, Olivia and her team were on hand to offer a cup of lemon and ginger tea to help us on our way. Fully stretched and energised we were all ready for a well deserved brunch. Not your usual fry up but homemade granola, fruit and special blueberry pancakes and syrup. Delicious!
A short rest before personal trainer Mike appeared to put us through our paces. After a vigorous workout he offered training and nutritional advice to all who wanted it. Lunch followed and again Marcus wowed us with his healthy frittata and salad and sadly my time at Hencote had come to an end. I was waved off by the team who by now felt like family and I drove away from this haven of relaxation and tranquillity feeling ready to face anything that the world could throw at me.
The Grange at Hencote is a luxurious holistic retreat, nestled in over 60 acres of stunning Shropshire countryside with accommodation for up to 12 guests offering personal or corporate wellbeing as well as private hire. For details see www.hencote.com email@example.com or call The Grange Manager on 07512 524500