Caring Derbyshire firm nurtures staff mental health with innovative “Wellness Wednesdays”

Jim Grieveson, chef manager at Lubrizol’s Hazelwood site, for Wilson Vale catering, with ‘Buddha Bowls’, the subject of one of his talks to Wellness Wednesdays. A Buddha bowl features five components: whole grains, vegetables, protein, a dressing, and ‘sprinkles’, which can include nuts and seeds.

Staff at a global chemicals firm with a Derbyshire UK headquarters have been staying connected with an innovative “Wellness Wednesdays” scheme to help with their mental health.


Employees at Lubrizol have been enjoying a huge range of activities including yoga, origami and cooking, in fortnightly virtual sessions. Some of the quirkier meet-ups have seen them admiring each other’s garden re-vamps and bringing along pets to mew and bark at each other over the silver screen!


Lubrizol has a UK headquarters in Hazelwood near Belper; sites around the country in Barnsley, Huddersfield, Manchester, Stockton-on-Tees, Consett and Mostyn, along with further locations overseas including France, Japan, Brazil, China and the USA.


The Wellness Wednesdays’ initiative has been born out of the company’s active mental health first aid team with the simple yet effective idea of helping staff de-stress for half an hour away from their desks, as well as enabling people working in different offices to meet each other when they may otherwise not have had the chance.


Initially set up during Covid lockdowns as a way of helping employees stay in touch when working remotely, the Wellness Wednesdays scheme is so popular that it is carrying on even now many people have returned to the office.


Mike Pritchett, testing director at Lubrizol’s headquarters in Hazelwood, who helped start the company’s mental health first aid team, said: “The Wellness Wednesdays have been a way of helping people stay connected, which is a key part of mental wellbeing. It has been very important through Covid with some people not having their normal social network in the same way.”


Wellness Wednesdays involve a range of people, some employed by Lubrizol, providing sessions on different topics. So far employees have enjoyed a yoga class at their desk; been given tuition on creating healthy eating ‘Buddha bowls’ courtesy of Hazelwood site chef Jim Grieveson, and even learned how to order a drink in different countries. Some topics have been more serious, such as how to best manage stress, while others have been delivered by outside organisations like the local WI – which Mike said was one of his favourites.


Participants have connected to the sessions from different offices, and there have been people joining in from Lubrizol’s overseas sites too.


Emma Playfoot, who works in Lubrizol’s process technology department in the company’s Blackley site in Manchester, said: “The Wellness Wednesdays sessions are half an hour away from your work, where you get to spend time with groups of people from all over the country. It’s time to switch off. That’s what I use it for, and to be in touch with people that are similarly minded to you. Sometimes, if you’re quite stressed, it’s nice to speak to other people and get to know them as well. I think it shows that Lubrizol does care about your mental health.”


The mental health first aiders at Lubrizol take the lead in coming up with different topic ideas for Wellness Wednesdays’ participants to enjoy.


But for Jodie Varney, who works at the company’s Hazelwood site and is part of the team organising the initiative, the benefit is as much in the taking part as the subject matter.


She said: “We recognised that it might be beneficial to have a drop-in session that anybody could join, which offered a relaxed open environment where friends and colleagues could come together and talk about things other than work.


“It’s a great way to connect with people that you would never normally speak to. Quite a few people attend regularly now, and if it had not have been for Wellness Wednesdays these people would probably not cross paths.


“Ultimately, Wellness Wednesdays are there to help people feel better. They were set up at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty and people were going through some quite challenging times.  They will continue as a way of promoting positive mental health across our company.”

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