We are dedicated to the well-being of our employees

Companies that only seek productivity and results will ultimately pay the price. "Employees also need to feel good about themselves, both physically and mentally."

How can you create an organisation in which staff are happier and more energised in their work? For transmission system operator Elia, the secret lies in investing in employee well-being. Thanks to the company's well-being initiatives, its absenteeism rate is below the Belgian average for companies in the same sector.

"Above all, employers need to give their employees access to someone they can talk to about their questions and concerns," says Sabine De Weghe. As a social assistant to over 1,300 Elia employees, Sabine leads working groups and discussions about training, support and well-being.

Listening and being heard

"I'm often the first port of call for employees who, for whatever reason, are feeling a little less comfortable in their own skin. They receive personal guidance about any career concerns but also find a sympathetic ear when their personal problems affect their performance at work. Listening and being heard are crucial to nipping these problems in the bud."

Elia adopts a similar approach to employees returning to work after a long-term sickness. The company regularly checks in with these employees during their sick leave, stopping them feeling like they are losing touch with work, and is also willing to provide a reintegration coach if necessary.


Care4Energy is another of the company's inspiring initiatives. This programme reminds employees of the importance of good physical and mental health. "We work with both managers and employees," explains Fien Vanden Hoof, who as an Elia H&S adviser is partly responsible for the Care4Energy project. "Managers undergo training in detecting and dealing with excessive stress among their employees. They're not doctors or psychologists, of course, but by addressing issues with stress in good time they can make a big difference."

Care4Energy also offers employees recreational activities primarily intended to raise their awareness by demonstrating that good health is often a responsibility shared by both employer and employee. "These activities are based on four pillars, or 'batteries'," says Fien. "The first two pillars are employee mental and physical health. We also focus on emotional health by, for instance, highlighting the social network available to personnel as well as emphasising recognition and motivation from managers. Personal development, namely how an employee can best fit their job into their personal life, makes up the final pillar."

Exchanging experiences

For the past two years, Elia has been running a group where employees can exchange experiences and talk about stress and burnout. By organising this group, the employer is breaking a common taboo surrounding discussion of mental or physical problems at work. "People want to put their experiences with burnout to good use," says Sabine. "They want to help others by demonstrating the importance of prevention, of raising the alarm in time if you're under too much negative stress, of looking after yourself and knowing your limits, and by showing that rather than hiding your problems, it's better to talk about them."

Originally this group only included people who had returned to work after experiencing burnout. Now, however, virtually everyone can go to chat about their mental well-being in the company and their experiences with stress or burnout. Every two months, the group meets for a few hours during the lunch break. "We want to invite other people to join the group in the near future," reveals Sabine. "Members of the Learning & Development Team have already taken part, but we'd also like to see coaches, confidential counsellors, HR Business Partners and the HR Manager, for example. Ultimately we want the group to become an integral part of the company. We've adopted a very ambitious approach."

Mens sana in corpore sano

To maintain employees' physical health, Elia supplies various sites with fresh fruit every day. There is always free soup in the company canteens and there are facilities for those who want to work out. As Fien points out: "These may be small initiatives but they are greatly appreciated. We also encourage our employees to get enough exercise. We take part in sports events like the Brussels 20K and if an employee can get 15 colleagues to take part in such an event then Elia will reimburse the registration fee."

Challenges for a good cause

The Care4Energy challenges were launched early this year. "We challenge our employees to work together to fully recharge the batteries," explains Fien. "For each of the four batteries, we've devised a series of challenges that employees can tackle in groups: eating lunch standing up, drinking enough water for a week, walking 5 km together, attending a mindfulness session, switching off mobile phones during lunch, and so on."

Completing a challenge fills the corresponding Care4Energy battery a little. Elia donates €2,500 to a good cause for every recharged battery. "A few weeks ago, we reached our final goal: four fully charged batteries," says Sabine. "This means that Elia will donate €10,000 to charity via De Warmste Week and Viva For Life this autumn. We'll also turn the donation into a joint event, allowing us to further broaden our employees' social network."

Strong employees, strong company

The company also organises activities bringing together employees and departments every year. The Elia Trophy, for example, is a company-wide team-building exercise taking the form of an outdoor weekend. "Employees get together in teams of four," explains Fien. "They spend the night in tents and take part in friendly, competitive activities over the course of the weekend. We also organise a Family Day with activities for employees and their families." Sabine sums up the logic behind these initiatives as follows: "A strong grid needs strong employees who can flourish in their jobs and feel good about their company."

De Tijd, 2019