The wellbeing of staff is at the top of the agenda for Newton Aycliffe’s biggest employer.

Automotive manufacturer Gestamp has taken on a full-time wellbeing lead at its huge Aycliffe Business Park site, while the firm has trained up 25 mental health first aiders.

Gestamp – a multinational company which specialises in the design, development and manufacture of highly engineered metal components for the automotive industry – is also embracing a range of national and local mental health awareness campaigns, encouraging employees to take part.

It’s part of Gestamp’s health and wellbeing vision for the company and its 1,000-plus workforce, as the company prepares to invest in a bespoke ‘R&R’ wellbeing zone within a new state-of-the-art training and development facility.

HR professional Alastair Waugh has been appointed wellbeing lead at Gestamp and is heading up the firm’s staff health initiatives.

He said: “Health and wellbeing is now a critical part of our strategy to reaffirm our message as a caring employer and to become the employer of choice locally.

“We have to do things differently – especially after the last two years – and wellbeing is so important. We really want to take care of our staff.

“It’s something we take very seriously. And Gestamp have invested not only in my role to deliver this, but also the new wellbeing development within the Tallent Academy.

“It’s a brand new role, the only one in the UK across the Gestamp group, and I feel really privileged to be given the opportunity. Employee wellbeing is a passion of mine.

“My passion for wellbeing comes from working in the HR sector for a number of years. I’ve picked up loads of great idea sand experience from previous roles over the years. I’d like to think I have a caring and empathetic personality.

“We now have a strong emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace and we’re working hard internally, as well as with local partner organisations, to deliver that strategy.”

Gestamp have picked up on campaigns such as Movember, Blue Monday and MIND’S Time To Talk.

And as well as having 25 trained mental health first aiders, Gestamp have launched a 24-hour call line for workers.

Other initiatives have included giving staff extra time for breaks and free use of vending machines to encourage employees to take more time out.

“We’re working with local organisations – such as the Great Aycliffe Cancer Support Group – and other support groups, building networks and creating support packages for staff,” added Alastair.

“I hope the work we’re doing is getting the message out there to employees that they can speak to someone at any time.”

As part of Gestamp’s drive, a wellbeing zone is being installed in the firm’s new Tallent Academy development.

Gestamp says it will open up the 4,300 sq ft facility to local support groups, while other local businesses will also be able to use the facility to train up their staff.

As well as an ‘R&R’ wellbeing zone and counselling rooms, the Academy will include a medical area and physiotherapy suites, while the training element of the building will include high-tech robot cells, specialist welding bays and tooling facilities.

Jonathan Phillips, plant director at Gestamp in Aycliffe, said: “This investment in our staff and their wellbeing shows our commitment to our workforce, as well as our vision to being the local employer of choice.

“We aim to give back to the community in any way we can. Alastair’s appointment – along with the work he’s doing – forms an integral part of our staff development and overall ethos to look after our employees.

“It’s a big part our strategy locally and globally to enhance our position as a top ESG company, something which is firmly located in our DNA.”

Staff’s wellbeing forms an integral part of Gestamp’s safety indicator, GHSI, which is a corporate health and safety standard which is measured and audited globally.

Part of that indicator is a psychosocial risk assessment, introduced this year to the firm’s health and safety management, to ensure all sites have assessed the psychosocial side of their business.