Employee wellbeing in times of crisis; an interview with Simon Bevis of R-Biopharm Rhone

ALEX LAMONT • 04 Apr 2022

Through the pandemic – and now the cost-of-living crisis – employee wellbeing has never been more important. It’s no longer just a philosophical focus for senior management, for some employers, it’s now a performance metric.

simon bevis (1)

We sat down with Simon Bevis - Managing Director of R-Biopharm Rhone - to discuss employee wellbeing, and what lessons we can learn as Q1 of 2022 comes to an end. RBR is a diagnostics manufacturing company with business in both the food and clinical sectors, which delivered COVID-19 PCR kits during the pandemic.

How would you describe the culture at RBR?

"I’ve been Managing Director for 16 years, and I inherited a culture of friendliness and support at the company, which I have tried hard to maintain. You spend 40 hours a week at your job – the best part of the week, as well, so the key thing for a strong company culture is to make sure you and your team enjoy their time at work.

There are four facets to this:

  • Try to make the day interesting.
  • Support people with learning and development.
  • Be humble and realise you can’t get it all right.
  • Be open with colleagues.

We’re an Investors in People Platinum Company. That’s been a ten-year process. We try to give our people opportunities and keep them engaged. We’ve invested £60,000 into initiatives to grow the development of our team and expand their skillsets, and we reward that growth."


How does that culture relate to hiring staff?

"Historically, we have hired well. Which sounds easier than it is, but we make sure of that by being clear what kind of values we want from someone who joins our team. At the end of the day, you need someone who is qualified and meets the technical specification necessary to meet our diagnostic and testing standards, but that isn’t the only thing we look for.

The question is always asked – 'is this person going to fit?'

The team is the culture and the culture is the team. So when we’re interviewing we know that we’re looking for someone who’s going to gel with their colleagues. Following a strong interview, we have a second stage where we bring someone in to have a tour of the labs, meet people working in their department, and make sure they would mesh with them

Generally speaking, I think most people react positively to a warm, welcoming environment. I make a point of knowing everybody’s name, I know quite a few of their families. I know who’s a grandmother, or who recently got engaged. There’s a limit to that. We’re only 60-70 people in Glasgow, and one day that may not be possible, but if that day comes, our senior management will still be expected to stay approachable and make our teams feel seen as individuals."

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With employee wellbeing in mind, have your priorities changed post-pandemic?

"I'm far more relaxed now than I would have been two and a half years ago in relation to home working, for example. There’s a lot more visibility into people’s lives now. With that comes a greater understanding of people’s struggles than there ever was before.

Aside from that, I don’t think our priorities have changed, but our approach has. For example, we have an employee who lives 90 minutes away and prior to the pandemic we changed their working hours to allow more flexibility (and miss the worst of the traffic!) Then the pandemic came along – and we realised that working from home was a completely viable option and it has turned out to be better for both the employee and the business.

The one thing that has changed, for many companies I think, is our understanding of work and mental health. The number often quoted is that 10% of the population suffer from mental health issues, and after the pandemic, that number’s definitely gone up."

Employee wellbeingWhat have you done to help your employees' mental health?

"COVID-19 was tough on everyone, but it was tough in different ways. We’re a manufacturing business, and we contribute both to food security and the battle against COVID-19 so we couldn’t send everyone home. There were two groups of people, there were the ones who worked from home for months, which had its own struggles, and then there were the ones who had to come in and were scared.

In the beginning, our frontline workers got it worse, but once they got into a routine, it got easier for them, and it was the staff who were working from home that we had to think about more.

That experience gave me a much clearer indication that we needed to do more. Mental health is now much more front and centre for us.

We refer staff to a cognitive behavioural consultant when they need it. We’ve trained mental health champions to signpost people to where they need to go if they have issues. The idea is that there should always be someone in the workplace you feel like you can reach out to when you need it."

You've likely heard of The Great Resignation - how do you think a company's culture helps retention?

"Retention of staff is always – and should always – be something senior management is actively thinking about with a view to improve. To be honest, the average service at RBR is 8 years, and I think that tells you something! However post-pandemic, especially, it continues to be an area where we concentrate our efforts. But if you’re thinking about retention and recruitment, you need to start with employee wellbeing.

At the end of the day, if you’re good to people, people will be good to you. Company culture is carried through how colleagues and Managers treat each other. 90% of the battle is making your people value being part of the company. Make it a workplace they’re proud to tell their partners about, with opportunities they can share with colleagues."


We are an applicant tracking system provider, with expertise in employee engagement and wellbeing. If you want to save money on recruitment agencies and increase your talent pool, reach out and talk to us!

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