Just down the road from us is a posh gym and leisure centre called the Lensbury Club. The affluent townsfolk of Teddington congregate there at the weekend to avoid the hoi polloi in the local municipal. I’ve visited on a few occasions and it’s all very nice, although there something of the air of a staff canteen about the place, which is hardly surprising because up until the 1980s it was the sports club for Shell and BP oil companies.
Just across the river from the Lensbury is the YMCA Hawker Centre. A maybe more egalitarian place, it too once was the exclusive preserve of staff from one organisation – the aircraft maker Hawker who used to be based in the town on Kingston Upon Thames.
Every Saturday morning my kids have tennis lessons at the NPL Sports ground – what used a place for recreation exclusively for the of the employees of the National Physical Laboratory next door, but today is an independent operation.
Benevolent capitalism used to provide for their staff as part of a social contract that was dismantled in the 1980s as companies sought profit above all else. Indeed, the Lensbury was shifted from being a staff benefit to a profit centre in those years.
The balance sheets of companies couldn’t see that there might be a connection between well being and productivity. So it was cut. Amazing resources disposed of because of them not being core business.
For all of the talk today about well being at work, I’ve not see any analysis of why and how what was once it seemed was instinctively known was systematically destroyed. How could the long tradition of treating workers holistically well have been seemingly lost?
We used to do this stuff and gave staff access to proper resources. Today if you are lucky you’ll get a discount at the David Lloyd and half and hour of Reiki every second month. Unless we understand the reasons why organisations took these resources away, well being will be nothing but a passing fad.