This is wellbeing at Umicore


Wellbeing can be defined by many factors, but ultimately it is linked to how an individual feels, what is or feels good for this or that person. Your (physical) health, family and social life, work-life balance and economic situation are just some of the factors that define your wellbeing. It is an illusion to think that an individual’s wellbeing depends solely on what an organization - or society, for that matter - does for you. No, it also depends on your own efforts and choices. That said, an organization obviously has an important role to play to ensure the wellbeing of all its employees. At Umicore, we aim to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, connected and appreciated for their contribution. That they are in a place where they can grow, thrive, interact and have fun in their daily job.  

At Umicore, wellbeing means caring. It means caring for our people, for their health and safety, caring for talents and the communities in which we operate.  

Together with an external expert in wellbeing, we have developed a scientific model indicating what gives us energy and what doesn’t. “In Umicore terms, it’s about what charges or depletes your battery. For example, you might draw energy from feeling connected and respected by the team, obtaining good results, having the necessary autonomy in your job or enjoying a good work-life balance. On the other hand, your battery might be drained if you are stressed for a long period, suffer from a digital overload or feel disconnected from your team. We want to further raise awareness among our leaders so that they are able to identify early signs and know how to influence them positively”, said Bert Swennen, Group Director EHS Operations and Group Medical Officer. We also share information on how you, as an individual, can improve your own wellbeing through healthy nutrition or stop smoking campaigns.  

Not because we have to, but because we care to

We have always cared for our people. Now more than ever, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, organizations realize that wellbeing needs to be high on the agenda. “Wellbeing at work is a key priority in our ESG Let’s Go For Zero strategy. We’ve divided it into four parts: mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, occupational wellbeing and social wellbeing”, Bert explained.

Mental wellbeing

Work life can be intense and the speed of the job on a daily basis has increased over the years, impacting on our wellbeing and our relationship with our work. Added to that, digitalization makes it more difficult to separate our private life from work. Several countries, including Belgium and France, have now increased awareness of “the right to disconnect”.

We work closely together with the various regions to ensure that the local wellbeing initiatives and actions are consistent with the group-wide approach.

During the pandemic, the management team in Brazil hired an external consultant who called all colleagues working from home one by one to check in on them, asking how they were doing from a physical and mental point of view but also as regards logistics, and whether the organization needed to try and find solutions to their issues. This not only boosted their energy but also had a positive effect on the connection between employees and the company.  

Last year, India also endured a major surge in cases and recorded a high infection rate. To keep things going, the authorities asked operators to quarantine between working hours and isolate in a nearby hotel. In an effort to take care of them, we offered individual counseling and support to help them manage isolation and the stress caused by the pandemic.

Physical wellbeing  

We aim to offer all our employees options to improve their physical health. These range from nutrition counseling and ergonomics to stop smoking programs. “We are working on offering each employee across the globe a general preventive health check. This is, of course, on a voluntary basis. Each individual will have the choice”, Bert made clear.

Social wellbeing

A sense of belonging to a team is a key factor in wellbeing. Collectively feeling part of a community gives you energy. We want all employees to feel proud to be a member of the #UmicoreFamily. This is why communicating and sharing stories about events and the people at Umicore is key to social wellbeing. “Participating in events is always a great way of bonding but sharing a sense of support and help for the community creates an even stronger link. Our colleagues in Poland united to support the refugee flow in Poland. Our plants in Nowa Ruda and Nysa have decided to offer a wide range of support to Ukrainian refugees.”

Since the start of the war, employees have been collecting basic goods for babies and children. “Collections focus on personal hygiene products, medicine and food. Employees also volunteer to help refresh and renovate apartments allocated to refugees in the area.” Both our plants have committed to providing longer-term support in the surrounding areas to help settle refugees arriving in Poland.

Occupational wellbeing

Occupational wellbeing has always been a priority at Umicore. Bert shared: “It has been part of our agenda for over 10 years, so this is an ongoing initiative”. At Umicore, our efforts to eliminate occupation-related health risks continue. We are leading the industry by setting voluntary, science-based targets for potentially hazardous exposure to metals that are more stringent than legal requirements, where these exist. All employees who may be exposed to metals and other hazardous chemicals at the workplace are included in an occupational health surveillance program.

Wellbeing is all about vitality. Today more than ever, it is a condition for success, both as a business and as an organization. You can’t have personal, let alone collective growth without a healthy workforce. Health and safety first. Everything else comes second.