Interview with Hugh Rapson, Sodexo Commercial Development Director of Energy & Resources.
As the 2017 Quality of Life Conference date approaches, we sought out some Sodexo experts to shed light on some of the key topics that will be discussed during the two-day international event. Hugh Rapson, Sodexo Commercial Development Director of Energy & Resources, based in Aberdeen Scotland, chimes in on improving the Quality of Life of workers in the offshore environment.
What makes the offshore living environment so unique?
Hugh Rapson: Offshore workers spend 50 percent of their time in remote locations, such as offshore oil platforms in the North Sea. They are isolated from their families, cope with extreme weather conditions, and live in relatively small accommodations with a lot of other people. Every comfort we can provide for them both on and off the job is critical to their well-being offshore.
With these particularities in mind, how does Sodexo go about designing its offers?
H.R.: First of all, offshore accommodations in the North Sea, on average, are 28 years old, meaning they were designed to meet standards set decades ago. Modern technology and higher expectations of well-being have created an opportunity for us to make these living spaces more fit for this day and age. Our ability to respond to the needs of our clients and consumers is very important. We don’t just create one single solution, but rather a solution that evolves and adapts to what consumers want – and that can change from unit to unit and year to year.
What upgrades have you observed that have had the greatest impact on the lives of offshore workers?
H.R.: In the past, accommodations were designed to meet basic functionality; today people are looking for far more. The changes that truly impact workers’ quality of life can start with adding an electrical outlet near the bed so workers can charge their phones and communicate with family members back home – but can go right through to a full refurbishment of living quarters and recreation spaces.
These residents are essentially in a box with very few windows and surrounded by water, so we try to liven up that environment. For example, we observed that integrating certain colors and improving lighting can create a more comfortable setting. So we focused our “AddMoreSphere” offer on bringing the walls to life with images of beaches, jungles, golf courses. A recent survey we conducted also revealed that mattresses and pillows were critically important to workers’ sleep quality. In response, we made improvements to sleeping quarters – which helps workers get the best rest possible.
That’s a very interesting point – why is rest so important for offshore workers?
H.R.: These workers put in long, 12-hour shifts in difficult conditions. They could be working on a very exposed part of the platform or on a helideck or drill deck and their concentration levels need to be fully on, all the time. Our services are designed to play a critical role in ensuring that teams are well rested, well looked after so they can focus and concentrate on being safe, which is the most important thing offshore.
Are there any other improvement areas that are particularly important in the offshore environment?
H.R.: Social interaction is another key area. The offshore environment brings together groups of fundamentally different people, often in enclosed surroundings.
Following the advent of satellite TV, a lot of workers would just go back to their cabins and switch on the TV. This can quickly lead to isolation. So we create spaces in recreation areas where they can socialize – including pool tables, cinemas, and spaces where they can talk with colleagues and have fun.
Any closing thoughts?
H.R.: A couple years ago, the industry made a scheduling shift, changing from three weeks at home and two weeks offshore to three weeks at home and three weeks offshore. These longer stretches of time offshore mean that workers experience even more fatigue at the end of their shifts, which makes our services all the more important. We have a major role to play in ensuring that these workers return home to their families just as they were when they left.
This interview was carried out in June 2017 in the context of Sodexo’s 2017 Quality of Life Conference dedicated to exploring new solutions around future quality of life needs.