Discover Benelux, Issue 37, January 2017

Page 48

Discover Benelux  |  Business  |  Belgian Business Profile

A workplace of respect and integrity TEXT: CHARLOTTE VAN HEK  |  PHOTOS: RYHOVE

Creating an environment where employees feel safe, valued, and independent. For over 50 years, social work place Ryhove in Ghent has done just that. Ryhove employs people with physical or mental disabilities, offering them a safe, structured, and sociable working environment. Rather than producing its own products, the Belgian company employs people to conduct projects for thirdparty organisations. Its services can roughly be divided into the packaging of food, the packaging of non-food, and graphic work such as bookbinding. In addition, Ryhove has a specialised department for the assembling of lighting and fittings, and has employees working on location in cases where a business is dealing with an acute shortage of manpower. Currently, Ryhove counts approximately 330 employees and 70 supervisors. At Ryhove, it is the employee that is the centre of the business, not the employer. “It can be challenging for people with physical or mental disabilities to find a job 48  |  Issue 37  |  January 2017

that suits them,” begins director Peter Leyman. “With us, they find the sociable contacts and the structure they need, while maintaining a valuable connection with society.” Ryhove is a non-profit organisation that is partly subsidised by the Belgian government. “Our main aim is, unlike companies in the regular economy, to offer people an environment where they are valued - not to make profit. That leaves room for an approach where we work starting for an employee’s point of view,” Leyman asserts. Initiatives in aid of people with disabilities are frequently supported, such as the current ‘Rode Neuzen Dag’ (Red Nose Day), a charity event aiming to break the taboo around young people who have mental health problems. “The idea to support that initiative was actually proposed by one of our own employees,” Leyman says proudly. Ryhove has a remarkably low turnover of employees. “People feel at home here and truly enjoy coming to work,” says Leyman.

“I always say this: at a regular company, there is work to do, and from that thought people are hired. At Ryhove it is the other way around: we first have our people, and find work that suits them. It is actually no wonder that people love to work here.” Peter Leyman