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Best Companies Live: How workplace wellbeing impacts your culture

Workplace wellbeing and culture are buzzwords used by organisations to highlight how they prioritise the mental and physical health of their employees, but how often we actually recognise the importance and the interrelation of these factors?

If you want to build a workplace where employees are committed to your organisation’s goals and ethos, then creating an atmosphere where your people feel their wellbeing is an integral part of the company culture should be at the heart of your business plan.

Our data shows that employee who feel as though their financial, emotional, physical, and mental needs are being met by the organisation are significantly more likely to be engaged and productive in their work. The data also shows that employers are more likely to attract and retain top talent when they prioritise the wellbeing of their employees.

Bringing together valued members of our community, our Best Companies Live events provide an opportunity for business leaders to come together and discuss how they are helping to make the world a better workplace. Our Q3 event was hosted by Dan Walker and the fourth, and final, panel discussion of the day was all about Workplace wellbeing and its impact on culture.

To watch the full session, please watch the video:

This article contains highlights of this discussion. To watch the session in full, please watch the video.

Our Red Chair panellists: Lucy Kirkup – HRD of OFR Consultants, David Webster – CEO of Dougie Mac, Corrine Blake – Head of People and Culture at Quill, and Bev Dixon – COO of Verdant Leisure, all shared their insights into how important workplace wellbeing and culture is to employees, what organisations can do to improve their employees’ wellbeing, and how workplace wellbeing and company culture impact each other.

To measure how much wellbeing has impacted the culture of organisations in our Best Companies community, we posed statements for our b-Heard employee engagement survey to our Red Chair panellists, Alumni guests, and studio and virtual audiences in the form of a vote. These were then compared to the lowest scoring 50% of organisations who have previously completed our survey.

On the subject of workplace wellbeing, we used the statements: ‘I am under too much pressure at work to perform well’ and ‘This organisation does not care about my mental wellbeing’. For company culture, we posed: ‘I would leave tomorrow if I had another job’, ‘I love working for this organisation’ and ‘I feel proud to work for this organisation’.

Discussion 1: The importance of workplace wellbeing

There are many factors that can affect employee engagement, and it is important to recognise how each of these factors relate to each other, and that no one factor can improve engagement on its own. However, as Jonathan Austin, CEO of Best Companies, puts it, “The thing that kills engagement is a lack of wellbeing so it’s really important that organisations connect to that and understand that if they’ve got consistent low levels of wellbeing then they’re going to disengage and potentially leave the organisation…. If we look after the people, the people will look after the organisation”.

Ensuring that an organisation takes care of its employees’ wellbeing is vital to the success of that business. Our Red Chair panellists discussed the initiatives and policies that their organisations had put into place to help drive employee wellbeing in the workplace.

Provide opportunities for your employees to express their feelings

Read any articles on how to build a successful business and one of the most common factors provided is ensuring a culture of open communication. However, this shouldn’t be limited to business practices and strategies between different levels of your organisation, but also to giving your employees the chance to freely communicate how they feel without fear of judgement or reprisal.

Lucy Kirkup explained how OFR Consultants had implemented a team of mental health specialists to provide a confidential and compassionate platform for employees to be able to express any concerns or stresses they had. This allowed Lucy’s organisation to provide solutions to any wellbeing issues that were raised. “We asked volunteers from across the business to form our Mind Matters group and they became trained Mental Health First Aiders. We meet on a monthly basis with a view to maintaining that healthy work environment where people can thrive and be open and we can talk about mental health.”

This idea of open communication was further expanded upon by Corrine Blake, the Head of People and Culture at Quill. “We started doing ‘How are You?’ surveys just to check in on everyone… and we identified that sometimes people just need a day off, whether it’s for something that’s not covered in one of our policies or because you’ve woken up that morning and you’re just not feeling it. It was just to acknowledge that and to make sure people could speak to their manager and say ‘I’m going to take my wellbeing day today.”

By providing their employees with the opportunity to communicate their feelings in a confidential manner, both OFR Consultants and Quill were able to gain a greater understanding on their employees’ wellbeing concerns and therefore act to resolve them.

Financially support your employees

It’s one thing to offer your employees fair pay, however, in times of financial stress – such as the current cost-of-living crisis – it is important that an organisation offers additional financial support and/or advice.

Employees who are struggling to afford food or their energy bills will result in worry, stress, and a feeling as though their wellbeing is not being properly cared for. This can further lead to a downturn in their motivation, productivity, and engagement.

To counteract this, Bev Dixon discussed how her organisation, Verdant Leisure, had introduced a new app that not only provided financial support, but also advice to all employees who needed it. “We have an employee benefits app which gives the entire team access to discounted groceries, discounted cinema tickets, additional shopping benefits, and that’s great. One of the really beneficial things about that particular app is it also has an employee assistance programme that is an independent, confidential, advice line.”

This meant that Verdant Leisure was able to provide their employees with both financial support and advice, helping to improve their workplace wellbeing.

Corrine echoed a similar practice whereby her organisation had implemented an additional monthly payment to every employee in order to support its staff and increase employee wellbeing levels. “We introduced a winter fuel allowance and made a payment to everyone – nearly £100 a month for six months just to help support them for that period. Just putting those things into place is massive in keeping our staff and attracting new staff.”

David Webster, CEO of Dougie Mac, further expanded upon the idea of using financial support to improve employee wellbeing and the other benefits that brings. “One of the things we did this year was rather than have an April pay award, we brought it forward to January, giving our staff 15 months of a pay rise rather than 12 months… we’re making our staff feel really valued and they do a better job.”

Financial support, particularly for employees who are struggling to make ends meet, can go a long way in improving employee wellbeing, creating a sense that their employer has their back during difficult times. This can lead to increased engagement and motivation as employees feel like they should repay their organisation’s support through dedicating themselves to their work.

Wellbeing: Jonathan’s word

At the end of this discussion on workplace wellbeing, Jonathan Austin provided this insight on the factor.

“No amount of free fruit, yoga classes, or stress busting classes is going to deal with that. It’s a product of leadership management. So you’ve got to create the environment and the capacity to do what we need to do… Now into the cost-of-living crisis, that lack of wellbeing has moved into the middle management and senior managers. And that’s a real problem because if they’re under pressure, they’re not taking the time to manage their people.”

Jonathan suggests here that focus needs to be on the wellbeing of employees at every level of the organisation in order to ensure the success of the business.

Discussion 2: The impact of wellbeing on culture and vice versa

As the discussion evolved into the second part of this session, our Red Chair panellists gave their views on how employing wellbeing practices can impact a company’s culture and, similarly, how your company culture affects workplace wellbeing.

Data from our previous b-Heard employee engagement surveys shows that these two factors are closely interrelated and that any increase or decrease to an organisation’s levels of either factor is mirrored by an increase or decrease in the other.

The data also shows that organisations that carefully create a positive culture and care for their employees’ wellbeing will see an increase in productivity and engagement across all departments.

The importance of face-to-face interactions in a hybrid working environment

Since the Covid pandemic, many employers have continued the work-from-home or hybrid working practices first implemented during that time. While data suggests that in some ways this has improved wellbeing (through an improved work/life balance) there has also been a notable change in the way people feel about the culture of the organisation that they work at as employees feel more distant from their colleagues.

To help build relationships from the start of an employees time at the organisation, Lucy discussed the human focused induction method that OFR Consultants use. “Having a buddy system and that sort of system, it’s really important to keep that face-to-face. It’s your first insight into the culture of an organisation.”

Using this face-to-face induction process has allowed Lucy’s organisation to build a sense of the culture and support available to employees from their first day.

This idea of maintaining in person events in order to build relationships between colleagues was further expanded upon by Corrine when she said, “We have an annual meeting with all staff and then we introduced Quill Fest just to introduce that family feel. It’s a chance for everyone to come along, there’s inflatables, ice cream vans, face painting, food, drink, it’s just a chance to meet one another. Most of the business is remote so it’s nice to have that social interaction with your colleagues.”

By hosting regular company events, and including employees’ families, Quill have managed to create a culture where its people feel more like a family, thereby strengthening relationships and improving wellbeing.

Creating a positive culture of fairness, listening, and fun

The importance of creating a positive culture within your organisation cannot be undervalued. Positivity breed positivity (just as the opposite is also true) and, as already mentioned, employees that feel that their company has a culture that they enjoy are more likely to perform better in their roles.

David of Dougie Mac reinforced this idea and discussed how building a positive culture should be at the forefront of an organisation’s business plan. “We talk a lot about culture without defining it as well as we should, but it’s how things are done around here demonstrates the culture. I think if people feel as if they’re being looked after fairly, if they think their issues are being resolved well, if they think they’re being listened to, if the individual feels as if we are playing our part to try and help, often that’s the best we can do.”

This was further corroborated by Bev Dixon who highlighted the fact that employees want to work in a culture where they feel like they can enjoy their work while also having a role with a purpose. “People want to feel proud when they come to work, people want to feel like they’re contributing to something… We want to have fun and we want the people who work for us to have and fun and enjoy it… so let’s create an environment where we support people to just enjoy their jobs.”

Both David and Bev raised an important point. Employees that work for an organisation that cares for them and their wellbeing are more likely to enjoy their job, and thereby more likely to be motivated, more productive, and more engaged.

Culture: Jonathan’s word

At the end of the session, Jonathan returned to the stage to provide this insight.

“It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s also the most cost-effective thing to do, to look after our people, to grow and develop them, to manage them well, to lead them well, give them a sense of purpose, and guess what? They’ll hang around and they’ll serve our customers and our clients well, provided we serve them well.”

What next?

As discussed by our Red Chair panellists, focusing on workplace wellbeing and creating a positive workplace culture are excellent means of improving employee engagement. It help employees to feel as though they are cared for and listened to, and further creates an environment where they can enjoy the work that they do. This not only motivates current employees, but creates a workplace that is attractive to new talent.

Wellbeing and culture (referred to as My Company by Best Companies) are just two of the factors that make up a great place to work and that drive employee engagement. It is important to recognise however that in order to have a truly successful organisation, you will need to ensure that you also focus on the other factors that make a world-class workplace.

To find out more about how you can create a world-class workplace through looking after your employees’ wellbeing and creating a positive workplace culture, visit our b-Heard employee engagement survey page and begin your engagement journey today.

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