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Best Companies, The New Wellbeing session at Best Companies Live Q2 2022 event
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The New Wellbeing: Strategies for success

With wellbeing becoming an even bigger differentiator for organisations looking to attract and retain talent, what are the key areas to focus on?

That’s what we discussed during Best Companies Live in May 2022, where our guests spoke about how wellbeing support in the workplace has evolved, and which of the support mechanisms they have put in place have had the greatest impact on overall employee health. You can read the highlights below, or if you would prefer to watch the full session, please click the video above.

Wellbeing has been the workplace buzzword over the past two years; and for good reason. The pandemic has changed the world beyond recognition, and the challenges that it has created have meant that employees up and down the country are looking to their organisations for support and flexibility in their working lives.

Indeed, the ways in which an organisation supports their employees mental, physical, and financial help goes beyond just existing staff – it is often something prioritised by jobseekers when deciding if a new role will work for them.

Best Companies’ latest round of survey data found that 67% of the respondents who were surveyed by us January to March agreed they are happy with the balance between their home and work life.

From agile working – where an employee can work anywhere if it suits the client, team, and individual needs, through to creative ways in which employers are encouraging staff to take time out – health and wellbeing practices have never been a more important consideration.

So, what have we learnt over the last few years that can shape wellbeing in the workplace for the long-term? And which support mechanisms are most effective in helping people strike a successful work/life balance?

“The whole management and leadership book has been re-written”

For Ann Francke OBE, CEO at the Chartered Management Institute, learnings from the pandemic that showed wellbeing as a top priority for both managers and their teams have helped shape the approach to wellbeing at the organisation.  

“We've put loads in place,” she said. “Manuals on how best to work in hybrid fashion, how to look after health and wellbeing, and how to manage remote teams – which is a whole different skillset than managing people who are present. It's like the whole management and leadership book has been re-written in a good way, in that empathy is more important, wellbeing is more important, and listening is more important, which in actual fact makes for better leaders all round.”

Francke explained that helping support managers to spot the signs of people struggling in their teams was also something that the organisation prioritises, as well as being honest and open about discussing how people are feeling.

“Spot-check surveys and managers checking in with people on a one-to-one bases are vital,” she said. “It’s really important to be able to say, ‘it’s ok not to be ok’ and that everyone struggles.”

“There’s no stigma or taboo subjects”

Encouraging transparency in communication around wellbeing is something that is also important to software development organisation, Gearset. CEO and co-founder, Kevin Boyle, said that being open about struggles is something that’s woven into the business – and something that has a positive impact on people.

“One of the nice things at Gearset is that our transparency culture has led to people openly talking about mental health,” he explained.

“What I really like is people will tell us they have an issue the same as they'll tell us they've got a cold or the flu. There's no stigma or taboo subjects and they know they can trust their line managers if they need further support. It's one of the things we’ve built at Gearset that I'm most proud of.”

Boyle also believes that communication between team members and their line managers when it comes to work/life balance is crucial when it comes to avoiding fatigue and burnout in the workplace.  

“One of the problems with working in a high-growth start-up is that mentally you are always looking for the next thing. People are passionate, but that also comes with the imposter culture that sees them putting extra hours in to be as good as the next person,” he said.

“We don’t want people working more than 40 hours a week, we try to encourage sustainable success and remind employees that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We really lean on our line managers to have those conversations with people, to communicate with them and tell them that they’ll be most successful if they work sustainably and build things up over time.”

“It's a two-way open and honest conversation”

In agreement that the relationship between line manager and team member is crucial to the foundations of good wellbeing culture is Rich Havercroft, People Director at defence organisation, Inzpire. He believes that knowing people well is the first step to ensuring people are supported with any difficulties they might be having.

“It's about knowing your people, as well as the managers supporting them, and being very open and honest,” he explained.

“It's a two-way open and honest conversation as well. And it’s hard when you grow as an organisation and get bigger, as you don’t know everyone personally. So, you really do rely on your line managers. It's about empowering them and enabling them to have those conversations.”

For Inzpire, something that it believes is fundamental to enabling employees to have control over their work/life balance is the uncapped leave policy it first introduced in 2016. This, he says, has had a big impact on the pressure some colleagues face around childcare and home life.

“We removed the amount of leave across the whole year, as well as in any given period,” he explained. “We trust our people to make the decision as to when to take time off, and of course managers do still have a role, but more to ensure they are monitoring staff numbers, so they’re not left empty-handed. It benefits families the most, particularly when it comes to the summer holidays for example, as it removes some of the childcare pressure and makes a really big difference for them.”

“It’s about reacting quickly and giving people really good support”

For Stephen Dracup, Chief Operating Officer at technology organisation, Chess, consistently asking people how they are feeling, as well as using the resulting data wisely, is the key to spotting wellbeing issues quickly.

“We wrote an app internally, through which we asked people to complete a short survey every day on how they are feeling,” he explained. “Leaders get an automated message if people score below a certain level, so that if we see a pattern, we can do something about it. It’s about reacting quickly and giving people really good support.”

Dracup believes that technology is something that will only help enhance an organisation’s understanding of wellbeing amongst its employees. From helping with understanding people’s preferences as to where they work, to spotting fatigue before it happens, he explained that there’s a lot of data-driven information that can help inform strategy and planning.  

“There's so much data out there, if you choose to look at it, with indicators that tell you how something may be affecting people’s wellbeing,” he explained.

“As a senior leader, it’s about using this data at your disposal in a fair and sensible way. As technology develops, we’ll only get more of an understanding – for example, sentiment analysis tools. These can be used, not in a ‘big brother’ way, but to see who’s unhappy. There’s lots of things that will happen in the future that we’ll need to deal with, and it will mean us being a bit more thoughtful about how we can spot it, and how we can help.”

To enjoy this session in full, see the full recording here.

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