The importance of good employee wellbeing for businesses performance31 Jan, 20185 mins
The importance of wellbeing in the work place is a subject close to my heart. Having spent y...
The importance of wellbeing in the work place is a subject close to my heart. Having spent years in my early career chained to a desk, told I couldn’t have a chair for an hour in some sort of Wolf of Wall Street attempt to make me up my productivity, I evolved into being a huge advocate for balance, and wellbeing in the work place.
I spend more time with the lady sat at the desk next to me than I do my other half. Don’t get me wrong, Nicola is a legend of the recruitment world, but outside of the fun of working with amazing people the work place must be amazing in terms of its balance and environment.
I’ve spent the month since I put pen to paper on my last blog gathering opinion from my network on this one. I am delighted to share their thoughts with you. Below are the top 10 points raised in terms of what they believe companies can do to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees, and with it their retention and performance.
So, here goes:
Break down the barriers
Physical and mental wellbeing for me starts with the notion that it’s ok not to be ok. If you are physically unwell you don’t need more anxiety about trying to struggle into work, infecting the rest of your team and thankfully most people are accepting of the need to be off work.
Time should be afforded by organisations to embrace the fact that people can be having a mentally unwell day too. We all have external stress in our lives, relationship problems, bereavement, loved ones going through a terrible time, anxiety following trauma etc. It’s perfectly normal not to be ok. The best organisations provide their employees with a forum to talk about it or take a break from it and I really feel Sphere provide these support mechanisms. It’s a big contributor as to why in 5 years we’ve managed to have great retention and get to 60 heads…
Remove rotten eggs
Work life is challenging. I for one know what it is like to ride a rollercoaster - I think anyone in recruitment does. In the world of work, it is imperative to our mental health that we surround ourselves by positive influences and block out the Negative Normans / Nellies. I’ve always been a glass is half full kind of person and I always prefer to advise someone on what they should be doing, rather than focussing on what they shouldn’t.
I recently spoke to a business leader I really respect, and he said the most dangerous thing to the continued growth of his business was pockets of negativity. Negativity spreads like a disease. Take a biopsy of your organisation quickly and remove the bad cells before it consumes your culture.
Emphasis on time outs
I spoke to a contractor who said if perm employees go for a cigarette break it’s fine, he, as a contractor got pulled to one side for nipping out for a personal call… why?! Why is there a rule for those who choose to pollute their lungs with bad air, and another for someone who will undoubtedly be more productive for the afternoon having gone for ten minutes of fresh air?
No one at Sphere clocks in and out. We employ driven people who are trusted to do what makes them most productive.
Listen (and not just to the under performers)
The power of listening should never be underestimated. When people throw you a life line in saying they are not happy or feeling a bit ‘bleugh’ then take-action, offer an ear. 9 times out of 10 people don’t need ground breaking, revolutionary solutions, they’ll just benefit from a problem shared. What’s more, if you manage someone, mix it up. Take them out of their normal 121 routine, change the environment, grab a coffee, go for a wine. People express themselves differently in different environments.
Don’t under estimate the power of exercise
This is a big one for me. When I started in recruitment, if I was in at 1-minute past 8am I was late and had to buy the whole team breakfast. I wasn’t allowed to leave until 6.30pm and if you did you were seen to be slacking, despite being a top biller. Getting to a gym class was impossible and the reality was I was unproductive for the last hour of the day and became resentful. I felt unfit, unhealthy and with it unmotivated so I left.
Giving people the scope to exercise before, during and after work at a time that fits with gym classes was huge for a lot of people I spoke to. Better still, the businesses who laid on office Yoga classes, team run sessions, lunchtime Pilates etc. felt they had a great platform to not only aid their physical and mental wellbeing, but also their productivity.
I work until 9pm at least 1 night a week, I am always on my email at the weekend, I even made a contract placement from a holiday in the Lake District. Wellbeing at work relies on give and take.
It still baffles me when I hear that remote working even 1 day per week is not permitted by some of the clients I recruit for. I have some of my best and most productive days working from home. My boss allows me this flexibility and on the days that I work from my kitchen, I save 2 hours commuting and work for 3 hours plus longer. Now that’s excellent productivity.
Sphere are very flexible when it comes to parental responsibilities, which for the mums and dads amongst us is amazing. We know that if someone leaves at 4/5pm to collect a child, they are in at 8am (or earlier) and achieving the same or more in a shorter day. We employ accountable people, who when they know have less time, work smarter, quicker, harder. Yet I was amazed at how many businesses in today’s day and age do not allow this flexibility.
Be great communicators and consistent
Mental wellbeing is greatly aided by people feeling like they are engaged and “in the loop”. Good communication is imperative. Not just about the here and now but about the long-term plans too. Sphere’s 5-year strategy is available for every employee to see and knowing the long-term plan goes a long way in keeping people engaged and motivated.
I had a pint with an ex colleague of mine who said communication is important, but only if it is consistent. The same rules for everyone, the same level playing field of flexibility for all. Is your work environment the same as the hallowed turf of Old Trafford- slick, smooth, level and consistent (under Solskjaer at least)?
Give and receive feedback
Feedback is single handily one of the easiest and most powerful management tools around to utilise! Give your employees constructive feedback and they feel empowered to change things. Give them good feedback and their mental wellbeing is strong. Give them no feedback and they’re in the dark.
Likewise, it is important to receive feedback as an employer as it helps you to put what is most important to people at the forefront of your strategy. This takes several forms; a strategy day, a suggestions box, peer group meetings… at Sphere we do all of these and it provides a great forum for feedback.
Provide a sense of purpose
By giving employees a real sense of purpose employers can undoubtedly foster a sense of fulfilment, and with it good mental wellbeing. It’s too easy for people to conduct their working lives without purpose, feeling unmotivated and underappreciated. Many people choose to ignore this to a certain extent and think of the short-term gains, usually monetary. Short-term gains do not lead to a sustainable state of good mental wellbeing. Thus, giving people purpose can make the difference for employers between an employee doing an OK job or a brilliant one.
Stick to your word
This is an integrity thing. If you renege on something agreed, or are inconsistent in your approach, you undermine the good, and exacerbate the anxiety felt. Sticking to your word greatly strengthens your own positivity and feel good factor but also those of the recipient of your actions. This is why I am so hot on not over promising and underdelivering, (to candidates, clients, friends, loved ones) it makes you feel miserable!
Trying to please everyone is a hard thing to do, and sometimes even trying to do that is enough to make me feel down. I’ve really had to learn to say no over the years, and I’m pleased to say it’s had such a positive impact on my wellbeing. I recently read a book called “The life changing magic of not giving a f*ck” and it helped with this. There are plenty of books on mindfulness, wellbeing around, I’d love to hear of any recommendations - I’m ready to read my next one!
Businesses who promote wellbeing are great but business who, day in day out, actively make employee wellbeing a priority are the best. I never understand why I see businesses advertise “wellbeing weeks”, or months for that matter. Employee wellbeing for me is an all year-round focus. That said, if it’s going to take a week-long focus to start prompting long term emphasis, then crack on!