The last 18 months have completely flipped everything we knew about the future of work on its head. Entire businesses moved to remote work, some were forced to close for prolonged periods of time and others were totally devastated.
As the nation tentatively nears the return of some semblance of normality and business look to steady the ship; many have improved or entirely redeveloped their wellbeing strategies to accommodate changing employee needs.
The future of work looks increasingly more hybridised, and employers are having to adjust entire strategies to account for this.
In this article, you’ll find insights from 8 business leaders and HR experts that have adapted their wellbeing strategies in light of this ever-changing world of work.
If the last year has taught your employees anything, it is how crucial taking time for ourselves is. The flexibility to take kids to school, go for a walk or head to the gym at lunchtime, spend time with loved ones and avoid the stress of the morning commute is now far more valued than ever before. Our own research found that employees have valued ‘more flexibility’, ‘no commute’ and ‘more time with family’ the most when working from home.
But ensuring happy employees are not just a moral obligation, but can deliver significant business results too: a research project undertaken by economists at the University of Warwick found that happy employees are on average 12% more productive.
Leigh Howes is a Leadership Coach, helping CEOs grow and scale their businesses. In developing wellbeing strategies for this new world of work, she stresses just how crucial it is for employees to take time to prioritise personal time – regardless of where they will be working: “Schedule and prioritise your personal medicine (what I refer to as my plug recharging, my glass filling back up again, the closing of the computer tabs). A walk at lunchtime, after work. A trip to the gym. A run. What is it that helps you decompress from work into personal? This is critical when we work from home else, we can always be ‘on duty’ and over time this becomes almost addictive and not serving you.”
Similarly, staff at responsible, slow fashion start-up, Onesta, are encouraged to take personal time and maintain a health work/life balance. Their Founder, Gabriella Diana shares more: “We feel it is important to ensure they are equipped to do their jobs with as much backup support as is necessary and that their workload is manageable. Our operations director has a Master’s degree in Wellbeing and is available for staff to speak to confidentially about any issues, personal or professional.”
Interestingly, Onesta also include mental health training as part of their induction for every employee to ensure that mental health and wellbeing is always high on their agenda: “Our induction process includes a mental health induction with the goal of promoting open dialogue helping to normalise conversations about mental health.”
Throughout the pandemic, the team at MMP Tax have developed a full suite of innovative initiatives to keep employees engaged while supporting their health and wellbeing. Director, Alexis Marz shared just some of these with us:
– PT sessions: getting everyone active during lockdown!
– Monthly wellbeing breakfast: an opportunity to change daily routine, have a meal together and share and discuss wellbeing topics.
– Monthly socials: Jackbox game, Quiplash, chocolate tasting, beer tasting, company picnic, virtual secret Santa, Christmas virtual event, pizza making, Spyfall, cocktail making, murder mystery evening.
– Charity fundraisers: one each quarter including a virtual pub quiz, fitness challenges, etc. We raised over £2,000 as a team!
While some organisations have returned to the office, others are considering a hybrid or full remote workplace. Full-service digital marketing agency, Absolute Digital Media have gone down the latter route, becoming a fully remote agency. Their CEO and Co-Founder shares more: “As a fully remote agency it is incredibly important as a business owner to ensure my staff’s wellbeing and mental health is a big priority. These initiatives we have introduced have caused a huge improvement and we have had fantastic feedback from the team.’’
The initiatives they have introduced include:
– Weekly Workout Session: Once a week they hire a fitness instructor over Zoom to teach a 30-minute session for their staff to take part in a morning workout. This allows staff to get their bodies moving away from their desks, allowing them to feel motivated and raring to go for the day!
– Walk and Talk Meetings: They encourage staff to step outside and go for a walk whilst on internal meetings, if the weather is nice we also encourage staff to work outside and enjoy the sunshine and fresh air!
– Three Extra Wellness Days Off: As part of our ongoing efforts to look out for our staff, we have introduced three mental health days per year in addition to each employee’s contracted annual leave. If a member of staff is feeling demotivated or needs some extra time to recharge, they can take the day as a wellness day to prioritise mental health.
– Flexible Working Hours: We have also given our staff the option to choose their own working hours, this allows each team member to cater their working hours around other responsibilities such as working out, dropping kids to school or walking our much-loved pets. Since making this slight change, we have noticed the staff have improved their overall time management and enjoying the new working hours.
Some companies have put formal health and wellbeing programmes in place that help employees and improve the overall health of the workplace. Hudson Outsourcing have introduced a programme designed to support employees with confidential chats to support employee mental health and wellbeing. Group CEO, John Hudson explains: “Our staff are offered one-to-one wellbeing chats with our Executive Assistant, Wendy who is currently taking courses in Awareness of Mental Health Problems and Understanding Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health Advocacy in the Workplace. These chats are confidential and offer employees an opportunity to chat about any issues bothering them. This may include problems with health, relationships, work, finances and so on. These chats are designed to alleviate any pressures staff may have and create a safe space for them to talk. We feel more workplaces should be doing this as it’s beneficial for staff to air any problems in confidence. It also gives the Company a better understanding of how we can support our people.”
As where and how we work continues to change, so too do employee needs in terms of benefits, perks and rewards. The Head of People of Evolved Search, a SEO and Content Marketing agency in Newcastle upon Tyne, is developing a new, flexible strategy that moulds to each stage of the natural employee lifecycle. “We’re taking a pragmatic approach to what people need at different stages in life in order to support us to deliver when the team need us most.” The team is also planning to completely overhaul their benefits packaged to “match whatever stage our people are in life or in their career (e.g. benefits relating to holiday allowance, pension, maternity/paternity packages, etc.)”
And yet, we mustn’t discount the importance of initiatives as simple as being compassionate and flexible to employees. Rene Murata, CEO of safety management consultancy, RISK, Inc. shares the simple initiatives that help her team: “Working from home may be new for many and setting up a new routine can seem daunting. Encourage employees to continue to “dress for work” (albeit more casual) as this helps tell the brain that “I’m on the clock”. When working from home, it is easy to do the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. And be flexible – many people have other family at home (i.e. kids) that pull on the attention of your employee – For example, I request that my employees check email 2x/day and respond within 24 business hours. Otherwise, if they are not facilitating a team, I don’t care if they work at 2am.
What is key, however is that prioritising health and wellbeing shouldn’t just be a company change, but a societal one. Flexible working should no longer be perceived as ‘not putting in the hours’, taking a wellbeing day shouldn’t be perceived as a ‘free day off’; but the wider population must recognise that these initiatives are the cornerstone of the future of work. The working world has changed. It is no longer the same as it was 10 or even 5 years ago. While the advent of technology has played a significant part in our ability to work anywhere, at any time; the pandemic has firmly cemented the need for robust health and wellbeing initiatives that your employees will benefit from – and actually use!
Find Your Flex champion flexible working and provide a platform for employers and candidates to find their ideal flexible working opportunity. Their CEO, Cheney Hamilton, is a thought leader around flexible working and has recently launched the Societal Change Maker Accreditation “to help businesses improve their culture and future of work as we know this will create better policies and a greater ethos for all.”