Keeping wellbeing in mind as the world of work continues to change

Keeping wellbeing in mind as the world of work continues to change

With the stress and uncertainty of the past two years, staff wellbeing has quite rightly pushed its way up the agenda. But now that remote or hybrid working is becoming the norm, how can we make sure we’re supporting our teams and keeping up morale?

Here a charity, a corporate foundation and a supplier share the innovative ways they’ve been looking after their staff.

Sometimes ‘making time’ for wellbeing can feel like another pressure – something you need to shoehorn into your day. One organisation has made a bold commitment to carving out and protecting time for wellbeing, as well as learning and development.

Peace Direct’s CEO Dylan Mathews says: “The pandemic has reminded people that working in our sector is tough. We’re mission driven organisations and most of us are personally and emotionally invested in what we do. That can make it hard to disconnect.

In response to the stress of Covid, we started ‘Wellbeing Fridays’. Staff have the afternoon off to decompress and practice self-care in whatever way they want – a walk, time with family or pursuing a hobby. This year, we went on to protect Friday mornings too, this time for learning and development.

It’s rare that learning and development is truly embedded in an organisation’s culture. It can end up being an afterthought. I wanted to change that. The only criteria for our protected learning and development time is that what you do is linked to Peace Direct’s mission. It could be going on a course, reading a Chimamanda Ngozi book or watching a documentary on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At Peace Direct on Fridays there are no meetings, calls or emails. Just learning, reflecting and wellbeing. One of the biggest concerns people had is that staff would feel pressure to do five days’ work in four. But this is not about compressing hours. We have reduced working hours to 90%, and emphasised to staff that learning and development is work, rather than a ‘nice to have’.

It’s not been easy to reduce our workload. But there’s no point in protecting time for learning and development and wellbeing if it forces people to do longer hours. We believe that this investment will improve output and outcomes for the organisation in the long run.”

Advice for organisations wanting to try something new:“Be brave and experiment. But also be brave enough to admit if these experiments aren’t successful. We tend to grow more from our failures than our successes anyway.”

Making sure colleagues feel looked after – and, importantly, appreciated – doesn’t have to involve grand gestures or big budgets. One foundation is not only rewarding staff for their dedication, but taking a strategic and well-planned approach to mental health and wellbeing.

Lloyds Bank Foundation’s head of human resources Gemma Goymer says: “Although we’d had a wellbeing policy in place for several years, the pandemic definitely ramped up the focus on staff wellbeing. During the lockdowns we offered a range of support and activities, from mental health seminars to relaxation sessions, fitness challenges to art therapy. We also offered extra leave for people with caring responsibilities.

At the end of 2021, we gave everyone a wellbeing voucher. Some people spent it on books, others booked a massage or yoga sessions. The voucher was recognition of how hard everyone has been working and the feedback has been really positive.

We were actually reviewing our wellbeing policy when the pandemic hit. We wanted to better target our approach, so we set up a wellbeing and mental health working group with individuals from across the organisation and added questions about wellbeing and mental health to our annual employee survey. We’re currently going through the results and putting together this year’s priorities. One of the main priorities will be addressing the stigma around mental health. Part of this included paying for staff to become mental health first aiders if they wished to. This way there are more people within the organisation that staff can speak to and there’s greater awareness and understanding of mental health.

We’re also offering our managers training around resilience, something that will help them respond to the challenges of hybrid working. This will tie in with the policies we have in place to make sure people working from home still take breaks and are not working longer hours.”

Advice for organisations wanting to try something new:“When you have limited budget, small things can make a big difference. Even protecting time over the lunch break is something most people value.

Wellbeing activities are really important. But we also need to make sure we’re championing mental health, and tackling the stigma around it, both inside and outside our organisations.”

A decent package of wellbeing benefits has an important part to play in being a ‘good workplace’. But, as this digital agency recognises, your workplace culture is just as important when it comes to staff health and wellbeing.

Platypus Digital’s managing director Matt Collins says: “There are two sides to workplace wellbeing. One is about the resources or ‘perks’ you offer.  The other relates to your organisational culture and includes things like how you speak to each other, how you give feedback, and the level of support you have from your manager. These aren’t always thought of as part of workplace wellbeing, but to me they’re most important.

When it comes to resources, we have a Slack based therapy service called Spill, which all staff can use. Like most of our wellbeing support, that’s been in place since before the pandemic.

To make sure we’re getting regular feedback from the team, we have a system called Officevibe. It sends fortnightly surveys asking people to score different aspects of work – like their relationship with their manager and job satisfaction. When we get a low score, we’ll ask people to explain more about the issue and look at what we can do to make a positive change.

We’ve recently become a B Corp. One of the reasons for doing so was to get external validation that we’re a good place to work.”

Advice for organisations wanting to try something new:“Address any fundamental issues first. If people’s workloads are too heavy, or they aren’t allowed to work flexibly, for example, then giving them access to free therapy could feel like a sticking plaster.

Find out what people want and what they value most – the answers are often surprising.”

As most organisations make a shift towards some kind of hybrid working, our approach to workplace wellbeing needs to adapt too. We’re all learning on the job, so let’s be bold, try things out and, most importantly, keep the conversation going.

Also, don’t forget to check out our guide: A wellbeing guide for comms professionals

Images Powered by Shutterstock