MEET THE SPEAKERS
Are you ready for a new era of workplace mental health and wellbeing?
The immediate threat of the pandemic may have eased, but the need to prioritise workplace mental health and wellbeing has never been more important. McKinsey reports that almost 50% of employees are burnt out and The World Economic Forum highlights that one in three employees are considering leaving their work because of their mental health,
Perhaps no surprise when you consider that in just two years, we’ve experienced a decade of change in the world of work.
Whilst this undoubtedly presents challenges, it also opens up opportunities for employers to scale up workplace mental health and wellbeing support, embed wellbeing as a strategic priority and set a new benchmark for best practice.
At the 5th annual MAD World Summit we’ll be helping employers to step up their cultures of care by showcasing what’s working now and what’s needed next to really Make A Difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing.
Wherever you are on your workplace wellbeing journey, join us on 11th October for a day packed with insight, inspiration, networking and practical takeaways including:
- Agenda-setting keynotes from business, thought and health leaders
- Cross-sector case studies and panel discussions
- Roundtables for real-time knowledge exchange and networking
- Interactive workshops to dive deeper into topics that matter
- 40 suppliers of work culture, mental health and wellbeing solutions under one roof
- New for 2022: The Make A Difference Awards @ MAD World
Key topics we’ll be addressing include:
- The mental health and wellbeing challenges employers need to be prepared for post-pandemic
- What works in wellbeing: beyond rhetoric to practical, evidence-based measurement
- How to keep mental health and wellbeing at the top of the Board’s agenda
- Scaling up with a joined-up approach to mental, physical, financial, social and environmental wellbeing
- Moving the dial when it comes to work related stress, depression and anxiety
- What toxic workplace cultures look like and how to tackle them
- Approaches to Inclusively supporting the wellbeing of neurodiverse colleagues
- The four-day week as the next frontier in workplace wellbeing
- Best practice approaches to creating psychological safety and safe spaces at work
- Equipping leaders and managers with the skills to support their own and colleagues’ wellbeing in the new world of work
- What next for the Chief Wellbeing Officer? Your career in workplace wellbeing
- Seamlessly integrating wellbeing with diversity and inclusion
- The power of community: making the most of peer-to-peer networks
- The benefits of taking wellbeing to the wider community
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Much has been debated about workplace peer support networks. Yet, the evidence is clear. If implemented and supported correctly, they have been proven to be extremely effective.
In this article, I outline the key concerns and how we can overcome them to realise peer supports’ full value in addressing the impact of mental ill health on us personally and on our businesses.
“Several challenges” to peer support networks (Wellcome Trust)
The role of peer supports – including mental health champions and first aiders – was growing in popularity as a workplace intervention even before the pandemic. But there is still much debate about its appropriateness. Research from the Wellcome Trust “raises several challenges to consider in (the) development and implementation of effective peer support interventions”.
Their report highlighted concerns around the “maintenance of healthy boundaries and the lack of training (and) supervision”. In particular, the report emphasised the need for training focused on “social and emotional skill-building” as well as “supervision from mental health professionals” to increase their effectiveness.
Peer supports need more support themselves (Ripple&Co)
Research conducted into peer support last year in 20 large UK-based organisations with networks ranging from 50-1000 individuals found that the role attracts a high percentage of people with personal experience of mental ill health (average 78%).
It’s not only a powerful motivator for undertaking this difficult role, it has also been shown to increase effectiveness. But it can lead to a ‘hero’ mentality and a vulnerability to the peer support’s own mental health as they may be tempted to overstep boundaries and take on an untrained counselling role.
This can even potentially lead to them being triggered themselves, as well as increasing the risk to the person being assisted.
Ripple&Co found that on average 33% of peer supports’ mental health had been negatively impacted by the role. In some companies this was as high as 54%. Being able to offload and being supervised by mental health professionals not only supports them but has been found to increase their effectiveness.
In an effort to reflect and emotionally detach after an interaction, many end up taking it home with them, as Ripple&Co found, with over half of peer supports debriefing to a family member (51%) and as high as 77% in some companies.
Most respondents (77%) said they would access further support if it were offered to them. For some respondents this was as high as 93%. And, perhaps most alarming, 89% of respondents said that time was a barrier to looking after their own wellbeing.
Maintaining confidentiality, gaining insight
In addition, the necessary veil of confidentiality to protect privacy can increase feelings of isolation. But confidentiality can still be maintained whilst also ‘logging’ a conversation which would ensure optimal employee care, the ability to collect high level, pseudonymised data offering valuable insight into the peer support’s activity and a company’s wellbeing. Furthermore, since a peer support is a representative of the business, this would be fundamental in defending or seeking to counter employee litigation.
Knowing the potential for workplace peer supports as a solution that is as ‘effective as professional interventions’, which scores better than clinical practice in areas related to the recovery process and offers greater levels of self‐efficacy, empowerment, and engagement we really ought not to throw the baby out with the bath water.
The value of workplace peer supports
Achieving value for money – peer supports on the front line
We are living through a time where growing numbers of people are experiencing poor mental health and we want more employees to come forward to speak about it. Since we spend a third of our adult lives at work, workplace peer supports are in a rare position to lower the emotional barrier for those who fear the consequences of disclosure or accessing support due to stigma or discrimination.
The peer support’s primary function to spot the early signs of poor mental health, to offer support and signpost to further help plays a critical role in accelerating self-referral to services to aid self-management and quicker recovery. This enables individuals and companies to realise the value of currently under-utilised EAP provision, estimated to be as low as 1.8%-6.9%. Their unique role to directly access and document high-level, pseudonymised data provides an unrivalled opportunity for business to act upon currently unknown insight.
The future of peer support networks
Surely now is the time to super-charge and super-support our invaluable peer supports to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our time.
About the author
With the Bank of England forecasting inflation could climb to about 13% later this year, and interest rates now at their highest level since December 2008, financial wellbeing is very much front of mind.
So, it’s good to see that multinational imaging and electronics company Ricoh UK has partnered with financial wellbeing and advice platform Wealth Wizards, to help its employees improve their current and future finances.
Getting to grips with current realities
MyEva, the financial wellbeing application from Wealth Wizards, initially takes Ricoh employees through an automated, easy to complete financial health check, asking non-intrusive questions that help to build an overview of their current financial wellbeing.
Once complete, employees are presented with a health check score and a personalised dashboard highlighting areas of strength, as well as opportunities for improvement. Employees are then directed to financial topics relevant to them, with bite-sized tasks to complete, helping them to get more from their finances, such as increasing savings, reducing debt and saving for retirement.
Planning for the future
A retirement lifestyle tool, based on the Pension and Lifetime Saving Association’s (PLSA) Retirement Living Standards, enables employees to explore the kind of lifestyle they’d like in retirement and suggests the monthly contributions required to meet their goals.
Employees can return to MyEva at any point to review and update their circumstances, which then automatically updates their financial wellbeing score. As well as automated financial guidance, MyEva offers FCA regulated financial advice on pension contributions and employees can adjust their workplace pension scheme contributions via the application.
A personal approach
There is also the option to speak to a human financial adviser for regulated financial advice, should employees require more help or support with their financial affairs.
Mark Kiddell, Chief Commercial Officer, Wealth Wizards said:
“We’re delighted to be working with Ricoh UK and helping its employees improve their financial wellbeing and retirement prospects. Having control over our finances and becoming more financially resilient is directly related to our mental and physical wellbeing. This is particularly true with the current economic turbulence and cost of living crisis, and we developed MyEva to enable employers to help as many people as possible manage their money more effectively for themselves and their families.”
Commenting on MyEva, Toni Smith, Rewards & Insights Manager at Ricoh UK said:
“MyEva helps our employees co-ordinate their spending and work out weekly or monthly budgets to help manage their bills. While saving during the current cost of living crisis can be challenging, several of our employees are actively seeking regulated advice on areas such as mortgages, savings, and pension contributions and consolidation. Employees can access MyEva 24/7 which provides them with a continuous, real-time overview of their current and future financial wellbeing, which in turn helps to improve their mental and physical wellbeing”.
You can find more information about WealthWizards and MyEva here.
Financial wellbeing is more important than ever, given the cost of living crisis facing many of us today.
While it’s not a legal requirement for employers to promote employee financial wellbeing, 49% of workers perceive that it should be on their radar, according to a YuLife/YouGov survey.
This perception is particularly true for younger generations. This means that in the fight for the top young talent, employers that do nurture financial wellbeing will gain competitive advantage.
There can be a kneejerk assumption that what employees want most is a pay rise. But, particularly in the current economic climate, there are many other ways that employers can help, that could actually make more of an impact and generate more goodwill.
We’ve summarised a few for inspiration here:
1. Make sure your employees know what’s already available
Research shows that engagement in financial products that employers offer is low and also that many employees feel their employers don’t explain what they are offering clearly. This, coupled with the fact that there’s still a stigma attached to talking about money, means that employees often don’t ask questions if they don’t understand.
Get over this by finding new ways to display and convey information about financial products like simple, summarising infographics, face to face workshops, FAQs sheets or even lighter hearted internal competitions to get the conversation going – pushing complex information out on the intranet or newsletter is not enough.
2. Shake the stigma
As we learnt in this webinar and article, there is still much stigma attached to talking about money and this is the biggest barrier to employees seeking help. Anything you can do to open up the conversation at work, such as getting people to talk about their money journey, or creating a network of Financial Wellbeing Allies or Ambassadors, will help break down these barriers.
3. Make use of EAPs
An EAP can be a valuable and, importantly, anonymous way employees can access financial resources. Again, communication is key here to ensure workers know that they can go to an EAP for this type of support.
4. Provide financial coaching so employees can make their money work harder
There are ways that employers can make this option available affordably, for example, via salary sacrifice, or can be scaled for as little as £14 per month per employee according to Octopus Money Coach.
5. Introduce a salary sacrifice scheme
These enable workers to buy goods or services via the company payroll to avoid paying as much tax. Pensions commonly work this way but they can also be applied to many other payments such as travel, gym passes and mobile phone bills.
6. Give employees access to a money management app
There are apps like Moneyhub which can help workers manage their finances. Feeling more in control of their money will enhance financial wellbeing and confidence.
7. Give your employees a one-off lump sum
Some companies are giving their employees a one-off payment of £1000 (beyond their annual salary reviews) to help them immediately with the rising cost of living, as a gesture of goodwill.
8. Help with their travel to work
In our webinar with the Money and Pensions Service, it was suggested that employers should think about whether they are costing their employees any money. For instance, now people are back in the office employees are also faced with increasing travel costs, both if they’re commuting by car or public transport. Employers can ensure they give employees the opportunity to work from home to save on travel, or create discount schemes including travel.
9. Let them shower without shame!
A suggestion which came out of one of our roundtables was to allow employees to shower at work, if possible, if they’re worried about their utilities bill. People can feel self-conscious about doing this at work, so it’s essential that you destigmatise it in your communications and encourage them to take advantage of this power-saving benefit.
10. Power them up at work
Similarly, take away any shame around employees using the workplace to charge up their phones or laptops by encouraging and normalising this behaviour in the workplace.
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Organisations are showing an increased focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) topics and there is a growing opportunity for HR functions to support their organisations in achieving their ESG goals.
Recognising that the benefits are wide-reaching and can help companies improve the wellbeing and growth of their people, attract and retain top talent and strengthen their performance, Aon has created a practical Navigating ESG eBook outlining:
- The positive impact ESG can have on your business
- The eight questions HR should consider to transform your ESG approach – including looking at whether your policies covering topics such as flexible working, mental health support, pay and continuous learning are consistent with and adequately integrate your ESG objectives
- How ESG can be embedded into your people strategy
- How to deliver a positive impact at both an individual and corporate level
- Aon’s recommended actions for improving your approach
You can find out more and download Aon’s Navigating ESG eBook here.
Aon believes it is also important to measure how your employees really feel about your ESG record and whether they believe your ESG strategy aligns with their personal attitudes, beliefs and principles.
Aon’s Reflection tool uses data capture technology and technical expertise to measure responses in the non-conscious brain, to understand real drivers so HR professionals can focus on what really motivates and matters to their people.
With burnout on the rise in the NHS and local government employees self-reporting higher levels of stress related absence, is it time for a new approach to employee wellbeing that focuses on fixing the workplace rather than the keyworker?
Positive Psychology coach and burnout prevention specialist, Sharon Aneja, explores three key strategies for public sector employers to create more compassionate and inclusive workplaces where their people can thrive.
From Hero to Zero
“When the pandemic started I left my children with my mum and I kept working in the hospital. Back then it felt like all the staff were in it together and that management cared about us”.
“After the lockdowns finished, we got back to ‘normal’ working and it felt like all our sacrifices were forgotten. We weren’t a team anymore”.
“Now I just feel really down and burned out. Lots of my colleagues have left because they are fed up. I love being a nurse. But it doesn’t really feel worth it anymore. They keep telling us to take breaks, be more resilient and talk about how we feel. But who’s really listening? And how can I talk to senior management when they are part of the problem?” (May, NHS Nurse)
This example is being played out across the public sector. According to Gartner’s Chief of Research, Chris Howard: “People are motivated when they feel valued. Frontline workers in particular voice a desire to feel respected.”
Burnout is caused by bad management
The pervading narrative is that to treat burnout we need to treat the individual and ask them to take responsibility for their work behaviours.
Professor Dame Clare Gerada gave evidence at the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s report into workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care. She said: “no amount of resilience training or physical PPE will protect you from a toxic environment”
The reality is that burnout is predominantly caused by an unhealthy workplace.
In her research on burnout in the workplace, Christina Maslach, creator of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, identified six common causes of work burnout:
- Little control or lack of autonomy
- Insufficient rewards
- Lack of community
- Unfair treatment
- Values mismatch
- Work overload
These all point to inadequate training for managers which results in an unhealthy workplace culture.
Burnout is multi-layered so there is a responsibility for the individual to be aware of their stress triggers and to work on their belief systems about work.
However we can’t keep treating burnout as solely the responsibility of the individual. As one leading wellbeing expert recently said: “there’s no point giving people a bullet proof vest if employers are going to keep firing bullets at them.”
Burnout is everyone’s problem
At a recent Benefex conference, leading psychologist Gethin Nadin said: “We currently have an employee wellbeing industry that is based on treating sickness, where we wait for a crisis to intervene.”
It’s time to go beyond the EAP system of care and treat the causes with a more pro-active and integrated solution that treats the causes AND symptoms. The Health and Safety Executive’s solutions for stress in the workplace paint a clear picture of where our time and effort needs to be employed.
As Adam Grant said: “burnout is everyone’s problem” which means that this can’t just be left at the feet of HR or wellbeing leads. To really tackle the issue we need to work with Organisational Design teams alongside HR and other senior leaders to create a culture where the workplace becomes a positive force in people’s lives.
Me, We, Us
Using a very simple model from Positive Organisational Psychology we can begin to treat the causes of burnout across the organisation.
Me – personalised approach to wellbeing
We – compassionate leaders
Us – my organisation cares for me
Me: One size fits nobody
How you talk to the bin men in the council about stress and anxiety is vastly different to how you speak to the care workers and office staff or nurses in the NHS.
Step one: examine the data behind the causes of workplace stress and mental ill health. Ideally we need a combination of employee surveys, focus groups with coffee and cake and HSE’s stress assessments. Set agreed measures upfront from the data and then co-create solutions with your keyworker community that will enable buy in and a clear understanding of where the help is actually needed.
Step two: creating bespoke solutions for each of the keyworker groups. Think carefully about tone of voice, who delivers the training and when you engage with them.
For example placing posters on stress awareness on the dashboards of the refuse trucks for the binmen is far more effective than a 1 hour workshop on resilience. As is having a 4am conversation about bottling up feelings over bacon butties and a cuppa that borders on pub talk.
The same goes for creating mini mindfulness audio clips for nurses and care workers to enable them to care for themselves and prevent empathy burnout, a key issue for this group.
Keep the content hyper targeted and relevant for your audience and continue to iterate with feedback.
We: Compassionate leaders
Enabling leaders to develop coaching skills of empathy, compassion, active listening, building psychological safety will alleviate the causes of unhappiness and burnout in the public sector.
According to Our Frontline who gave evidence at the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s report into workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care “the evidence points towards poor working cultures and organisational factors being the biggest drivers of poor mental health for those working on the frontline.”
One of the most effective and simplest ways for a leader to create a healthy team dynamic is to create a team charter where behaviours and expectations are clearly communicated.
Using the 6 causes of burnout, try using this table with your teams:
Us: My organisation cares for me
How can we re-design some of the physical spaces that we work in so that wellbeing is brought to staff rather than them having to go in search of it on apps or calling a phone line? There’s already a growing movement in hospitals to create a safe space in the staff breakout rooms with meditation cards, gratitude jars and sofas where people can sit together and share their lives.
In Ottawa, Canada, Harley Street Healthcare have gone even further by creating an integrated health and wellness centre for hospital keyworkers where staff can access diagnostic testing, access to leading consultants, wellbeing solutions such as a scream room in the forest and a VR powered relaxation room.
Their visionary founder Sanjeev Kumar believes “You will always be your best investment. Your wellbeing will determine your self worth and your net worth. Empathy and compassion are key to building workplace cultures where employees feel cared for. One of our biggest learnings has been to give keyworkers somewhere private to express their stress and process their emotions.”
The pandemic has given us an opportunity to re-design the employee experience for keyworkers and shift our focus to attacking the causes of stress and mental ill health rather than just the symptoms.
As Desmond Tutu famously said:
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
The question is, how ready is your organisation to embrace the cultural changes needed to create healthier and happier workplaces for our keyworkers?
Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care, House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee
Burnout taking its toll on NHS
HSE solutions to tackle stress, primary, secondary and tertiary
Adam Grant, Burnout is everyone’s problem
6 causes of burnout
Me, We, Us
Gartner: Employee retention
Gethin Nadin talk on measurable employee wellbeing
Harley Street Healthcare Group
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One of the biggest blockers to financial wellbeing is the fact that talking about money, particularly at work, particularly in the UK, is still considered a massive taboo.
At Make a Difference Media we are committed to breaking taboos and stigmas in service of better wellbeing a work, which is why we recently hosted a webinar about financial wellbeing entitled: “How can employers accelerate their financial wellbeing initiatives?”, sponsored by Octopus Money Coach.
Our esteemed panellists – Sarah Malone, Head of Performance, Reward and Insight at Brewin Dolphin, Adam Price, CEO, Octopus MoneyCoach and Maria James, Wellbeing & Engagement Specialist – came to the main conclusion that the best way to accelerate financial wellbeing initiatives is to get your employees talking about money openly.
But how do you break the taboo?
However, this is easier said than done, as the many comments in the webinar chat showed, with several members of the audience asking how to break the taboo and get the conversation going.
First of all it’s important to understand why there’s a taboo in the first place. Price believes that the main reason is that there’s this “societal belief” that “your self-worth is defined by how much money you make; so the more money I have, the ‘better’ I am as an individual, which is just not true. But the problem is that, by not talking about how much money we make, we connect the two and make that leap.”
He’s convinced that there’s a correlation between the generally low engagement in financial products that employers offer and the lack of conversation around money at work. He quotes research that shows that 91% of companies say they see ‘average to low engagement’ in their financial product programmes, with just over half of employers seeing this provision of financial benefits as their entire financial wellbeing strategy.
An organisation-wide conversation about money is necessary
This low uptake of product, he believes, is because setting up a pension, savings account or investing money all require revealing how much money we have, which for many employees is “off limits” still.
“To break taboos we have to start an organisation-wide conversation about money. If we start talking more about how we feel about money and what we’re doing with our money, that’s going to accelerate the learning and alleviate the stress we feel,” says Price. “If you find innovative ways to get everyone talking about money what you quickly find is, actually, it’s a subject everyone wants to talk about, they just needed that catalyst to get it out in the open.”
Often information about financial initiatives is pushed out on the usual internal communication channels, like the intranet or a newsletter. But these are often not powerful enough “catalysts” to grab employee attention. So what is?
Storytelling is powerful
The panel agrees that one of the most powerful actions that a company can take to break down these barriers around money is find people within the organisation who are happy to stand up and tell their money story. “That could be leadership, it could be a team of advocates or champions across the company. The more stories and examples that can be shared, the better,” says Price.
But, as one audience member commented when he said this, telling stories could potentially be like “opening a can of worms” when it comes to money because they are not always relatable if, say, a senior leaders is talking.
At the same time, it’s important that senior leadership is involved in starting any conversation so it signals the importance of the topic to the workforce. That’s why, the panel agree, that stories have to be carefully told if they’re coming from the top or they might create unhelpful backlash.
Tread carefully telling leaders’ money stories
“Leaders haven’t always been at that high point,” says James. “They’ve gone through a transition, and I’ve seen leaders in the past actually using their family and family stories to help the message resonate with everyday life, which is really powerful. Having leaders show their vulnerability and their true selves breaks down barriers and means employees buy-in because they think ‘they’re just like me, they’re no different’.”
In James’s experience, it’s important that the right stories are chosen to tell and that the ‘storytellers’ are vetted beforehand to check they are appropriate and “their narrative aligns with your company narrative and values”:
“What we’ve done in the past is go out like roving journalists, interviewing people, checking their social channels, slack and teams channels, to identify people that we think would be good role models. Stories are important but they do need to be assessed to check they are fit for purpose.”
James approaches these champions – who are often popular in the business, social, passionate and have lived experience – as if they were the company’s “social media influencers like on Instagram”, encouraging them to share their stories on the different company channels.
Growth of financial education
She suggests that peppering leadership stories along with other employee stories in, for example, a podcast series can be very effective. With this kind of media channel you can make sure that you are covering all the different segments of employees and the employee journey, from new joiner to those nearing retirement. “Sharing stories which resonate can help people start their own journey. It’s all about conversation, just like mental health, and removing the stigma,” says James.
Once the conversation has been started then, she says, focusing on financial education and literacy is “key because then you can use that to empower people and help them to take control, removing the fear”.
Traditionally, in the past, financial wellbeing strategies have been synonymous solely with the provision of financial product but, over the last few years, employers have increasingly started to add education into the mix.
Bring people together in person to talk money matters
Malone is a big fan of financial education in the form of bringing people together for sessions where she gets people thinking about the tools on offer and “can have a play about” with them.
She faces a particular stigma challenge working for a finance company where there can be an expectation that everyone is highly financially literate and has high levels of financial wellbeing. As she explains, this just isn’t the case because many of the firm’s staff aren’t financial advisors and don’t have the same levels of financial literacy.
Human contact has been really important in overcoming these challenges and getting the conversation going: “There are some great tools, technology and apps out there, but that’s not the answer. I think you’ve got to start with human contact and remember there is no ‘one size fits all’.”
Personalise your approach
What she’s done to break down barriers more and introduce a bit of levity is set up ‘games’ internally. For instance, in one game she asked employees of her department to recommend their top 5 financial wellbeing tips. “The prize was a bag of sweets but it was amazing how it really piqued the dialogue and we were all sharing our favourite apps and tricks and tips.”
Ultimately, however Malone sees one-to-one coaching as the ideal solution to boost financial wellbeing because it’s completely personalised and “people want to talk one-to-one because there is a stigma still”.
Of course, running a financial coaching company, Price agrees saying the impact on a one-to-one basis is “huge”, adding that typically working with an individual a coach will facilitate them to being nearly £10,000 better off in just 12 months. He backs up his argument with statistics about how many companies are now taking this option, too: his research shows that 45% of companies are planning to introduce financial coaching and Octopus Money Coach as a firm is booked out until November.
“Employers are seeing that one-to-one support is that missing link in financial wellbeing,” he says. “Employees really need that ability to talk to a coach at a personal level about their hopes, fears, worries, dreams and give them that roadmap that they need for their life to get to that point where their money is working as hard as it can for them and achieving what they need to bring them that happiness.”
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The way employees relate to their managers is crucial to how they feel about work. An average full-time job takes around 2000 hours per year. What these hours are filled with – conflicts, doubts, anxiety, joy – deeply impacts anyone’s wellbeing.
In essence, a healthy company culture cannot be built or maintained without good leadership.
On a systemic level, the way managers communicate with employees (and each other) is a decisive factor in creating a psychologically safe working environment. An environment where teams and individuals can thrive. Project Aristotle, a study by Google, found that psychological safety was one of five key components found in high-performing teams, along with dependability and clarity.
Admittedly, companies that manage by intimidation and pressure often achieve spectacular results. They factor in the costs of rotation and declining motivation. While I hope that we see less and less of these unhealthy practices in the future, I am not delusional to wish for them to vanish completely.
The job market is rapidly evolving and the younger generations are speaking up, aware of their own needs and priorities. Their collective attitude is creating a ripple effect. Many industries known for unhealthy culture are now struggling to find workers – and to keep them engaged.
So how to engage people in a healthy way?
5 factors improving employee engagement:
Managers who are mindful of their own conditioning and limits are usually able to better control their behaviour. They can stop and rethink their actions before getting back to the subject. And as they don’t abuse their position, the authority they project comes across as authentic. They can achieve this through self-awareness and healthy self-esteem. Meanwhile, the leaders who dissociate from their own problems tend to cover their own doubts with a brash attitude. Their employees are often quick to see through this mask.
2. Believing in the meaningfulness of work
If you and your team genuinely believe that what you do matters, this belief can translate into enthusiastic, inspired work.
Some managers don’t take the time to analyse their own attitude to the projects they lead. It often turns out, for example, that certain tasks or projects are inconsistent with their value system. If this is the case, they should seriously consider changing their job. Otherwise, they may inflict damage on themselves and the rest of the team. A manager’s frustration trickles down on those around them. Employees can sense cynicism and hypocrisy; it affects their engagement.
3. Active listening
Management styles based on collaboration and support cannot exist without active listening. There is more to managing a team than simply assigning and delegating tasks. A good leader has the ability to listen to the needs, problems, and wishes of their team. When we regularly check on our colleagues and make them feel heard, they become less frustrated and less prone to burnout. Active listening is key to building authentic engagement. It also allows the manager to better understand their people and to strengthen relationships at work.
4. Healthy feedback culture
Your assertiveness as a leader is a crucial element of effective feedback. Try to communicate clearly what you need and expect while leaving enough space for your team members’ feelings.
It‘s important that your colleagues never have to guess how to meet your expectations. Establishing clear rules will make it easier for them, and will keep them engaged. What demotivates people is toxic behaviour: manipulation, unclear messages, judgmental remarks, and aggression.
Healthy communication is transparent. It’s oriented on finding solutions rather than blaming or punishing.
5. Ability to cope with difficult situations
It is important to accept that difficult, unexpected situations are a part of work. They can put a strain on the trust and understanding you’ve worked hard to build between you and your team. Or, conversely, they can make your team stronger. A good leader can effectively process their own feelings (as well as those of their coworkers) and de-escalate tension. They don’t avoid “difficult conversations” but rather stay open and transparent, so that their team can go through the hard times together, in a conscious way.
People who receive adequate wages for their work need more than a raise or a bonus to stay motivated – or to stay, at all. The 5 factors listed above do not cover all the areas of leadership. However, in my experience, they are fundamental to increasing employee engagement and reducing turnover. They are the building blocks of a psychologically safe workplace – the only type of workplace that meets the needs of most employees.
About the author
Ola Piotrowicz-Przyluska is a Coach, Tutor, Business Mentor and Trainer at Emplomind. She supports her clients in building assertive attitudes while communicating boundaries and needs in the spirit of nonviolent communication, drawing on her experience of working with people who experienced discrimination, mobbing or dismissal. Her work helps people develop an individual career path, including a leadership path, with less stress, while maintaining work-life balance. Ola is also a Crisis Intervention Specialist certified in Psychological First Aid (PFA). She is currently a part of Emplomind’s team of counsellors & coaches providing safe and anonymous mental health support to employees.
Radical change in working practices and employee values in recent years has seen attitudes towards staff wellbeing also turn on their head.
A consumer survey commissioned by Vitality, in partnership with Censuswide, for a new report, out this month, has revealed that 82% of UK office workers believe companies have a greater responsibility to support the physical and mental health, and wellbeing, of their people since the pandemic.
Research shows that 77% of UK office workers say that having an employer that cares about their physical and mental health and wellbeing has become more important since the pandemic.
With UK unemployment at a 48-year low, and with employees having had ample opportunity to reappraise their goals, values and aspirations during lockdown, employers are facing the stark reality that staff are increasingly willing to vote with their feet if they don’t like what they see.
Indeed, the latest research finds that 45% of UK office workers would be more likely to consider leaving to join another company which is putting employee health and wellbeing first as part of a hybrid-working approach.
Fuelling this ‘Great Resignation’ is a shift in employee attitude that has seen expectations change around work-life balance, together with employee benefits packages that provide a range of useful wellness tools.
Staff members – and businesses too – are seeing the advantages of cutting out the commute for at least part of their working week. They have also become used to being able to access virtual GPs or online mental health support services simply via the click of a mouse.
Putting employee wellbeing first
The Vitality survey of 2,005 UK office workers also finds flexible working (66%) is the most appealing health and wellbeing benefit an employer could offer their employees post pandemic, followed by the ability to work anywhere (50%).
The next most attractive is the provision of more than the statutory holiday allowance (40%), vouchers or cash to spend on health and wellness (39%), and access to private healthcare (37%).
When we asked C-Suite executives for their views as part of a survey conducted by CBI Economics for the new report, three quarters of firms agree their company has prioritised health and wellbeing since the pandemic.
Additionally, the research finds that 57% of businesses report that access to mental health resources, like counselling or apps, remain the most-commonly introduced or evolved support for employee health in hybrid and office environments.
Perhaps just as importantly, this new CBI Economics research demonstrates that companies introducing these measures are perceiving a tangible return on investment.
Almost seven in 10 businesses see increased productivity as a main benefit of introducing or evolving their health and wellbeing policies.
Furthermore, previous CBI research has found that businesses that invest in mental health have employees that are up to 12% more productive.
All this begs the question: can organisations really afford to ignore such potentially significant benefits to their bottom line?
Stepping up to the challenge
Providing the right benefits and tailoring packages to staff in the current environment is certainly challenging.
As we heard from Dame Carol Black in a recent interview ahead of Britain’s Healthiest workplace, it’s crucial that employers “know their data and how to measure it” is one step towards solving the problem.
However, as the new CBI Economics research shows, 59% of businesses are finding it difficult to tailor benefits and policies to ensure they meet the health and wellbeing needs of different people.
It also sheds a little light on why this is the case, with 36% of businesses saying they don’t have enough time or resources to dedicate to supporting health and wellbeing, and 32% saying that introducing new policies for a hybrid workforce is complicated.
This is where an evidence-based health promotion programme, which incentivises and rewards better lifestyle choices can really make a difference. Especially if it means employees can cut costs on things they’d rather not give up – such as gym memberships, new running shoes and other discounted services – at a time when finances are likely to be tight.
Helping staff to live healthier and more productive lives and feel like they are getting something back from employers is needed now more than ever.
Call to action
Especially as companies are going to struggle to grant pay rises that keep pace with the soaring Consumer Prices Index. Being creative about the employee benefits they offer will be key to counteracting disappointment due to potential shortfalls elsewhere.
Even employers who are already doing their bit to support employee wellbeing will still need to continue to adapt and tailor their wellbeing programme in this new environment, as the needs of employees continue to evolve. With this comes the need to take action.
Alarmingly, more than two fifths (42%) surveyed in the CBI Economics report research either do not include employee health and wellbeing on their company risk register or do not have a risk register in place. Over a quarter don’t currently actually measure employee health and wellbeing at all.
We, at Vitality, believe that both steps are absolutely essential in this new era, as responsibility for staff wellbeing increasingly shifts onto the employer. After all, without quantifying the size of the problem, how can organisations even begin to solve it?
To get deeper insight into the employee health and wellbeing of your organisation, why not take part in Britain’s Healthiest Workplace? Find out more.
Find out more about how Vitality can support the health and wellbeing of your business here.
With 15 years of experience of creating optimal wellbeing workplaces, Simone Fenton-Jarvis is the first known ‘chief workplace officer’ in the UK and one of the youngest practitioners to be awarded ‘fellowship’ status from the Institute of Workplace Facilities Management. So, who better to ask for practical tips around creating a workplace that works for wellbeing in a hybrid world?
Here are her top tips to remember when planning your post-pandemic workplace:
1. Don’t dive into the pretty fixtures and fittings before you’ve done the hard work around culture.
We know it’s exciting to design a new office and many companies are currently doing this, but Simone Fenton-Jarvis’s key message is crystal clear:
“Remember it’s not about the physical space per se: a lot of good workplace design for wellbeing is about the culture. The culture of the organisation has to be right at the core before we start focusing on the nice physical fixtures at the top of the workplace design iceberg.”
2. Don’t make assumptions about the culture based on your personal perception of it – ask your employees; do your research thoroughly around how the workspace is currently actually being used and why.
“Look at why people go to your workplace and then look at how they behave and what tasks they’re doing day to day. What are the neurodivergent employees saying? What are the introverts experiencing and saying, compared to the extroverts?”
As well as observation and surveys, this should ideally involve speaking to employees on a one-to-one basis too, and potentially team workshops, about their desires and intentions. “Dig deep and find out why they want to work like that,” she says. “When we understand their reasons, that’s when we can start creating a workplace that works for the majority, not the minority.”
3. Use the handy ‘6Cs formula’.
Fenton-Jarvis has created this formula to help employers identify the different types of spaces they have, and where there might be gaps in the new hybrid workplace. These are: collaboration, contemplation, concentration, creativity, curiosity, and communication.
“If you use the 6Cs, for example, you’ll realise that a purely open plan office isn’t for concentrating, it’s for collaboration; alternative spaces need to be provided like phone booths, meeting rooms, collaboration booths, outdoor seating.”
One of the biggest assumptions that Fenton-Jarvis sees in her consultancy work is assuming that workers that come into the office are coming to collaborate. On the back of this assumption, she’s witnessed many companies removing all the desks and replacing them with Zoom rooms and collaboration spaces.
“That’s not going to work for everybody,” she says. “Some people don’t have spaces where they can concentrate at home, for many reasons, so they might want to go to the office to concentrate, so you have to accommodate that too.”
4. Don’t pigeonhole employees together.
Another mistake that Fenton-Jarvis commonly sees is employers pigeon-holing employees by generation. She urges: “Don’t go down the stereotypical thinking route of ‘this is what Gen Z wants to do’ or ‘this is what Millennials want compared to Baby-boomers’. Take an individual point of view.”
5. Consider writing a workplace etiquette guide.
“There is definitely a new workplace etiquette in this new world of hybrid working,” she says. “It’s as if we’ve forgotten how to work with other people and be with other people. And that’s not just in the workplace, it’s across society too.”
One of the bugbears she keeps hearing from employees now returning to the office is how loud the open plan office is with multiple video meetings going on simultaneously.
She reports from her one to ones with employees that some are “going insane” at their colleagues conducting loud, large video calls in the open plan office “as if they’re kicking back in Costa”.
“Pre-Covid there were always people in the office that were speaking loudly, but now it’s like everyone’s doing it,” she says.
As well as creating a workplace etiquette guide, Fenton-Jarvis also suggests creating a etiquette guide for meetings specifically, too, which you can access on her website here.
6. Don’t just copy the competition when it comes to deciding how/when your workspace will be used.
Fenton-Jarvis has seen this numerous times where a company will say ‘Oh, we’re going to go down the route of 2 days in the office because that’s what everybody else is doing’.
“You’ve got to think about what works don’t just copy the competition because you read about it on LinkedIn. Do this by looking at what your people are doing, the tasks and who they’re doing them with, then decide on where they should do these.”
7. Don’t implement change TO people, it’s got to be done WITH people.
She stresses that employees will buy-in to the new set-up much more if they’ve been involved in its evolution.
“People have to have a say in what’s happening next. Otherwise they will just rebel. That’s human nature.”
8. Don’t fall into the trap of having senior leaders predominantly work at home and junior managers in the office.
This is another common scenario that she’s seen and cautions against. One of the biggest dangers here is that leaders get a skewed view of the new workplace (tending to think most people are at home like them).
“Senior executives often tell me they want to reduce the workspace area because so many employees are now working from home. I challenge: is that a data driven decision? Or is that because the senior management are sat at home thinking nobody’s in the office?”
Another danger of this scenario is that younger workers don’t get that vital contact with senior leadership for their development.
“I don’t mean that they don’t get to showcase their work in front of leaders. I mean they don’t get those opportunities to pass them in the corridor and just say hello and have that connection. There’s a lot to be said for seeing people in the flesh and making eye contact.”
9. Don’t just tick boxes, be genuine in your desire to create a workplace that really works.
As an example of ‘tick boxing’, she gives the number of employers creating ‘prayer rooms’ in the office in a bid to do the ‘right’ thing in supporting religious colleagues.
However, many of these have been created without fitting the right facilities nearby for people to wash before they pray, which is an essential part of the ritual for many.
Another example she’s seen is creating a mother and baby room for breast feeding but failing to put a fridge in it.
“Things like this are coming up in my conversations all the time where employers have ticked a box, because they’ve created a room, but the employees are saying ‘but they didn’t ask us, they didn’t ask what we actually needed in that space’.”
Fenton-Jarvis doesn’t want to put employers off from considering potentially valuable spaces like gender neutral bathrooms, prayer rooms and mother & baby rooms, which are all topical right now, but she urges: “If there’s a genuine need, do it! But make sure you ask your people. So much of this comes down to assumptions.”
10. Consider implementing technology which allows employees to see when other colleagues are intending to be in the office.
“I also hear from employees a lot that they’ve made the effort to get into the office and just commuted for over an hour, but there’s nobody in.”
She recommends people coordination tools like Kadence where employees can who is intending to work in the office and they can set up alerts to notify them if particular colleagues are in. As Fenton-Jarvis says those casual watercooler conversations employees have at work often can give us a wellbeing boost too.
11. Ensure you are involving HR, facilities management and IT at the centre of your workplace design.
Fenton-Jarvis calls this the “Golden Triangle” because it ensures that the space, people and technology are all covered. “If one of these disciplines is missing, there’s going to be a problem”.
Simone Fenton-Jarvis is author of The Human-Centric Workplace – Resources including the workplace etiquette can be accessed via www.thehuman-centricworkplace.com