The pandemic has increased the focus on employee wellbeing, and the nebulous concept of “wellness” as a whole.
There has been an increasing acknowledgement within businesses that their employees are also people – and, in fact, the pandemic has forced this recognition, with managers no longer able to avoid it in a time of such widespread crisis.
Our last webinar event was devoted to this topic, bringing together leaders from a range of fintech and financial services-related businesses to discuss the importance of building in wellness at work for both ethical and commercial reasons.
The panel included:
- Helen Disney, Director, The Realization Group
- Alicia Ariffin, Head of People and Culture, SteelEye
- Gemma Young, Head of Marketing, DASL
- Anna Zanghi, CEO & Co-Founder, Futur-o
- Dan Levy, VP Commercial and Communications, Smarkets
- Chloe Barrett, Health and Wellbeing Mentor, CLW
- It was chaired by Toby Babb of Harrington Starr.
Does wellbeing start from the top?
According to Anna, leaders need to co-create policies on things like flexible working alongside employees, treating them as “key stakeholders” as they would their clients or customers. She also suggested that leaders have a responsibility to look after themselves to ensure they can look after others, much like the imperative to put your oxygen mask on first on the plane before helping the person next to you.
Gemma pointed out the necessity for many, including mothers, to behave as if their ‘personal’ life doesn’t exist. Tony agreed, pointing to the beloved clip of a BBC interviewee’s child appearing on camera as a potential turning point in this area.
Is ‘hybrid work’ here to stay?
Toby asked the group how they were managing the changes associated with hybrid or remote working.
Anna stressed the importance of understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’ policy, and that some people prefer to have some face-to-face contact.
Helen recounted her experiences of self-employment and working alone, and pointed out that remote working is more challenging in current times because the promises of solitude and a space to concentrate are no longer there. She also pointed out the “commercial imperative” to hold onto staff, and that this necessitates a more human approach amongst business.
Chloe explained the necessity for managers to practice basic human empathy, suggesting that employers should develop their skills in this area if they are not well-equipped.
Dan spoke some more about the potential importance of the BBC clip, pointing out that one of the factors that made it go viral was the interviewee’s unnatural behaviour. It was strange and uncomfortable to watch a father behave towards his child in that way, and perhaps this helped people understand the different personas they adopt in working and ‘personal’ life.
Anna spoke about “bringing your whole self to work”. She also spoke of the importance of IQ and EQ, alongside the DQ or ‘decency quotient’ – a metric that she said “was really what I was missing”.
Alicia stressed that workplace culture is a responsibility that goes beyond HR or the people team, and that employees struggling with things like mental illness should be able to speak to anyone within the organisation, from the CEO down. As she says, “we’re all just human beings.”
Any last advice?
Toby asked if the panel had any pieces of wisdom to extend to teams navigating this new world of work.
Helen stressed the importance of not “waiting for the battery to get to zero” before taking a break or seeking support.
Chloe pointed out the vital importance of basic physical care, including taking breaks from computer screens, taking regular short exercise, and resting your eyes.
Alicia said “putting your employees at the heart of your business is very, very key,” along with learning to spot the signs of burnout.
Dan said it’s important to “instil a culture where people can be themselves”, and that this involves “being clear and authentic about who you are.”
Anna rounded off the event with a summation of her advice: “Invest in employee experience in the same way you invest in your customer experience, and you will succeed in both.”