This National Work Life Week International rugby star turned leadership expert, Ollie Phillips offers advice to employers on how prioritising workforce wellbeing can future proof their business
Phillips is the founder of Optimist Performance, a company specialising in performance coaching, leadership and behavioural change. www.optimistperformance.com
This week presents an opportunity for both employers and employees to focus on well-being at work and work-life balance. Although it seems like common sense, it’s sadly not always common practice.
Over the last two years, as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic, companies have been learning the importance of their people. It’s an understanding of the significance of looking after company employees and managing them properly, as well as continuing to support them and their needs.
During National Work Life Week, employers are being encouraged to provide activities for staff and to highlight their flexible working policies and practices.
I believe that the key cornerstone should also be using the time to begin meaningful engagement with their workforce about what they need as we continue our way out of the Pandemic.
- Asking the right questions
The businesses recognising the need to make long-term changes to their ways of working, ensuring they don’t revert back to how they have always done things, are going to be the ones who see the benefits in the long run.
What do our employees want? What do they need? And how can we help them deliver and be the best version of themselves for us?
These are the questions that I think need answering in order to make people feel empowered and supported, to feel cared for.
Creating that sense of belonging and loyalty will stand companies in incredibly good stead.
Right now is when organisations need people to rally and be all hands on deck, and the reality is, off the back of Covid-19, lots of people are feeling tired and still feeling the weight of it all.
They’ve worked in silos for so long that it’s going to be the organisations that invest considerable time listening and understanding what their workforce wants and putting that into play which are going to thrive. They are the ones future-proofing their company.
- Embrace open and honest conversations with employees
Connecting with employees and having an open forum to discuss how best your people will work in a post-Pandemic world is vital, and will help companies create better working environments than they ever had before.
The most critical part of any relationship is, to be honest, and transparent about what works and I think if employers are willing to listen to what their staff needs in order to have the work-life balance they want, then it will help them deliver more and optimise performance.
It will create a more vibrant, engaged, and invested workforce, who’s gratitude will go sky high because their company leaders are affording them the life they want to lead.
It goes without saying that a happier workforce is a better workforce and if your employees’ work-life balance is better, then they most often feel a greater sense of fulfillment and contentment.
This is the value of adapting to a new normal rather than creating a totally rejuvenated model or going back to exactly the way things were within an organisation.
- Office v Home – put people at the heart of that decision
For me, as we move into this ‘new normal’, there is a careful balance to be struck between home working and office working.
There are organisations that aren’t willing to find that middle ground for their people.
For them, now we have some semblance of normality or at least consistency, it’s a case of ‘let’s get back to how we did it before’, and those are the ones that will struggle.
This wave of flexible working and concentrating on work-life balance is not relenting but there is merit in allowing people to have the autonomy to work where they want and live the life they want to live whilst also providing a structure and demonstrating the value of physically being in the workplace as well as creating a compelling, interactive environment where people still want to be and where they feel like they can do their best work when needed.
Pre-pandemic, I think a lot of people felt like they were just working on auto-pilot.
They were on that commuter train every day, and didn’t know why. However, now that there has been a change in how companies can run and how people can live on a daily basis, there is a sense that people are no longer motivated to just come into an office environment.
It has to be aligned with a purpose, have a sense of clarity, and foster a feeling from people that these organisations have a vested interest in their development and welfare because, to put it bluntly, life has been pretty tough for a lot of people since the beginning of 2020.
It’s important to continue spreading the message that “it’s okay not to be okay” and if employee well-being wasn’t high on a company’s agenda, you need to ask why?
But if the Pandemic has made employers realise that they really need to care for their people and take an interest in their lives and support them through whatever challenges they might be going through well that’s only a positive thing.