The Wellbeing Matrix
Understanding how people impact business is fundamental to company success
As we emerge from the pandemic, some worse affected than others, wellbeing and mental health are being brought into sharp focus with figures for burnout and anxiety peaking. The question that business leaders now need to be asking themselves is how can we tackle these issues and be aware of conditions as complex and multi-layered as mental ill health? How can we retain, support and engage with our people?
When your business is about delivering services to clients, then clients become the primary focus and at Raworths we place client service at the heart of what we do. But, our people can’t be expected to deliver if they themselves aren’t in the right place physically and mentally. So there is a compelling business case for wellbeing.
Work can be demanding, some pressure can be good but negative stress, such as that generated by excessive workloads and client demands can have a negative impact. Research confirms that mental health and physical health are linked and this can lead to absenteeism and falling productivity. We spend a lot of time at work and it needs to be a positive experience. We need to actively discourage presenteeism – sometimes a case or deadline will require longer hours but if this is a regular occurrence it could be a resourcing issue. Work smarter not harder is one of my mantras.
In 2018, prior to the pandemic, Raworths had no formal policy for wellbeing. Every year we would participate in the Investors in People accreditation and our assessor suggested the firm participate in their pilot scheme around health and wellbeing called ‘We invest in wellbeing’. This motivated us to address wellbeing and integrate it into our business plans, ensuring we took a proactive not reactive approach to people’s health and wellbeing.
Part of our strategy was to form a wellbeing group comprising a cross section of people in the firm including myself so that that there could be no question of not leading by example. Our key objective was (and remains) to support the physical, psychological and social wellbeing of all our people through different initiatives.
Since then the firm has come a long way. Mental health training has been given to all members of the wellbeing group and critically, to line managers and supervisors and is ongoing to help them identify the early signs of mental ill health and signpost to the appropriate support service. Workshops have provided advice and information about wellness, and yoga sessions were offered following feedback that revealed an overwhelming problem was that of neck, shoulder and back pain.
It’s fair to say that whilst some of these actions were on the radar in 2018, the pandemic and remote working created new challenges. The difficulty of looking out for colleagues when we are not working alongside them was difficult. Line managers were tasked with having more regular one to one meetings with their teams. We were aware that people faced lots of different issues in their home life so having empathy and being kind towards each other was critical.
Ultimately as a business leader it’s important to understand that not everyone’s needs are the same. Asking employees what support they need and creating a culture which encourages open conversation is a big part of the equation, especially in removing any stigma that may exist around mental ill health. In July, the firm achieved Investors In People (IIP) Gold accreditation, something I’m personally very proud of. Retention rates have also remained very high and absence levels, particularly during the lockdown periods, low. This suggests that the dynamic between wellbeing and performance is having an impact, benefiting both our people and the business.