Any business can have goals and aspirations. We have plenty. But without engaged, happy people, you’d find our journey spluttering in a lay-by, waiting to get towed away.

Because they’re the engine. The driving force behind everything we do. And everything we’re capable of.

That’s why wellbeing – in all its forms – has always been massively important to us. But we never want to give our people what we think matters to them. Or something ‘cool’ for cool’s sake. We want the substance and the science to back it up.

So, in line with our ‘Keep Learning’ value, we’ve often turned to Gallup’s expertise – particularly around our strengths-based approach. They’re global leaders in human research and employee engagement. And they’ve highlighted five essential elements of wellbeing, which form:

The Wellbeing Wheel

Physical wellbeing – Having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis.

Community wellbeing – The sense of engagement you have with the people and area around you.

Social wellbeing – Having strong relationships and love in your life.

Career wellbeing – Enjoying what you do every day and having opportunities to develop.

Financial wellbeing – Effectively managing your economic life.

Gallup’s research found that 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas. But when we take all five into account, that figure drops to 7%.

The more we spoke to our people, the more we realised just how important these five elements are in their lives. So, we wanted to evolve our offering to promote greater wellbeing on all five fronts.

Now, more than ever, focusing on the wellbeing of our people isn’t a ‘nice to do’. It’s critical.

With everyone working from home, we had to adapt and evolve our people offering quickly. And we know that when the lockdown is lifted, it’s not going to flick a switch that brings everyone back into the office, every day.

And we don’t want it to. At all. Because this current situation is an exciting opportunity to change the way we work and engage with our people forever.

There will be a greater appetite for the work-life flexibility that remote working brings. We know that’s something we can lead on. And in doing so, we have the potential to open our talent pool up even further; to the world’s brightest, best, most diverse people – and all the benefits they bring.

So, if the world is never going to be the same again, our approach to engagement and wellbeing shouldn’t be, either.

We’ve already made a ton of positive changes that are here to stay, but we’ve never stopped thinking about what’s next.

What more can we do?

How will the world look and feel post-lockdown?

Here’s a glimpse into the cogs whirring in our heads, which we suspect, might be turning away in yours, too.

Physical wellbeing

When our offices weren’t out-of-bounds, we were pretty happy with our physical wellbeing offering. Every week we had yoga, boot camp and Qigong classes. Our people organised other activities themselves, like our running club and five-a-side football. And we had treadmill desks and a subsidised canteen serving up delicious, nutritious food.

Suddenly, lockdown. Everyone’s stuck in their house with one chance to exercise outdoors a day. And all the above – as we knew it – has been made impossible. What’s more, our people’s daily movement has been cut, big time. Because now, meeting rooms and conversations are clicked between, not walked.

We’ve been able to carry on our exercise classes virtually, using livestreaming and video sharing through Microsoft Teams. But classes aren’t for everyone. So, how do we make our physical programme much more wide ranging? How do we encourage people to stay physical, when we’re not physically with them?

Ideas like outdoor ‘walking meetings’, or calls in the garden are a good start. But we need to rethink our physical offering to bring it up to speed. And find new ways to use our people and their ideas to engage, motivate and move each other.

Community wellbeing

Before the tech we have at our disposal today, ‘social distancing’ would have been at loggerheads with any sense of community.

But as it’s turned out, the battle against a common, invisible enemy has created a wave of community wellbeing that’s come rushing over our business. And our country.

Regular chats, check-ins and post-work drinks have become commonplace. Our weekly, virtual pub quizzes are packed to the rafters. Acts of kindness are everywhere. And we’ve never felt more connected

We’ve got people we’ve never met offering to buy and deliver our groceries.

Businesses are doing their bit too. Some are helping to make ventilators and PPE gear. Breweries are making hand sanitiser. Food and drinks companies are shipping out mountains of freebies to frontline NHS staff. The list goes on. And Captain Tom Moore, 100, has raised almost £33m for the NHS by completing 100 laps of his garden, receiving 150,000 birthday cards in the process.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

But we’re loving it. It’s the perfect example of ‘In It Together’ spirit – another one of our values. And because it’s shone so bright, when times are unquestionably dark, you’ve got to ask: what happens when this is over?

How do we make sure this wave of community isn’t reduced to ripples, lapping against the shore? With more people working remotely when our offices are open, how do we continue to create that sense of inclusion and belonging, avoiding any virtual community fatigue? And how do we create a greater sense of community and connectedness with our clients too?

Social wellbeing

In many ways, the relationships we have with each other have become stronger recently, too. There’s less consumerism and more time spent valuing what we’ve got – and relationships are top of that list.

Zoom, House Party and Microsoft Teams have become our new bars, cafes and restaurants – with cheaper drinks and an anything-goes dress code. And by connecting more with friends and family, many of us now boast e-calendars that put our pre-lockdown social lives to shame.

We’ve always promoted fun as a big part of our culture, because life’s too short not to, right? Since lockdown, that hasn’t stopped. Our teams have been setting a lot of interesting, amusing challenges to bring people together, including the fastest time to put sheets on a bed, filming a music video to a song that best represents them, and funniest wig on a call.

They’ve all been made possible through our Microsoft Teams channels – and the platform itself has been integral to everything we’ve done recently. Thankfully, we were already using it pre-lockdown. So, the transition was a smooth one. But for more insight into what we’ve learnt around our digital culture along the way, check out this article.

Externally, social media has been flooded with more great examples, from the ‘Run 5, Donate 5, Nominate 5’ challenge for the NHS, to sharing the four albums that mean the most to you, and asking four others to do the same.

But this present has also given us all plenty of time to reflect. And we’re all reassessing what was. Is this the job I want to do? Is this the business I want to work for? And when our offices are open, will I have the flexibility I need – and now want – in my life?

For some, that will be a resounding “yes”. For others, there will be doubts. We’re predicting a post-COVID boom in recruitment across all industries. A mass movement of talent. So, if people have been turned off by their business’s engagement during this time, how do we show them we’re better? How do we show them we’re more supportive? How do we show them we’re embracing the changing ways of the world of work?

We need to get our digital engagement to stick. We need to make sure our people don’t feel they suddenly have less autonomy, or flexibility, post-lockdown. And we need to take this familiarity with building and enhancing virtual relationships forward with us. Then, we’ll continue to reap the rewards of remote working. With our clients. And each other.

Career wellbeing

We already had a strong online learning and development offering, alongside the more ‘physical’ face to face activity we did. So, moving to fully online has been one of the simpler changes. Especially with video calls, live streaming and file sharing through Microsoft Teams making physical proximity irrelevant in most cases.

But while online learning isn’t a new concept, it doesn’t suit everyone’s style. And in a business with five generations of people, we’ve got plenty of styles to cater to.

And development isn’t just about learning. It’s about conversations. It’s about shadowing. It’s about asking questions in the moment, over the table. So, how do we make sure these more informal and spontaneous opportunities for growth continue in a virtual world?

And just because it’s possible to do things virtually, we can’t be complacent and think it’s the best way for everyone. In recent years, ‘hybrid events’ have paved the way for greater engagement and attendee numbers by taking place in both physical and digital settings – with no compromise on quality and experience on either front. How can we use tech to give our workshops, seminars and talks that same, wide-reaching appeal?

Another Gallup report found that 70% of employee engagement rests on their manager, so, in recent years we’ve poured a lot of thought into evolving our Stellar Managers programme. And all our managers have been attending full-day workshops covering the four ‘keys’ to strengths-based coaching:

Hiring for Talent – Looking for mindset over skillset and experience.

Setting the right outcomes – But not dictating how to get there.

Focusing on strengths – Not weaknesses.

Finding the right fit – Not simply the next rung on the ladder.

But now, managing people remotely requires a different skillset to traditional, face-to-face interactions. The role of the People Manager must evolve. How does that change who we promote and recruit? Do we need fewer managers in an increasingly remote team? Or more?

Financial wellbeing

Before lockdown, financial wellbeing was an area we had planned to invest in a whole lot more. Being in financial services ourselves, we feel strongly that we have a responsibility to help educate our people, our clients and out community on financial wellbeing. And we’ve got some big plans to make that happen.

Last year, we included one-to-one and group sessions with mortgage advisers, pensions experts and financial advisers – both during our Financial Wellbeing Month and throughout the year. And we had our own internal ‘money coach’.

But there was always that feeling, given our industry, that we could do more. Most of our plans involved face-to-face activities, so, we’re now exploring ways to change this and make our programme even better digitally.

COVID-19 has brought many businesses across the UK to a standstill. We’ve furloughed a few of our people. And many more of our people will have partners that have been made redundant or furloughed themselves. Money worries are at an all-time, global high. So, how do we help to limit the impacts those worries bring?

How do we promote financial wellbeing in the local community? How do we help others to spot the causes and consequences of financial difficulties to avoid knock-on effects on mental health?

Financial wellbeing is so important. Now, more than ever.

We’re keeping our fingers on the buzzer

As you can see, there’s a lot of questions in our heads right now. To many of which, we don’t yet have the answers.

Our short-term reactions – and all the good they bring – can’t be left to fizzle out. None of us can be certain about what lies ahead in the coming months, but we’re sure it’s the businesses, communities and people that are asking these questions now, that will adapt the fastest, and bounce back better than ever before.

We’d love to hear your own ponderings, share some thinking and swap some ideas. And if that’s something you’d love too, get in touch.


APRIL HOMER, Partner & Chief People Officer


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