Health & Wellbeing Matters: In a new era of HR.

Health & Wellbeing Matters: In a new era of HR.

We were delighted to have two business leaders, David Germain, Chief Information Officer of RSA and Kathryn Kendall, Chief People Officer of Benefex, join us for our latest webinar, Health Matters in New Era of HR. You can watch the full recording of the webinar below. 

Health & Wellbeing Matters In A New Era of HR_ Webinar from Mike Wedge on Vimeo.

David of RSA, gave delegates the perspective of COVID through the eyes of a tech leader, as someone in charge of both the hardware, software and connectivity that has been even more essential to all our working lives over past months. 
There has been a spike in productivity since lockdown. David explained that the working day had been “noticeably elongated, with people working longer into the evenings.” As a result, the wellbeing of staff has been thrust to the forefront of RSA’s senior management. It seems to be working RSA has: 


-    Asked their staff to build a structure to their day and be disciplined with their team, including allowing time for themselves. As David puts it “if you’re normally on a train at 8.15, take the time have some breakfast, watch a bit of TV” before beginning their working day. 
-    Given guidance on how to manage meetings to avoid fatigue, and one meeting running into another throughout the day “back to back to back meetings isn’t a good idea, no one can move topics and swivel sufficiently on the hour every hour”, says David, “we encouraged our staff to have 45 minute meetings and take time out between.” Advised their teams on officially ending the working day, encouraging all to be “very religiously disciplined about when you log out in the evenings” 

Within RSA, the leadership team has committed time to learning, then sharing and cascading their learning through their teams. David explains,

“if our staff aren’t focused on their mental and physical health, it’s going to have a downshift on their motivation, and ultimately, productivity.” 

Changing tack to more functional challenges the pandemic had presented, David outlined the huge number of technical obstacles that had to be overcome. These changes have been different for all organisations, but what is clear is that there is learning for the future, which have the potential to change how we all work in the long run. 

In response to a question that has been often asked over recent weeks, about whether our enforced working practices over lockdown would bring about a lasting change, David summarised and ended with:

“Do you go back to where you were, do you stay where you are, or do you find something in between? What I’m absolutely seeing is companies looking for that hybrid approach.” 

Kathryn, of Benefex, gave a view of the pandemic from an HR perspective. 

As we’d all agree, Kathryn noted that she didn’t imagine that a global pandemic would feature when she put together her strategic roadmap. Reflecting on the challenges the pandemic had posed, she highlighted how organisations had never taken such swift action to protect and preserve the wellbeing of their employees. Specifically in relation to change, Kathryn reflected: 

“It’s fascinating, most of us have spent our careers trying to push to make change happen, and suddenly most of the red tape is gone and change is just happening. Whilst I understand the reasons for that, it proves just what is possible when there is no other alternative. That gives me great cause for optimism as we look at our wellbeing strategies.” 

Offering an interesting perspective on the changes that have resulted from a large proportion of the workforce working remotely, Kathryn says whilst there have been loads of downsides “there is an argument that this sudden switch may have fast tracked the future of work that we may otherwise have been waiting 30 to 40 years for. We need to grasp these learnings” 

Again, talking about her direct experience within Benefex. Some of the biggest challenges had been the loss of ad hoc social interaction, and how to effectively replicate that whilst working remotely.  

So this raises the question of how this is tackled in the future world of work and whilst Kathryn acknowledges the view of a hybrid, part office based, part remote work, attempting to capture the best of both worlds, 

“we have to be careful that it doesn’t in fact capture the worst of both worlds. Part of the success of this period is that everyone has been in the same boat, so we can tailor communications to one audience. This could be difficult when pods of people work in different ways.”

Turning specifically to the role of communication and its importance now in the context of remote teams and organisations, Kathryn highlighted: 
-    Early on they became aware of the need to over-communicate with their teams. If before we sent a monthly update, we upped those to once a week
-    Updates took place via Zoom and were headed by their CEO with input from the board, giving staff the chance to raise questions and worries There is a need to maintain this commitment to communication, especially if companies move to a more hybrid model of working. 

“It’s going to be even more important to ensure that you absolutely connect to everyone in your organisation, regardless of their working pattern.” 

Finally, Kathryn focused on the impacts and challenges of the pandemic on HR teams along with other “always on” departments, such as IT, who have found themselves “front and centre of this crisis.” 

“In days and sometimes hours, we’ve had to radically change working arrangements, consistently follow new legislation and guidance and drive non-stop communication with a workforce that is genuinely frightened. Looking at my team, our workload has increased exponentially during this time.” 

This has, as Kathryn acknowledged had an impact of the wellbeing on her team and likely other HR teams across all businesses. 

“A quick check in, or ‘hi’ with your HR team can make the world of difference”

As she encouraged us all to help look after the teams, who look after us.