Wellbeing and the Workplace

The things we’ve done, by Catherine Cross

What wellbeing means for us

There’s lots of discussion about wellbeing at the moment, but despite all this talk, to be honest I’m not exactly clear on what it is. It’s so bound up in the individual that I’m not sure defining it really works. This article is about what we are doing within our own company to make it a better place to work. We decided to share what we’re doing because we think it’s great and that it works.

In 4OC we have one simple rule, which is to try to do the right thing. This applies to everything – in the pub (especially in the pub), on the train, at home or in work. I think I can say that we all live by it. The principle has been properly tested on several occasions, but we never wavered, and we are still here to tell this tale.

Making a great workplace

Making 4OC a better place to work has not been easy. Work conventions are fairly well hard-wired and long before the pandemic our focus on outcomes and an ethos built around flexible hours, not travelling in rush hour and not being in the office when you don’t need to be, was quite hard to embed. On top of that, there are lots of things that we actively work on to make it a great place to be:

  • we strive to recognise individual differences and work with them
  • be really open and straightforward about information and decision making by involving the entire team
  • stand for something meaningful – in our case, delivering value to the public purse
  • aim to make the work rewarding
  • remove stupid rules

We know it’s not perfect and probably never will be, so continual betterment is the name of the game.

What we’ve done (so far)

It’s within this context that when we were looking to further enhance the way we worked, we asked the team what sort of wellbeing support they would like. We found that the marketplace didn’t really offer what they wanted, so we made up our own.

One of the main things that people wanted was ready access to therapeutic services. We asked the therapist who’d fixed my fear of flying (yes it is possible to get this fixed) to help. At this point we had no idea whether it would be of any benefit to individuals or us as a company. Today, just under half of the workforce regularly or periodically avail themselves of the service, and this is during working hours, and when Covid-19 arrived we shifted this to Zoom and all we can say is that thank heavens we had it in place.

The services have very clear boundaries with patient confidentiality rigidly applied. However, while we’ve all been working at home over the last few months, the therapist has been helping us understand how people are adapting to this new set of circumstances and what we, as a company, can do to help relieve some of the stresses and strains this caused.

In response, we put in place a number of activities just to get people talking about something else other than work or Coronavirus, made rules about breaks and made sure we led by example. We opened up the office so people could go and work in a socially isolated but conformable place, with all the safety measures, obviously. We made people take time off.

We didn’t get everything right and it’s still a work in progress. The wellbeing of our staff is paramount, they’ve been through a lot and helped keep us going. It’s the least we can do to make things as easy and straightforward as we can. As employers, we have a responsibility to do as much as we can to promote personal and professional resilience. Work and life take things out of people and I think where we can, we need to try to put something back in, our work relationships are about much more than pay and rations.

Now and onwards

The feedback has been that the services have provided the team with ‘unguilty’ time to reflect and clarify what they want to achieve both at home and at work and provides new perspectives, and all this without judgement. In some it has built confidence and in others it has helped them manage stress and, sadly, even bereavement. The benefits from a business perspective? To be honest, we’ve not measured it as isn’t it just the right thing to do.

We’re continuing to engage with the team to find out what other supports they think would help while also researching what other organisations are doing so that we can create the kind of place to work that anyone or indeed, everyone, would want to be a part of.

If you’d like to speak to Catherine about any of the things we’ve done around wellbeing, the fun of running your own company, or why she decided she needed to be a goalkeeper, you can contact her at catherine@the4oc.com