Below Peter Blencowe, the Managing Director of Bluecrest Wellness, lists the top 5 ways directors, boardroom members, CEOs, executives and managers can be an idyllic role model to the rest of the company’s employees.
1. Show trust
Trust is the key factor when it comes to creating a positive work environment: it’s what allows people to take risks, to innovate, and most importantly, be honest with each other. Too often there’s a low-level burble of misunderstandings and grievances because staff don’t feel able to express themselves when it comes to problems or differences of opinion. So there’s pretence, secrecy and reticence. All kinds of diversity are squashed, no-one wants to admit their vulnerabilities, and the result is poor decision-making across an organisation. Leaders can change this culture by being willing to admit mistakes, showing vulnerability if necessary, showing a trust in other people and their ability to respond in a mature way – and ultimately that it leads to issues being resolved more quickly and effectively. And in terms of dealing with their reports, demonstrating the ability to listen, not to make snap judgments.
2. Take a lead on wellbeing
Almost a quarter of employees think their bosses don’t take employee wellbeing seriously, according to research this year by PwC among 2,000 UK workers. While employers can’t and shouldn’t take responsibility for the health of staff – it’s all a matter of give and take – people are looking for more. As the research points out, wellbeing and its relation to their daily work lives is never far from their minds. More than a third said they were struggling with a health and wellbeing issue; and more than 80% felt their productivity was strongly linked to their wellbeing. Committing to the health and wellbeing of all staff is a major win-win in terms of engagement, recruitment and retention – but it has to be through activity that’s seen and felt. The traditional culture of benefits has meant health screening offerings designed for senior executives, targeting men over 50 for heart disease and strokes – not so relevant, say, to women in their 20s thinking about pregnancy, or with worries about the serious risks from ovarian, breast and cervical cancer. Offering free or subsidised annual health screens for all staff – not just as a perk kept for senior executives – shouts loud to employees about a personal interest in wellbeing.
3. Don’t hide the stress
Stress, anxiety and depression are so commonplace across workplaces (accounting for 45% of all lost working days says the HSE) it’s the central issue in terms of proving an understanding of what dealing with ongoing work pressures can mean. Getting people to open up about struggles with mental health means setting an example. Leaders should be delivering a clear statement on the organisation’s approach, acknowledging the issues, and as far as possible including a personal take on their own experiences. Set an example by taking days off when there are tough issues at home to deal with or you’ve been through a particular period of pressure. Mental health issues are similar to physical health in the sense that minor issues, dealt with early, are far less serious than those left to worsen and become more complex.
4. Switch off
It’s said that the average person looks at their smartphone messages 110 times each day. Digital devices have created an ‘always on’ working culture, which can have benefits for both employees and their employers in terms of access and flexibility. But there have to be checks and balances. Psychologists have reported that our psychological ability to cope with IT – in our addiction to new updates and messages, our struggles with the complexity of ever-changing platforms – hasn’t kept pace with the speed of change. Senior figures in a business need to be the ones to demonstrate a ‘good’ use of IT. That means only sending and replying to emails during normal working hours unless there’s an emergency. No showing off with midnight messaging, making a conscious effort not to send emails while on holidays or during the weekends.
5. Be visible
The prevalence of digital comms has also meant fewer face-to-face meetings, fewer real conversations, less in the way of social interaction at work generally. There might or might not be benefits in this for productivity – but it does nothing for the workplace environment, the motivation for people to want to be at work and feel energised. A CEO can make a difference by being a walking advertisement for the personal and the sociable, demonstrating it’s still important to spend time together, to make time for conversations of all kinds.