Why businesses need authentic wellbeing

Let’s be honest

Yesterday, it was announced that The UK boss of KPMG, Bill Michael, will step aside having reportedly kicked off the week by telling a 500 strong “town hall” gathering of the firm’s financial consultants to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic and lockdown on their lives, and to stop “playing the victim card”. Ouch.  He later said the comments did not reflect his beliefs – weasel words! What’s most shocking here is not that these, despite his protests, are his beliefs, it is his candour and choice of words.  So why am I not surprised?

What we say vs what we do

You, like me, are probably bombarded with article upon article about employee wellbeing, how it’s more important than ever in the current circumstances, not only because it’s right to care about your people but because it’s proven to impact your bottom line (according to Big 4 firms ironically).  So, on a theoretical level, there’s a recognition that, with the extended lockdown, working from home (WFH), home schooling, social isolation etc. people are under incredible pressure, feeling the impact on their mental wellbeing and, be they aware of it or not, at high risk of burnout (check out this HBR article which nicely summarises the impact of Covid19 in 12 charts). . Any leader worth their salt must be aware of this now.   

Whereas, in reality, we’re seeing an increasing normalisation of lockdown/WFH not to mention the general Covid19 backdrop. Recognition of and allowance for these added pressures has been forgotten.  Far from being supported, many are being asked not only to function as normal but to go the extra mile. Businesses have got empathy fatigue. 

All of these businesses, particularly global corporations, have HR teams, wellbeing programmes and espouse the importance of wellbeing.  Even Bill Michael claims to be a believer:  “Looking after the wellbeing of our people and creating a culture where everyone can thrive is of critical importance to me and is at the heart of everything we do as a firm.”

Authentic wellbeing

Which brings me to my point.  There’s much talk about authentic leadership.  We need to start talking about authentic wellbeing.  Employee wellbeing is not a bolt-on, an initiative or a programme, it’s not something that should be left to the wellbeing team, a publicity stunt for your social channels/CSR communications, it’s not a tick-box exercise, a head massage in a meeting room in the middle of a week of 12 hour working days.  Your leadership team needs to truly buy into the importance of wellbeing and weave this into the fabric of the organisation – wellbeing starts with feeling valued. It requires authentic and transparent leadership, a listening and learning culture, civilised working hours and workloads, flex-working programmes that treat employees like adults, wellbeing metrics and measures vs just weasel words. And then you can start offering head massages if you want to.

At my previous agency Breaking Blue, I got to see this done properly and to reap the rewards – a loyal, motivated and resilient team, happy and with fuel in the tank to go the extra mile when needed, because they weren’t expected to do that day-in-day-out.  And we got head massages too.  Hats off to the BB leadership team who really lived these wellbeing values and to the team who invested their trust in us.  Fundamental to this was a flex-working policy that offered true flexibility and really worked for everyone – authentic flex-working if you will.  Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about that – I’m happy to share.

Also check out Make a Difference for fresh and authentic perspectives on all things workplace wellbeing.