In the wake of the pandemic, companies have come to an increased understanding of the importance for workers to achieve a healthy life/work balance. Things going on in people’s personal lives impact their performance on the job and forcing them to compartmentalise that during business hours can only exacerbate issues and lead to resentment, an unhappy work environment, and thus shoddy work.
Luke James, Co-host of The Interview, spoke to Zoe Brunswick, Group Human Resources (HR) Director for the RSK Group, about the importance of communication to increase connections between people in an organisation, which improves well-being, which in turn helps maintain quality output.
I studied business management at university, and when I left, I was torn between going into recruitment or HR. With the former, I thought I’d have lots of interaction with people, which is what I was most interested in, so I pursued that at first with a role in a recruitment company for the hospitality industry. I soon discovered, however, it was mostly remote interaction via emails and phone calls rather than face-to-face, so I decided that wasn’t for me. I moved to a temporary administrative role within The Big Food Group’s HR department. The company was going through a massive restructuring at the time, so there were lots of projects that gave me a really good overall introduction to HR. This experience led me to a permanent role at a small company with a significant growth plan as their sole HR person. Within twelve months, the company had doubled, and I had an assistant. Over the few years I spent there, I had a great deal of exposure to employee relations matters. That prepared me for the next step, and I joined RSK. The business had 700 people at the time, and now here I am sixteen years later, with approximately 12,000 employees!
We’re looking at Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and trying to embed that into everything we do: recruitment, development, support, etc. We have employee networks, which are integral to that because they are led by our own employees and their lived experiences. It is this which helps to inform and drive our EDI strategy. One of our networks is currently leading a project called Workplaces For All, making our environment more inclusive for employees in offices and out on site. We’re also looking at inclusive recruitment to remove hidden barriers to entry for minority groups and determine what support we can put in place to ensure we get a diverse population in our applicant base. Finally, we’re doing a lot of work around people management. The world has changed now. We’re recognising more than ever that people have lives outside of work, so we need to do more to support our line managers and others, including priorities like EDI — making sure they embrace that and build great teams.
Well-being is so important because it impacts everyone, and it’s universal. People spend a lot of time at work and therefore your colleagues start to become like a work family, and you’ve got to look out for each other. During the pandemic, that was brought to the fore. It was a bit of a wake-up call. People have got a lot of stuff going on in their lives outside of work. Getting people to talk about it and share stories in everyday conversations helps normalise that. That’s powerful because other people can reach out and relate to each other and feel less alone. You want a mentally-healthy workforce that enjoys coming to work.
For me, the main thing is having open communication. You’ve got to be prepared to speak to your people and deliver both good and bad news. If you’re open and upfront about your challenges and tell your people how they can be part of the solution, they respect that. Don’t micromanage them. Empower them to be the best they can be. And develop great leaders that people want to aspire to be and follow.
Having honesty and integrity. Authenticity. Living and breathing the values of the organisation. Great leaders don’t always get things right, but they learn from those experiences. They have compassion and understanding that people aren’t robots and have lives outside of work. You have to be sympathetic to that and appreciate that that’s going to have an impact on workplace performance. Great leaders have trust in their people that they’ll do the right thing for the organisation because they want it to be the best they can be.
I’m a massive advocate for neurodiversity because I have neurodivergent children, so it’s personal. And I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can influence our organisation around this topic. I want to ensure that children, my own and others, have careers when they come through education. Neurodiversity in Business is a growing movement. Many organisations are keen to make workplaces neuro-inclusive, so I want to collaborate with them. Everyone’s at different stages of their journey, so it’s about sharing what you’re doing, learning from each other, and seeing what works well.
Have boundaries, and don’t be afraid to stick to them. If you have these and communicate them to your team, your people will respect that, and the behaviour will cascade down to them. Lead by example. It will improve your mental well-being as well as theirs and lead to a happier workforce, which means better work overall.