“Flexwell” – the value of wellbeing and flexible working conversations
This week I’ve enjoyed seeing various discussions from different sources about the ideas of wellbeing in the workplace and flexible working. It’s a cool mind meld of things that matter to me and link together quite nicely. On Monday, CIPD held a Wellbeing Conference, and although I wasn’t there in person, through the power of Twitter I was able to get a sense of some of what the conversation was about. The need for businesses and organisations to care about their people, to understand where they might have issues affecting their health and happiness, and how those might affect the performance of the organisation. How this ties to many aspects of work, including values, leadership, engagement, performance management, and training for managers to spot issues like mental health concerns and be equipped to handle them effectively. It was one of those times when I had that feeling of, “Surely this is just simple, right?” And yet, somehow even though I think it is simple, it is multi-layered, which can equate to complexity. I don’t know that today’s working world has fully become aware of what to do about wellbeing, hence, I suppose, the reason for a conference. To me, wellbeing also includes the important aspect of balance in terms of recognising that people have lives outside of work that deserve their care and attention.
Coincidentally, it was then hugely encouraging to see the Hire Me My Way campaign launched on Tuesday by Timewise, which aims to create 1 million high-quality, flexible jobs by 2020. As their site says, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all find work that allows us to accomplish all the other things we need to do in our lives? If we could contribute our skills and talents at work, but with some control over when and where we do the job?” Yes…yes….(wait, is it a trick question? No, it’s not…ok, then, yes!)
And then that tiny voice in my head pops up and says, “Ooh, isn’t that asking a lot?” Because I believe so strongly and passionately in the value of flexible working, I have the ability to say to that voice, “I don’t think it is asking too much, so would you please just be quiet and go back to that pessimistic, Stone Age rock that you live under?” but I know that voice is a lot stronger and louder for other people, and therein lies the challenge. It is, however, a challenge worth tackling, for the future of work, for our economies, for our wellbeing.
My career transition to coaching has helped me embrace my way of leading. As a manager, I led from my heart, and I’m seeing more the gift of that being my unique and authentic leadership style. It’s gaining comfort in my wearing it, as I’m being more compassionate to myself and acknowledging that my leadership is defined by putting people first and remembering that we are human beings, not human doings. I managed a number of people in my teams who had young children and who wanted a way of balancing time with their families and doing well in their roles. I identified with the challenges that creates, and I supported them in making it work. Of course it also worked for the business, because those people had amazing and valuable experience and knowledge that allowed them to do their jobs well. I also managed people who didn’t have children, but who had hobbies, interests and activities that made flexible working attractive to them. I’ve always said flexibility should be available to everyone, regardless of your status or roles you play in or outside the workplace – it just makes sense to anyone who is a person. Which last I checked, all of us still are. I was also actually really lucky to have managers who supported me to do those same things, too, so from my own experience it’s all been pretty positive. My worry is that it’s not always the case. Why should luck play any part?
In my last blog post, I mentioned that in sports, it’s in the process where the good stuff is, not the result of winning or losing. To slightly contradict myself, when it comes to working, it has to be about outcomes – not the time put in, or when or where the work happens. Crucially, hopefully the outcomes also link to making the organisation better at whatever its purpose is – serving clients, making great designs, reducing waste, increasing the quality of the lives of underprivileged people, or whatever it is. Because nothing’s more frustrating than putting time and energy into something that doesn’t actually matter.
So, if all goes well, by the time the Olympics roll around in 2020, there will be 1 million more jobs that support flexibility – and not just low-paying ones where people feel they have to take a step back, or contribute less than their abilities and potential, to attain that flexibility. A lot can happen in four years, and I’m glad the conversation is gaining momentum. In the meantime, this week has given me lots of food for thought on these conversations that matter a lot to me. And ones that should matter to employers as well.
Go to www.hirememyway.org.uk if you want to sign your name to support the campaign; CIPD’s Wellbeing Conference was on Twitter using the hashtag #wellbeing16.