Wellbeing in the workplace: making space to really care for your people

Andrew Heath · October 26, 2015

Wellbeing in the workplace is talked about so much in the press you would be forgiven for thinking we are making real progress in that area. Unfortunately, while awareness is definitely up, many are still revving our engines in an attempt to help businesses get over that adoption curve. We asked CEO of one of our business partners Breathe HR Jonathan Richards to provide his perspective on the current state of wellbeing in the workplace. Specifically how businesses can make space to really care about their people and make progress. Over to you Jonathan…

Digging deeper into a compliance driven HR function

Talk to any manager in a big company and they’ll tell you that the role of HR is to create policies and procedures, then police compliance.  HR will tell them what to do, when to do it and give them help with hiring and firing.  Follow that up by talking to a manager in an SME and they’ll more than likely start by saying that they don’t do HR because “that’s for big companies”.  Quiz them further and they’ll agree they do plenty of admin around managing their people – booking holidays, logging sickness and maybe recording notes from the occasional performance review.  Push deeper and they’ll often admit to an underlying fear of employment tribunals if it all goes wrong.  It all comes back to compliance.

HR needs to evolve to help growing businesses

There are plenty of consultants trying to understand how HR can be improved in big companies but what I’m most interested in is how HR needs to change to make itself relevant to today’s growing businesses. For too long the way people are managed in SMEs has either been left to chance or worse driven by a fear of legislation.  Tens of thousands of SMEs in the UK have hoped to eliminate the worries of HR by signing up to schemes that are little more than glorified insurance policies.  Some of the biggest HR consultancies offer products that pay out when it all goes wrong and an employee takes the company to tribunal.  The promise is that you’re covered so long as you pay lip service to a specific set of HR procedures.

It’s like a car insurer saying you can drive however you like because you’re covered – so long as you don’t get caught.  I take a different approach because managing people is not that easy and can not, must not, be dismissed so easily.   This insurance or admin led approach encourages businesses to miss out on the real magic that comes from caring for their people and engaging them around a set of shared beliefs. This is shocking when research shows that 86% of employees are either not engaged or worse still, actively disengaged.

Richard Branson put it so well:

“Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow. If you treat your staff well, they will be happy. Happy staff are proud staff, and proud staff deliver excellent customer service, which drives business success.”

Putting people at the heart of what we do

Those of us that run growing businesses know how tough it is to juggle the many demands on our time, but to be successful we must find ways to put people at the heart of what we do.  We need to seek out ways reduce the ever increasing workload and make time to really care about our people.  As the typical manager in a small business spends over 20% of their time on people management issues there’s plenty of time to be saved. Many HR admin tasks should be automated, others delegated and some just dropped completely.  Tools like breatheHR (www.breathehr.com) and WeThrive help leaders win back space in their schedule and helps them focus on the things that really matter.

Are you ready to make space for wellbeing?

Jonathan Richards - CEO breatheHR - managing peopleThere are no shortcuts to building a successful business but by not paying enough attention to our people we’re starting with one hand tied behind our backs.  If we start by devoting time each day to clearing roadblocks, instead of worrying about compliance or admin, we clear the way for our people to give their best. After that, we need to inspire them, engage them around a shared set of goals and then get out of the way!

Jonathan Richards