Putting people first: The simple answer to a complex problem. PUSH was among those leading the discussion on how we can work better at the recent Getahead Festival in London.
The Getahead Festival, which took place on Friday 14 June in London, is on a mission to help a billion people positively impact their lives in the next 25 years. This absolutely chimes with PUSH’s objective: “To make sure that no one ever feels like they are just existing, or that they dread work”, so we were delighted to be Getahead Festival’s official Work Better partner this year.
We assembled a panel of some of the best minds across mental health and wellbeing, people management, diversity and inclusion and technology to answer an extremely important and pressing question: How Do We Work Better?
We are working more hours than ever but UK productivity continues to lag behind that of the other G7 nations. The country has also seen a 40 per cent increase in mental ill-health over the past 20 years which undoubtedly has an impact in areas such as absenteeism and performance. The figures show that something clearly isn’t working and this situation cannot prevail much longer.
Our panel put forward a vast range of views pertinent to this discussion, including: is tech slowing us down rather than speeding us up?; are we using the right language around mental health?; and would working less hours actually make us more productive?
We came to a number of conclusions but there was one overriding message: putting people first makes them happier and more productive. Based on our discussions, we’ve put together 5 team performance insights that all CEOs need to know to ensure their teams work better.
- Use Culture To Turn Human Vulnerability Into Strength
Culture has moved up the corporate agenda but few CEOs have truly grasped the important part it can play in keeping workforces healthy and happy as well as more productive. We need to create inclusive, diverse, nurturing and supportive company cultures that make people want to come to work and do their jobs well.
A positive and open culture also means that if they do feel under pressure at work, or have external factors placing a strain on them, they won’t feel this is seen as a weakness. They are more likely to tell their boss which gives everyone options and the chance to improve the situation rather than make it worse.
The right culture can help to turn human vulnerabilities into a positive because it enables us all to learn from experience and adversity and push forward rather than fall back.
- Make Technology An Enabler
We’ve allowed technology to create an out-of-control, always-on, 24/7 workplace that is detrimental to our wellbeing and a drain on time and energy. On average we send 200 emails a day and download six times’ more information than we did years ago. How can this equal efficiency and increased productivity? And if we haven’t even learned to manage our inboxes effectively, what hope is there when technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and robotics enter the workforce, bringing more data and information?
We need to take back control of technology and use it as it was originally intended: as an enabler that frees up employees to add more value at work and therefore feel more fulfilled. This means instead of mapping old ways of working onto new tech, flip the approach, and consider how a new system or piece of software can create a new, better way of working.
- Learn From Mother Nature And Build An Ecosystem
In nature, an ecosystem is a community of organisms and their environment which all have a relationship with each other (often a complex one). A tree sends distress signals when it experiences disease or drought and in turn, surrounding trees send water and nutrients via their network of roots. They work together as a single system and their individual actions and interactions help them to survive and thrive. In the same way, teams of people in the workplace benefit from being part of an ecosystem.
Working together as a whole, the ecosystem can help to create an environment in which everyone can flourish. Such an approach makes individuals feel like they are contributing and collaborating to something bigger as well as being supported to achieve their own goals. It encourages them to not only be themselves but also to bring their whole selves to work in the ecosystem. This has an extremely positive impact on both wellness and productivity.
In short, the value of an ecosystem in terms of improved performance and can be worth far more than the sum of its parts.
- Innovate And Challenge Workplace Norms Like The 9-5
The pressure on day-to-day operations mean that many leaders find it difficult to think differently about how they structure the workplace and the working day. As a consequence, although far more people are working remotely or at home, most of us remain largely in the confines of a 9-5, five days a week role.
Those who have invested time in re-imagining the workplace have seen it pay off though. For instance, one of the PUSH panel speakers found that moving to a four-day week has increased engagement at work and has meant people have the time to use their weekends for achieving goals outside of work. This is hugely fulfilling personally and has a positive impact on mental health. It also means they return to the workplace after the weekend feeling more energised to do their job.
Allowing individuals more control over their working hours can also provide wellness and performance benefits. Working in the evening may better suit an individual for a raft of reasons. Any change needs to be well thought through though. If you know someone is working non-standard hours, managers can’t expect them to be available at other times any more than they would a 9-5 worker to be available for a call in the evening.
- Take Responsibility For Your Individual Impact
Decision-makers undeniably influence an organisation, but what can be overlooked is simply that each person makes a difference. “Leadership is not top down. It’s within us all as individuals.” one of the PUSH panelists stated.
How then, do you become an everyday leader and take responsibility for your impact on the team? First, it’s important to understand that leadership always starts with leading yourself first, and to lead yourself, you must learn how best to do so. Key questions you could ask are: when are you your most efficient? Do you spend your energy in the right places? What holds you back? How can you overcome your challenges? How much attention do you pay to crafting your skill set? When you master leading yourself, confidence follows.
The second layer, is realising that how you feel has a direct impact on the way you work, the way those around you feel and your daily interactions. By taking agency over which version of yourself you bring to work everyday, you can be empowered to make decisions and take the lead. It’s time to step into your influence.
Getting your team to work at their best is a challenge all CEOs face. There’s no one-size-fits-all or easy route to putting your people first, but we can help. Get in touch to talk about how together, we can improve the performance of your team.