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Moving from positive employee experience to positive employee life experience

Ben Bushby, Head of People & Culture - Organic

Creating a positive employee experience is something agencies have always strived towards. Whether this is free beers on Fridays, creative workspaces, career development opportunities, or exciting clients and projects, there are so many initiatives businesses have introduced to make our industry rewarding to work in.

But then 2020 hit. Businesses were all faced with new pressures. For most, this included the big shift to remote working and having to balance work commitments with added home responsibilities, such as home-schooling and caring for family members all of which continue to be a real struggle for many. As a result, companies find themselves needing to shift from creating a positive employee experience, to creating something more…a positive life experience for people. If agencies can support agency experts in their personal lives, then they are simultaneously supporting them to perform at their best in their working lives too.

So, what does creating positive life experience look like for agency employees?

A focus on employee wellbeing has grown in popularity in recent years, and rightly so. When it comes to improving employee life experience, wellbeing plays a fundamental part. As mentioned, 2020 saw the shift to remote working, which brought about burnout of a new kind, with increasing levels of worry, stress and anxiety accumulating as a result of the pandemic. The lines between work and home life have disappeared and many of these anxieties couldn’t be avoided thanks to the lack of physical distance between these two worlds.

It’s time for businesses to step in and put in place a support system that helps combat this new strain of burnout. By addressing key areas of wellbeing, agencies will be on the way to improving their employees’ life experience:

Career wellbeing
Probably the most associated with working life, it refers to what employees do on a daily basis. Do they enjoy it, are they given the opportunity to make a difference, particularly through the progression and development on offer? If agencies want to retain and develop their amazing talent, they must ensure they’re ticking all these career-focused wellbeing boxes.

Physical wellbeing
We all know that keeping physically active has great benefits for our mental wellbeing. It helps promote positivity, energy and creativity – all areas that agencies need in abundance. One way to improve physical wellbeing is to offer related benefits. Wellbeing allowances, gym memberships, healthy snacks, and healthcare packages are all steps in the right direction. But the more important part is promoting and encouraging people to get active. Things like running clubs, encouraging “walking meetings,” or simply just shouting about getting out and about. Our industry is creative, so let’s get creative in encouraging your people to keep active.

Social wellbeing
Referring mainly to the relationships we build: you’re probably thinking, why is it important to focus on this – especially in the current environment? However, it’s more about making sure your people have time to develop relationships in their personal lives. Agencies still need to ensure they’re not overworking their people. If you allow them the flexibility that they need to build meaningful social connections, bond with their families (even if it is on Zoom!), then you’re going to have more engaged, productive and most importantly, happier employees.

Community wellbeing
It’s about creating a workplace where you actually give back. It’s not all about profit, promotions, and pay rises. It’s about purpose and whether you are making a difference to people’s lives. Simple ways to foster this feeling of community could include, partnering with a charity, conducting a company beach clean, or looking for ways to encourage employees to give back. If our industry can promote community wellbeing, it will reinforce the fact that we’re doing meaningful work, whilst creating a sense of community within our teams

Financial wellbeing
Whilst it’s a sensitive topic, in the shadow of an unstable job market, it’s important that those who are growing and hiring pay fair wages, offer fair benefits, and where possible go that extra mile. Even in a competitive job market, there is no reason for companies not to be paying their people properly.

By now, flexibility is a familiar term in the context of work. 2021 will see flexibility become increasingly important in terms of location, but also in terms of time.

Throughout 2020 our industry proved that we could still deliver exceptional work with the added pressures that Covid-19 threw at us. Working later into the evening, so we could home-school our children, picking up hours on the weekends, so we could care for relatives, all with minimal disruption to the quality of our work. The ability to flex our hours was definitely a driving force behind our successes.

In our industry, we know there will always be pinch points, times where we have to put in the extra hours to get things done. But knowing we have the flexibility to build our work around our lives and commitments is pivotal to creating a positive employee life experience.

Engagement, Engagement, Engagement
Alongside flexible working businesses need to ensure that teams are kept engaged to improve employees’ life experience.

Continuing to upskill our teams is crucial. Our sector is transforming fast and we need to be on top of current trends. Training will be key in order to keep teams engaged, and 2021 will see a shift from traditional face-to-face training, to training from a distance. Many training providers have adapted their offerings over the past 12 months and are able to deliver great courses remotely making it easier for people to fit into their days wherever they are.

It’s also more important than ever to keep connected. The majority of people are missing workplace interaction, so, we need to do all we can to keep that feeling of connection going. Getting the whole business together a few times a week, not just to talk about work and company updates, but to mix things up, get everyone active, bring some light-heartedness to the business is what everyone needs right now. The virtual Friday beers and team quizzes are great, but people are a little fatigued by them. Get creative, host virtual scavenger hunts, maybe run a cooking class, team shout outs that recognise the little things, or even a show & tell session… there are plenty of ways to encourage connection virtually when you give it a bit of thought.

For agencies, their most valuable asset has always been their people. 2020 was a tough year for everyone, and 2021 still holds some uncertainties, but there is one thing we can be certain of – focusing on improving employees’ life experience will benefit the success of our industry in the long term.

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