MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Workplace Wellbeing Made Simple – Top Tips From Professor Cary Cooper

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Founding Director of Robertson Cooper, reflects on the new world of hybrid working post lockdown, introduces the Good Day at Work – an accessible overarching vision for your people and health strategies – and offers his ‘top tips’ for all practitioners with the passion to transform the experience of employees in their workplaces.

A world in transition – the new ways of working

Times of rapid change require a heroic spirit, and a willingness to move confidently into unchartered territory, constantly reinventing our tactics as we go. Organisations cannot make this journey of change without the individuals within them also doing so in a healthy and motivated way – every employee can make the difference between an organisation that becomes high-performing or one that struggles in these turbulent times.

Hybrid working is one such rapidly emerging change that we are seeing in the way we do our business, with a wide range of research showing that the majority of workers want to continue working from home at least some of the time. There is justified trepidation for employers around this daunting change because despite the reported benefits, such as better work/life balance, there are some clear challenges with a work from home model – namely feelings of disconnection, difficulty in focussing and missing face-to-face interaction. Further unknowns remain around the dilution of workplace culture over time and how teams can remain united and collaborative, and then how this dispersion of the workforce impacts mental health and wellbeing long-term. It is already reported that 80% of UK workers feel that working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health. 

All my career has been spent researching workplace wellbeing, and although these are new specific challenges to our ways of working, there remain core principles of employee wellbeing that we can draw upon and apply to these extraordinary circumstances. If we turn to the very foundations of what people want and need from their work, to the things that will enable good wellbeing and in turn, excellent performance, we can start to adjust and adapt our business culture to thrive, despite these new pressures. If we understand what makes a Good Day at Work, whatever our job, whatever our business, we can realign our working culture and all its processes, procedures, and rituals to enable this shift in working to be an opportunity for even greater wellbeing and performance. 

The cornerstone of an effective hybrid working scenario is personal responsibility and trust. A sense of autonomy and control over our work is something that we have known for many decades drives wellbeing and therefore performance. Now, we have the real opportunity to deliver autonomy for our employees.

With hybrid working, the onus is put on individuals to successfully manage their commitments but alongside this new arrangement there also needs to be the support of a strong psychological contract between the employer and employee based on a fair, clear agreement of what the employee is expected to deliver and how, in particular communicating a change in emphasis from the ‘hours people work’ to their actual outputs. Psychological contracts are slippery by nature, but this shift to hybrid working will very likely leave big gaps in the psychological contract so it’s important that it is re-examined to ensure the organisation can bounce forward out of this crisis rather than backwards.  

The new Good Day at Work guide from Robertson Cooper will help businesses take the reins and ensure no crisis of morale and commitment emerges if we are to take on this new way of working more permanently.   

Creating more Good Days

The link between a healthy and happy workforce and high levels of productivity is an established one – and embracing the Good Day at Work is a way in which we can keep our eyes on the prize, ensuring we make the shifts that are necessary to drive good wellbeing despite all the changes we are facing. 

So, what exactly is a Good Day at Work? The analysts at Robertson Cooper have sifted through over 10,000 responses to the question and revealed Good Days at Work must contain four key elements:

  • Your employees experience positive emotions
  • They feel connected to their colleagues and the business
  • They’re able to achieve their tasks
  • The work they perform is meaningful and makes an impact

The team also looked at the benefits of having more Good Days at Work and their research findings were conclusive. For every extra Good Day at Work created you will see a 9% increase in productivity, a 10% increase in advocacy for your organisation and an 11% increase in job satisfaction.

So how do you put the Good Day at Work into action?

My top tips for wellbeing, for right now

  •  Accept the need for change and do it via good data

Good data is key to understanding the changes to the psychological contract arising from remote working as well as all the other changes arising from the pandemic – and businesses should get some good data before attempting to revise their practices, support and spend! This is a ‘first-step’ action – businesses should have objective and deep-dive data on what has changed, what new demands to wellbeing are arising from the changes, and who is being impacted the most. This data can then be used to deliver the adaptations to the culture that employees really need and more Good Days at Work will follow. 

  • Communicate your vision and your grand goals, often

The dispersion of our workforce potentially means psychological disconnection and a dilution of workplace culture and therefore communication becomes even more crucial in laying the foundations for future success. With the technology we have available, even in a hybrid working environment, we can communicate regularly and clearly if we choose, and choosing to communicate is a good move for businesses. Leaders regularly setting out the vision and the grand goals of the organisation based on a crystal-clear set of core values will truly empower employees to release the knowledge, motivation and experience they have, wherever they may be working from. This communication from leaders forms the bedrock of a unified workplace and will ultimately deliver success in any future dispersed working environment.

  •   Utilise your managers

It is critical that your managers are provided with the skills to be able to identify and support people struggling with mental health and wellbeing, especially when face-to-face time is reduced and incidental conversation and chit-chat is less likely. Creating opportunities to engage equally with those team members who are on-screen, making wellbeing part of everyday conversation and developing new team habits – particularly to tackle disconnection – are all things that happen at team level and via your managers. Don’t under-estimate their role in creating more Good Days at Work. 

I’ll sign off by saying this

Mental health and wellbeing has always been important but now, more than ever, there is an opportunity to make it – and keep it – as much a part of the national workplace conversation as the weather.

If you’re ready to unlock more Good Days at Work for your organisation, get in touch with the team at Robertson Cooper to discuss how to get started. 

FREE DOWNLOAD: Your guide to creating Good Days at Work

About the author

Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE is Founding Director of Robertson Cooper. Cary is also a 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School in the University of Manchester. He is a Founding President of the British Academy of Management, President of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Former President of Relate and President of the Institute of Welfare

He is a renowned international expert in organisational psychology, workplace wellbeing and occupational stress. Alongside Professor Ivan Robertson, Cary founded Robertson Cooper over two decades ago with one clear mission in mind – to help create more Good Days at Work for everyone, everywhere.

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