IW: Today, we’re delighted to be joined by one of our speakers for the 2022 London Inspire Work Summit. Welcome Jessica Badley.
Firstly, we wanted to ask you all, what does an Inspiring Workplace mean to you?
JB: What does an Inspiring Workplace mean to you?
For me, an Inspiring Workplace is somewhere you can do your best work. And I think that means somewhere you are supported, have opportunities to develop and learn, feel able to make decisions and try new things, and to understand the impact the work you do has. Most of us are at work for quite a high proportion of our week- so we want that time to be fulfilling as much as possible, rather than just looking forward to the weekend!
IW: What are three areas of focus for organizations looking to improve the people experience?
- Wellbeing. Can your employees count on you to support them when they need it? And wherever possible, prevention is better than cure. And that all comes down to an organisation’s culture, whether individuals can raise concerns, have autonomy and are trusted, and have colleagues and managers who will check in if they don’t seem themselves.
- Agile and flexible working. Trust is so important in a workplace and treating everyone as an adult. Agile flexible working means no-one has to choose between their wellbeing and their career, or their job and all the other parts of their life. And if you give people space to plan their day, their week, they can start to create those conditions which are needed to focus and to innovate.
- Values-led culture. At Blood Cancer UK, we use our values and mission as our decision making framework- so for example any member of staff when making a decision about where and when to work, will consider if it’s the best decision in order to achieve our mission of beating blood cancer. And they will stand in others shoes which is one of our values, for example they wouldn’t call in an in-person meeting with 24 hours notice, and they wouldn’t call someone at 10pm if that’s the time they are choosing to work.
IW: What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?
JB: Listening. Often, we recruit really great people to work in teams alongside us, who have different ideas, different knowledge and different ways of thinking about problems. Being able to make use of all that expertise is so important. We know that the more diverse a team is, the better their results and outputs will be. So listening to everyone, and showing that you will listen to everyone is key to get the best possible performance from your team. Being known as someone who listens also means your teams are more likely to tell you if something isn’t quite right.
IW: What’s your advice on how best to engage remote teams?
JB: Agree with each team how they best work together, and how they best communicate. Some teams will want to check-in daily with each other, to stay connected, and to prevent isolation. But some other teams might not need that every day, especially if their roles mean they often interact with others. And once you know that, plan in time for the teams to collaborate remotely, and also to socialise. Socialising remotely can feel a bit forced sometimes, so shorter, informal coffee and chat sessions might work, or ask some of the team to organise this between them.
IW: Following on from that question, how do you build a strong inclusive culture with a hybrid workforce?
JB: Using asynchronous communication is a great way to ensure everyone can access the same information, but at a time when they can focus on it. Setting up good communication channels is key- what are the expectations on responses, and how do individuals know when something is urgent? We’ve found the simpler the better, so we use our Outlook calendars to show when we are not available. That means individuals have more control over their working day, and are able to ring-fence focus time when they need it, while remaining available for colleagues and for collaboration. Encouraging people to talk to each other is also really important- just checking if someone has any flexibility in their diary rather than sending a lunchtime meeting request, for example.
IW: Focusing on employee emotional wellbeing, how do we help employees create boundaries between work and home life?
JB: We’ve tried a few things to help with switching off at the end of the day. Some of these include removing work communication channels from personal devices, shutting down work devices at the end of the day and putting them in another room or a drawer, buddying up with a colleague to encourage both individuals to log-off at an agreed time, and asking our senior leaders to share their own techniques for doing this. We found that this needs reinforcing often, as it is so easy to think ‘I’ll just answer a few emails’, and then end up working too many hours.
IW: 4-Day week – Yes or No?
JB: Yes- but more flexibly than that. I think we should be working less, and can do that without harming productivity, so a 28–30-hour week sounds great. I think if individuals can choose how they work those hours, that gives the best results, and it will be different in every organisation. Some workplaces can shut for a day a week, and that works well for them and for their employees. In other workplaces, a different approach might work better. And not every individual works best in that way. Talking to employees, and working out what works best for each organisation seems key here, one size doesn’t fit all.
IW: We are a big believer that fostering psychological safety is an organisational imperative. Do you agree and if so, why?
JB: Yes absolutely! We’ve been focussing on psychological safety at Blood Cancer UK recently. For us, we believe that we will beat blood cancer faster if we can harness all of the expertise and experience of our whole staff team. That means everyone needs to be able to share ideas, and crucially to say if something isn’t working. Otherwise, we could waste time pursing a course of action that half of our teams can see isn’t working. Being able to share when we’ve made mistakes is also so important, as innovation comes from trying new things. If we only try things we are certain will work perfectly, we won’t innovate fast enough, and it’ll take us longer to reach our mission of beating blood cancer.
IW: There will be more generations in the workplace than ever before. Each with its own expectations and needs from an employer. How do you try to fulfil all of them?
JB: I think sometimes it’s easy to fall into over-generalising about what different generations want, and to forget that there are other intersections which fall across generations, and which need considering just as much. For example, there are introverts and extroverts across all generations, who might have very different preferences about remote and hybrid working. Also, people have caring responsibilities across all generations. So I think asking your staff what they need is the most important way to retain the great colleagues you already have.
IW: To say we’ve seen a lot of change in the past two years would be an understatement. We want you to get your crystal ball out and predict what will be the top priorities for people choosing an employer over the next 5 years?
- Offering flexible and agile working will be key I think, as many of us have reflected about the type of work we want to do, and where we want to do it. Giving people a choice wherever you can, and trusting them to make good decisions as adults, is a good way to do this.
- The purpose of an organisation- what positive impact do you have, and how can anyone who works with you input into that. And more widely than that- how is your organisation interacting with the world around it. For example, are you being sustainable, are you actively taking steps to increase diversity in the workplace.
- Finally, I think wellbeing will remain an important consideration for people looking for their next move. An authentic approach to wellbeing, which considers prevention and support when individuals need it, should be an expectation everyone can have of their workplace.