Recently, my BetterSpace colleague Holly, wrote a really insightful blog on how our wellbeing time policy works for her. It made me reflect on why I believe in wellbeing time from both a personal and leadership perspective.
There has been a run of news recently, about companies giving their people extra time off. Probably the highest profile was the Bumble decision to give everyone a week off to combat ‘collective burnout’, but there are many others. Some give a day or so, as a one off, some a regular day per month. Whilst I applaud the intent, I’d love to know the depth of these initiatives. What are these businesses doing to assess their working practices, systems and behaviours to make sure that they aren’t going to return after that day or week off, and be mired in the same issues that lead to burnout in the first place? Is it ‘just’ that everyone has been working really hard and needs a break? Or do they have unrealistic deadlines? Unachievable targets? Are they tethered to their desks on back-to-back video calls? Are some of their colleagues working out of their bedrooms with no separation between work and relaxation?
This is why I like what wellbeing time does. The simple parameters are:
- Up to 4 hours a week to take at any time during the working week. This can be several short bursts, or in longer chunks. You don’t have to use it all, it will reset each week.
- It can’t be accrued – if you need longer off, we have holiday allowances, and mental health recovery days as well as sick leave.
- We ask that people log it so that colleagues know when someone is unavailable, and we are considerate of each other – don’t take your wellbeing time in the middle of a meeting you’ve committed to attend for example.
The intention is that it’s used for doing things that keep you well, mentally and physically. That could be anything from taking a nap, to walking the dog, to catching up with your kids when they come in from school, to calling a friend for a chat. Or a thousand other things – we are all individuals with our own preferences.
At our weekly team meeting on a Monday morning, we generally share what’s working and what’s not from a wellbeing perspective. This is a very open and safe discussion – helped tremendously by the explicit permission we all have to look after our wellbeing, both in terms of time, and also the £50 monthly allowance we each have for resources from our platform.
The working culture of start-ups and scale-ups is notorious for being gruelling at times – I know that our people work extra hours, often because they’ve been able to take that time to recharge during the day. We can spot a colleague who is struggling, their manager can check how they’re doing on a deadline that’s looming, or an objective that’s proving challenging. From my perspective as COO, I can see that we are productive – we’re hitting or exceeding our targets, our clients and users are really happy, our suppliers are performing well and our product is continuously improving.
My conclusion is, if there’s a real sense that burnout is building in your organisation, by all means hit that button and release the pressure through a week of shutdown – highly likely your people will relish it. But also take the time to understand what’s happening systemically in your business. Really tune in to the feedback from people, make it safe for them to speak up about their personal experience and invite ideas for improvements. These could include VC-free time (daily or weekly); flexible start/finish times; shorter meetings; better communications about deadline management. But I’d really urge you to consider testing wellbeing time out. If you’re not sure how it might work best in your business, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll happily provide a perspective.
BetterSpace is the employee wellbeing platform putting control where it belongs: in the hands of the individual employee. Our groundbreaking solution has been developed with medical and domain expertise and is aligned to our Six Pillars of Wellbeing. BetterSpace empowers your workforce to understand and fulfill their mental health needs.
This approach has achieved engagement rates of 94%, compared to the average usage rate of 2-18% for Employee Assistance Programmes and 10-40% for points solutions.
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