Why inclusivity stole the show in the Charlie Jacobs Wellbeing Works.

We interview many business leaders on Wellbeing Works, and I’ve been mulling over why Charlie Jacobs, then Senior Partner of Linklaters, caused such a flurry of appreciative emails. Having re-read the transcript, I believe it was because of his commitment to inclusive wellbeing, and his deep understanding that we all have different needs.

Charlie used the word “inclusive” six times. That’s impressive, but could he articulate how to intentionally build an inclusive wellbeing strategy in a way that others could learn from it? He started in a compelling place, building a business case for inclusivity that every partner is going to back. He connected it to talent attraction and retention, which sits at the heart of long-term success for a professional services firm.

“When you come to a firm like Linklaters, you want to work on the best deals, you want to be pushed, you want to be in that culture. BUT you also want to feel it’s also protective, inclusive place that cares about your health and wellbeing.”

With that foundation established, let’s dive into what Charlie said about the practical steps. He talked about the importance of giving permission, making it easy to do things and providing high levels of choice that recognises different needs and preferences.


Creating “me time”


Again and again, Charlie talked about the importance of creating time for people to look after their wellbeing. That starts with him, whether he’s building a cycle ride into his commute or doing yoga with his wife every day during the pandemic. He’s directive with his colleagues, suggesting they take leave if they haven’t taken enough, or come in work mid-morning if they have been working long hours. He’s recognising the importance of “me time”.

We see this at BetterSpace. We all get £50 a month wellbeing allowance, but just as important is the four hours a week we all get in wellbeing time. In our time-starved world, it’s only when you create time that you’re truly giving employees permission to look after themselves. Seeing Nike giving everyone a week off for wellbeing for mental health work is great, but how are you doing this on a routine basis?


Make it easy


Wellbeing is all about behaviour change, and making it easier for people to do things is second key element of an inclusive strategy. Linklaters have introduced an in-house GP, a dentist and a hygienist. Two years ago they introduced in-house psychological support three mornings a week with confidential bookings. Making recovery services visible and accessible invites people in, in sharp contrast to the traditional EAP model with low levels of accessibility and engagement.


Provide holistic support


Too many employers are still looking for one-size-fits-all solutions to wellbeing, often trying to find the killer meditation or exercise app. Charlie is part of a new generation of leaders who understands we all have different needs and preferences, that choice is the only way to engage everyone. This becomes even more important as workforces become more diverse. He talked about hearing about BetterSpace when we were in concept phase and looking for employers who wanted to trial personalised choice. “You really did have the A-Z of everything on the menu. BetterSpace was more inclusive than anything I’d seen and based on that I said okay let’s give a pilot a go.”

“What they [Linklaters employees] like about something like BetterSpace is there’s so many things out there that maybe people might not have thought about in the context of health, wellbeing and ‘me time’.”


And finally, on leadership.


All of us working on tackling the mental health crisis know the impact individual leaders can have, so it was interesting to hear Charlie talk about the risk / reward profile of supporting wellbeing. “Personally I saw no downside in this. I’m not worried about people thinking I’m some sort of wimp woke new world leader – I’d far prefer to win people’s trust. I hope they’ll say ‘he looks like he’s trying something a little bit different, he does care about us and he’s focused on culture’.”

Charlie finished his term as Senior Partner of Linklaters on the 30th June 2021, and since joined JP Morgan as co-head of UK investment banking.


ABOUT BETTERSPACE

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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