In the April issue of South West Business Insider. Clare, our Group MD, is featured alongside other business leaders talking about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace.
How do you monitor and maintain well-being against the backdrop of remote working?
Emberson Group is an entirely distributed network of agencies, founded 10 years ago. We have been distributed since inception – long before the pandemic forced businesses to pack up the office. You could say we are veterans when it comes to tackling the realities of remote working. We see it as something that needs continuous attention to ensure it works for the whole team.
We are seeing an increasing trend born out of lockdown where the working day is becoming longer, and more pressurised because there is no commuting. Traditional downtimes for travel to and from meetings have disappeared, so a culture of ‘always on’ is evolving. This situation can be exacerbated when working between international time zones as well. We need to challenge it and strike a healthy balance.
When you work as a distributed team trust plays a huge part. We try to respect personal boundaries. Someone may have workload issues or has had a bad weekend. Just because you can’t physically see it, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Gentle support and respect play a large role in our culture.
Our model is driven by a ‘people-first’ principle. We start at the core and aim to provide our teams with the choice about where they work best and when they work, so they can have a life outside of work too.
It has been proven to us over the years that if our people are happy, they stay with us. And as a result, our customers get a better experience too. We don’t have the traditional agency staff turnover situation, because we focus on fostering long–term relationships with clients and employees.
We believe it is possible for businesses to ‘do well and do good’. With a focus on people, profit and reducing our environmental impact – we work hard to make an impact in all those areas.
We have set up a programme of wellbeing for our entire distributed team. We hope this goes someway to making them feel they are appreciated and valuable members of the team. At Christmas we send hampers, on Valentine’s day it was chocolates and a card. It is always evolving and a fun way to stay in touch!
In February, we launched the Emberson Sustainability Fund, which aims to be regenerative for every employee. We believe this is unique and has been formed to ring-fence a proportion of Emberson Group’s profits for sustainable development and improvement, as decided by our employees. We are excited by what we hope to achieve with it as it builds momentum.
Team Mental Health and Bath Mind
We have a reciprocal partnership with Bath Mind. We help them and they help us. We’ve run marketing strategy workshops for them, created campaigns and our team are keen fundraisers for them too. In turn they have run workshops with our staff focussing on mental health and wellbeing. The most recent one focussed on advice for getting through lockdown with helpful hints and tips.
We try to engender a culture where people can speak freely – where it’s OK not to be OK and we hope that everyone feels they can be listened to and understood. We meet regularly when we are able to (under normal circumstances). It is important to learn each other’s communication styles and to build team rapport.
However, we appreciate there are times when talking to colleagues or your line manager about your wellbeing or any personal issues you may have might be uncomfortable, so we have offered our staff access to external professional third parties as well. For example, CBT sessions via Vitality.
When it comes to financial control and accountability, we have complete transparency. Every month each business reviews their own P&L and management accounts. One of our strategic priorities is speed and simplicity and we want to embrace the constant improvements offered by digital ways of working, where it helps us, not hinders us, or gets in the way of our creativity. For example, it is important to see where the businesses may be over-heating using systems that give real-time information. Our aim is to see pinch points before they become a punch – and that helps the team to feel supported.