10 Top Tips for Better Working Lives

by Morag NorwoodMember of the Business Culture Community, People Transformation & Change Leader

HR and transformation leader and Business Culture Community member Morag Norwood has had a career to date spanning the automotive, financial services and consulting sectors, working for organisations including Accenture, The Volkswagen Group, Bibby Financial Services and PwC. In this exclusive blog, following her speaking appearance at Business Culture Connected 2023, Morag shares her perspective on today’s working environments and practices, and how to successfully adapt these across different companies and sectors in order to create a more compelling employee experience; a positive, productive culture and better working lives.

As the focus of my career has been spent looking for ways to create better working lives, it’s a topic where I have a breadth of practical experience, the passion to drive change, and the opportunity to align this with my personal values of integrity, equality and fairness.

The Business Culture Connected Conference was packed with thought-provoking business culture and engagement insights. Hybrid and flexible working emerged as a key topic. Companies are now offering a diverse variety of arrangements and these different working practices are becoming the norm for many people and organisations. My initial reaction when being asked about my own role and organisation (as the Former Group Head of People at Citygate Automotive) was to highlight the challenge of performing certain automotive tasks from home.

I began to consider many other occupations where hybrid and flexible working is difficult or even impossible. Speaking on one of the panel sessions at the event, “Delivering meaningful change … even in the face of resistance” we examined the themes of transformation, leadership, behaviour change and inclusivity. The new initiatives and trends in working practices that we are hearing about, and may be experiencing ourselves, are transforming working lives and behaviours but are not fit for purpose across the board. While I would tend to agree that hybrid and flexible working can create a better work life balance, I also immediately reflect on those professions that need to be on site daily, and who could not fulfil their purpose otherwise.

Within the context then of these types of organisations, where it is not a practical option to work from home for even a day a week, we still need to consider how we can provide more flexibility and balance. For example, perhaps these employees can have an enhanced employee experience and better working life when it includes greater freedom to flex their hours.

These would be my top 10 tips to support a better working life and increased employee engagement:

    1. Creative thinking is key. This includes harnessing employee voice from across the business. Does everyone really need to be onsite from 9am to 5:30pm, 5 days a week or is there an opportunity to be more flexible? Can we be creative in devising working patterns and think innovatively when reviewing schedules? I would recommend that quality time is dedicated to this activity and that it is regularly reviewed, in collaboration with colleagues from across the business. As an example, flexing hours so that an employee can visit the gym at lunchtime can have a huge impact on them. Recording particular arrangements reached with individual employees, including whether they are permanent or temporary and perhaps subject to review on a date in the future is also important and helps to ensure expectations are managed. In some more complex cases, it may be prudent to seek expert advice.
    2. Show appreciation that work is not life. Time off may be needed at times for significant life events or even emergencies. The immediate consideration should not be how this time can be made up as this focus can serve to disengage people. Values and expectations should be communicated and understood before a prospective employee even applies for a role within your organisation. They should also be constantly woven into communications and development activities.
    3. Make great onsite facilities available. If you have onsite breakout facilities, ensure that these are clean, modern and, more importantly, that you’ve asked your colleagues what they would like to see in such areas, rather than this being decided solely by the leadership or a facilities team. Keeping these facilities under review and regularly obtaining feedback to make smaller changes, where beneficial, is also key as the world moves fast and with it the needs of your employees.
    4. A diverse team working towards a common goal. Within any given organisation there may be roles and activities that allow a more flexible and/or hybrid approach. Communicate and engage with employees and encourage them to support and champion one another, understand and appreciate differences, and celebrate the success of the “team” as a whole.
    5. Honesty is the only option. If there is a requirement to be in the office every day, organisations need to be transparent and upfront when recruiting. At the very least, never advertise a role as hybrid when this won’t ultimately be realistic. Review what your organisation offers and focus on your employee value proposition. Your EVP should be regularly reviewed, using a multi-channel communications approach, in order to engage with prospective as well as existing employees. Highlight those areas where you’re clearly excelling and make sure your target audiences know about it!
    6. Establish community partnerships. Wherever possible and practical, establish local partnerships and employee benefits with local providers such as nearby gyms and dry cleaners, to assist employees with their non-work activities. This will provide a more holistic employee experience and greater engagement with your organisation.
    7. Implement visible external engagement. Making provision to host engagement, wellbeing and equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) sessions in person, with advance planning and time allowance for employees to attend such sessions, can really pay dividends. This will often mean an additional budget allocation for these activities as there is a greater cost for in person versus virtual sessions, especially if there are multiple locations to take into account. However, these vitally important areas can be planned for within the annual budget cycle.
    8. Support Wellbeing. Regardless of company size, ensure you have a wellbeing proposition which is inclusive, fit for purpose and which has been co-created with colleagues from across your business.
    9. Engage more and better! Review different engagement solutions in addition to pulse and annual surveys and consider the ones which will suit your own workforce practices and habits. In many professions, employees are not online often during the working day but may be required to complete online surveys. There are solutions which could suit them better.
    10. Recognise and celebrate success. Celebrate and recognise collectively and ensure awards and rewards are inclusive. Rather than leadership implementing a one size fits all approach, ask your employees for their suggestions on how they would like to be celebrated.

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