A workplace wellbeing conversation with… Alex Hyde- Director at BIE Executive, an executive search firm
- How are you feeling today on a scale of 1-10 and why?
Today I’m a 7/10 and can be confident when answering that question! I use a mental health tracking tool called Form which I try to use every day before work to find out where I am at that day and then approach it based on how I feel. It also helps bring awareness to which component of my wellbeing needs extra attention.
There are a few questions you need to answer about things like your sleep, how motivated you feel and how you feel about your finances for example and it gives you a score at the end.
- What have the biggest challenges been at BIE in 2020 from a wellbeing and culture perspective
The biggest challenge has been everyone working remotely for such a long period of time. As a business and a team, we have dealt with this very well and I think our culture will come out even stronger because of this year. We have found ways of working together more effectively and everyone has pulled together. This has included making the most of Zoom and Teams to improve communications, setting daily times to meet, debrief and check in with each other. It’s not the same as being with each other but it’s helped us to stay close, retain our culture and promote wellbeing.
Working in recruitment we’re dependent on the economy. A strong economy is better for employment, which is therefore better for recruiters, so the tough markets we’ve faced has been a real challenge. Our industry is also sales driven and competitive which doesn’t always lend itself to collaboration but thankfully that’s not the case at BIE. We work really well together to ensure that we all benefit from the relationships we have across the business. This has been a big focus for us in 2020 and we have really pulled together and supported each other through it.
- How has BIE looked after its employees in 2020?
At BIE the message from the top has been to look after yourself and work in a way that works for you as it is the best way of driving performance. This year has been no exception and we have not been pushed to work harder and perform at a higher level to hit numbers because that’s just not the ethos of the company. Being empowered to work in a way which works for us has been crucial as it means we can be at our best when working with clients and candidates. We hire talented people who put themselves under enough pressure to perform at a high level so additional stress will be counter-productive and come through negatively in the way we manage our relationships.
After the second lockdown was announced for November, our CEO immediately sent a communication outlining what support was available and encouraging us to work in a sustainable way. For example we have been offered virtual group personal training sessions, the re-introduction of summer hours so we can finish at 1pm on Fridays to make the most of the daylight and switch off before the weekend. We’ve also been given financial support to set up our home office so we can feel our best and work effectively.
From a day to day perspective we are encouraged to do things such as block time out in our diaries to get fresh air, importantly not just at lunchtime, speak to someone outside of our team at least once per week and use the mental health support we have access to such as our EAP. We are also looking at new providers in this space to see if there is additional support, we can offer our people.
- How high up on the agenda is wellbeing at BIE and has it changed in 2020?
Wellbeing is a key business priority for BIE and as with most companies it has received more attention this year than it would have otherwise as a result of COVID. I think some of the mental health awareness work I started last year has definitely helped but we have got a number of people across the company who are keen to drive it.
Clearly, we are a commercial business, but the senior leadership team recognises that success is a key driver of happiness too. A good example of how this translates into working life is an internal business development competition we have done recently which doesn’t just tie in targeted KPIs on meetings and fees, it also includes points for healthy lifestyle behaviours such as exercise, nutrition and meditation.
However, culturally there has not been a significant change. BIE has always supported flexible working. Prior to lockdown, more than 80% of our team worked flexibly, as we supported them with balancing their professional and personal commitments; for example, with caring responsibilities and further study. As an agile and forward-thinking organisation, we were therefore well-placed to deal with the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the workplace. That said, we are now really missing each other!
- Who owns wellbeing at the business?
We are a small business and don’t have a separate HR function, so it is very much led from by our Senior Management Team. Everyone can contribute to wellbeing, so it is owned by everyone in effect. People who feel particularly passionate about certain areas of wellbeing tend to drive it and everything we do is inclusive and open to everyone.
- What is your vision for wellbeing in the next few years?
It’s growing really well organically at this stage and I believe it will carry on in this way as it works really well for us. With so much change recently, we have regular catch ups and contributions from across the business so we can meet what the team’s needs are at that point in time. We’ve also regularly conducted staff surveys on wellbeing so the leadership team can respond appropriately. It’s great to see wellbeing become so much more important for employers and it’s brilliant to feel that we are leading the way with our approach.
- How do you personally look after your own health and wellbeing?
I get up at 6am and do 20-30 minutes of yoga and 15-20 minutes of meditation every morning. It has become routine and helps me feel much happier and more productive in other aspects of my life. I’ve got an 18 month-old son so I’m used to early starts!
I also go for a walk at least once a day, exercise and eat well, with of course allowing for some comfort food from time to time! To create boundaries between home and work I try to be disciplined and physically put my screens away so there is nothing I can see in my “home time” that is to do with work. It means when I am with my son, I am present with him rather than checking emails and thinking about work. By no means am I perfect, but I try to do this as much as I can and there are of course times when you need to prioritise work. Balance is the crucial thing so if I do have to work late or have an intense period I now look I then make sure I have quieter period away from screens when I can,
- What is your philosophy to life?
Feel don’t think. My previous challenges with poor mental health came from over-thinking which would often lead me into an anxiety spiral. I found that my thoughts often drove me to do loads of things that I thought I should rather than stopping to go inwards and consider where my focus should be.
I have spent the last 2 years trying to make my thoughts and inner critic less shouty which has really helped my performance. The yoga and meditation have helped me create that space between my thoughts and my reactions. So rather than judging my thoughts, I see them for what they are which quietens the thoughts and makes me more productive in the day. Essentially, I try to be kinder to myself and it’s working well. I’ve managed to stay calm, focused, and productive through 2020 which given all of its challenges feels like no mean feat!
Maybe the interesting point here also is recruitment –being sales driven and competitive is not always collaborative – and yet this is where BIE really shines.