Return to Office with Innerfit - Episode 1

Female businesswoman excused from a meeting to take a phone call

In this four-part series Robert Walters Consultant Steve Church is joined by Chris Pinner, Founder at Innerfit, an employee wellbeing service that believes if you feel well you work well. 

Innerfit was founded in 2016 by Chris Pinner who had worked at a top US investment bank, Strategy Consultancy and Sports Marketing agency. In the workplace Chris saw first hand just how important a team’s well-being is to morale and productivity, as well as the need to prove a Return on Investment. Innerfit focus on helping improving businesses employee wellbeing through workshops, 1-1s, classes and consulting. 

In this podcast series, Steve and Chris discuss the return to the office from a mental health and well being perspective, the challenges faced by leaders and employees, and potential solutions going forward.

 

Chris Pinner
Founder
Innerfit

LinkedIn

 

Steve Church
Consultant
Robert Walters

LinkedIn

 

Transcript:

Steve Church:
Welcome to another one of our Talent Talks with Robert Walters podcasts recording on a sunny Friday morning from our home offices. Today's podcast takes a different take as I am collaborating with Chris Pinner from Innerfit on a series of four podcasts where we will be covering the return to the office from a mental health and well-being perspective, the challenges faced by leaders and employees and potential solutions going forward.

My name is Steve Church, a Consultant on the qualified finance desk at Robert Walters and I am joined by Chris Pinner, founder of Innerfit in 2016, advising firms on the impact of well-being on morale and productivity.

Morning Chris, how are you?

Chris Pinner:
Hi Steve, very well thanks, how are you?

Steve Church:
Yeah really well, thank you. So this topic is really at the heart of companies at the moment and from my work as a recruiter, I guess I see it from both the candidate and client side. Whereas yourself more from the employer and employee side. From your work recently, are you getting a sense that workers are ready to go back to the office?

Chris Pinner:
I think it's a mixed bag would be the honest response, just to frame things a little bit, at Innerfit, we believe if we feel well, we work well, so that thread is going to run through what we're talking about today. I think whether people are ready or not to go back is kind of linked to that and how we feel about it, whether we're anxious or whether we're excited.

What we're seeing, even this week, I was thinking about how best to start this conversation and I thought well actually this week, if I think about what we've done. We kicked off Monday talking to a technology company about mental health and conversations around that topic. We’re working with the NHS literally right now, we've spoken to a global consulting company, a global communications company, a bank yesterday, we were part of their away day, talking about motivation, structure and boundaries and also frontline lessons and resilience. A fashion company as well, so from what we've observed with just companies in this week, I think it's a mixed bag, I think some people in the chat function, for example, are saying they are really excited, others are saying words like overwhelmed, stressed, overworked, tired, fatigued. All of these words are coming out more in the mental health focus sessions where we asked people to use two words to describe how they're feeling at this moment in time. I think anecdotally just from what we've seen this week, I think people are thinking about it, but actually right now, a lot of them are just feeling a bit tired and a bit fatigued and a bit overwhelmed to be honest with you, and I think that's normal, I think we're talking about close to a year and a half where we've been working from home, and I think there's just that lack of connection, that lack of motivation and naturally we all go through dips and peaks. I think that's me hedging my bets on the answer to that question Steve.

Steve Church:
Yes absolutely, and it sounds like it's a combination of like you say feeling overworked from the environment that we went into at the start of the pandemic, and now like you say having that other element of being overwhelmed about the thoughts of going back to work, I suppose, and returning to office and the potential physical return to work and how that will work.

Chris Pinner:
That's it and I think I'll flow through that conversation, the away day yesterday that we did with the bank was initially attempting to be hybrid, there were going to be people encouraged to join up as a group and be part of a team tuning in from a conference room or co-working space. In reality, everyone was still at their desk in their lounge or in their study. I think for all of the talk about return to work and, obviously, for some companies that started a long time ago many people who have been in the office throughout, the communications company I mentioned, they've got engineers and operatives sitting in front of screens making sure that adverts come up at the right time, they've had to be on site from the word go. The fashion company I was talking about, people have been going in two days a week there for a while now, so I think there are definite exceptions to the general statement that I think actually companies are still figuring this all out, and I think leaders are still figuring this all out and so employees are figuring this all out, if we think about it organisation, leader, employee kind of level. That's where I’m at with it and at an organisational level what we're seeing is not necessarily the clearest remote working policies, we're seeing some companies, and bearing in mind that people we work with are often Heads of HR, Head of People, Well-being Leader type, we're seeing companies start to figure out what their remote working policy is.

Steve Church:
I think it echoes from what you were just saying about, I suppose there's not a lot of people that are actually back in the office yet and from the poll that I was running the other day, I think it was saying 55% of people said that they were still working from home and then I think it was less than 10% said they were back in the office five days a week. That kind of echoes the sentiment that a) companies are still working this out and b) I don't think a lot of employees or candidates know what's going on, and I think that might be in addition to that kind of level of overwhelmingness is that that sentiment of the unknown.

Chris Pinner:
We all know we don't like ambiguity as humans, and I think change, even if it's positive and I'm a believer that going back into work will be positive, because human connection is so important. I think the longest ever study into human happiness found that relationships, quality and quantity of relationships was the key thread that led to a good life versus a less happy life. So I think net net it is going to be positive, but does involve change and we know that humans can get a little bit scared of change, particularly in the context of health and everything that's just happened in the risks that might be associated with going back. I definitely think the results that you just spoke about resonate with what I’ve heard from the companies we’re working with at the moment.

Steve Church:
Absolutely and I think we'll cover a bit more in this on future episodes to come, but it's quite interesting about how the level of perception of mental health and well-being has increased a lot since we went into this remote working scenario. I think it'll be interesting to get your take around whether it's just being amplified now and whether that's going to continue once we get back into that office working environment.

Chris Pinner:
I think that for people listening, if you are in a leadership role or you are in a people related role, and frankly, if you're just part of a team and you're looking out for your colleagues, it's an important question. Right at the start of this when mental health and well-being really skyrocketed to the top of the agenda, it's really positive obviously. A few people at that moment were already thinking ahead a year or so thinking okay, is this going to be something that sticks, can we sustain this level of interest and commitment to health and well-being and mental health.

We had this crowd solving session which you were a part of Steve earlier in the week and that question was raised again, are we going to make it stick? and I think that's going to be the choice that's facing companies and team leaders and teammates over the coming months, was all of this talk? and yes there's a huge amount of awareness being raised, but are we intent on backing it up with action and are we going to commit to, for example, having well-being as a strategic objective in managers one to ones, are we going to say guys each month well-being needs to feature in your one to ones with your team, you need to have a mental health action plan in place, we have spoken about a remote working policy but does your company have a mental health policy? and do you have mental health first aiders? do you have a well-being stream which connects the employees with the group of well-being champions and senior leadership? I think all of these questions if you were to write down a big checklist of the 10 things we want to do as a company for our collective mental health and well-being. Where are you on that journey?

I know we will talk about this later on as well, but it's nice to think of it as a spectrum, I think at one end of the spectrum you've got a toxic culture, you've got one which doesn't recognise the importance of feeling well so that you work well and it doesn't have a mental health policy and champions network. At the other end you've got companies that are very clear on the structure and boundaries they're putting in place, they're very clear on the mental health policy and they've really embedded this culture of well-being. If you're listening to this, wondering where you fit on that spectrum, definitely put some thought into it because ultimately people and companies that fall behind, are going to lose out from a talent perspective. The communications company I mentioned earlier said they've definitely heard rumblings of people wanting to leave, even if the benefits packages are strong. We know that even two years ago, before the pandemic, I think it was 50%, 52% of millennials would go to a company that valued well-being, even if it paid 10% more. So I think that that's only going to have been exaggerated, so if you can get up that spectrum I think it's in your businesses interests frankly.

Steve Church:
Absolutely and I’ll just say the crowd solving event that you had earlier in the week was absolutely brilliant, I think just having an open forum for people to discuss how they're approaching it and for people to know that they're not alone in not necessarily knowing what to do and getting other people's ideas, it's really important going forward to participate and things like that, so i'd encourage anyone that wants to do that just to get in touch.

I think that sets the scene quite nicely for what we're going to go into in episode two so that will bring us to the end in this first episode around returning to the office but please do join us next time when we'll be discussing different approaches and thoughts from a leadership perspective as well.

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