Return to Office with Innerfit - Episode 2

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.

Steve and Chris progress on from the scene setting episode one and in this second episode discuss in more detail about leaders and employees with an emphasis on performance and productivity, specifically within this period of transitioning back to the office and/or a hybrid way of working. 

Episode resources:

 

Chris Pinner
Founder
Innerfit

LinkedIn

 

Steve Church
Consultant
Robert Walters

LinkedIn

 

Transcript:

Steve Church:
Welcome to another one of our Talent Talk with Robert Walters podcasts, this is episode two of the four part series around return to the office and its effects on wellbeing and mental health with Chris Pinner from Innerfit.

In the last episode, we were setting the scene, and today sees us move to the two different lenses we were speaking about previously, the leaders and employees and an emphasis on performance and productivity.

Morning Chris how are you today?

Chris Pinner:
Hello Steve, very well thanks, you?

Steve Church:
Very well, thank you, very good to speak to you again. It was actually during your crowd solving event that we spoke about in the previous podcast where I think a point really resonated with me, that whilst I felt like I was being more productive working from home, I was wondering how I was measuring that and was I actually working longer hours to achieve essentially the same amount of work. I'm not sure whether you had these discussions with your clients about measuring productivity and about how workers are performing?

Chris Pinner:
Starting right from the top, I suppose the holy grail, almost is if you can link wellbeing and performance. Improve the correlation between it and there was one study actually that proved it really clearly, there's an Aon benefits and results survey from a year or so ago that showed that 90+% of companies and people agree that there's a correlation between wellbeing and performance. So subjectively measuring your own productivity is definitely indicating that wellbeing matters and, obviously, I believe, if you feel well you work well.

I think what you're hinting at there is really interesting because it's around this idea of just increasing the hours we're doing to hit that output and thinking that because maybe we've done 1% more we forget that we've worked 10+% more hours. Microsoft released some research on the number of meetings we’re having has gone up 148% I think, on the year before, The number of documents we’re creating and sharing across teams, they saw had been up by 66%, so I think the volume of work that is happening is definitely up, it's a question of whether or not stepping over the mark on our own structure and boundaries is sustainable and actually boosting the productivity of what we're doing and our performance. I think that probably as you hinted, was mentioned on our crowd solving piece, is probably something that whether or not we've verbalised it and explicitly spoken about it as a leadership team or a group of teammates, there's probably something in our subconscious that we know deep down our productivity isn't always where we want it to be.

Steve Church:
Yeah that's an absolutely crazy stat that you were saying from Microsoft about the amount of teams meetings that we are having and how much it's increased, and i've certainly felt that from my perspective, and I know a lot of my colleagues have as well. I think there's all this talk about zoom fatigue, which I completely agree with, it feels like at the moment, you feel like you can, and i've been guilty of it as well. just chucking a Microsoft teams meeting into someone's diary and presume that they're going to accept it and it's half an hour that day taken and it just multiplies and multiplies.

Chris Pinner:
Yeah and you're not alone in doing that, the communications company, who we worked with recently said it's a real challenge to say no. One person actually said two things, one is I couldn't come last time because I actually had five other meetings in the diary at that moment, so choosing this one, even though I wanted to was tricky, and the second thing we've heard again and again really, but this specific quote stood out for me was that, we have meeting after meeting after meeting and because they're cross teams we don't always then go away for the next two weeks and prioritise the actions in that. The other teams priority one might be our priority three, so we're trying to get our priorities one and two done before that, so the next time you have your cross team meeting no one's done anything on that priority and it just becomes a status update where nothing's changed, but again you've got another meeting in the diary.

Having the ability to say no is important, having the willingness to say no, and I think there's a lot here around psychological safety. John, a coach who delivers leadership training on behalf of Innerfit and for his own company Growing Vision talks about how if you don't feel safe in your environment, ultimately you’re not going to say no I can't do that, you're going to say yes because the culture might be one of just saying yes because you want to help the team, you want to show that you're up for promotion or that type of stuff. But, if you sustain that over a long period of time, and I think that's what we're seeing now is the unsustainable number of hours and lack of boundaries that we've been trying to work through over the last year or so is kind of coming to a head. Hence, all of the mental health conversations we've been having here, because you say, on the one end of the spectrum you've got complete mental fitness, you've got cognitive performance, you're really, really performing to the best of your ability. At the other end actually you're feeling really demotivated and you almost don't want to turn up for work because you're burnt out. I think we're having more conversations at this end of the spectrum, the burnout end of the spectrum, as opposed to i'm really firing on all cylinders, which is maybe due to the nature of what we do as a business and how we try and help, but actually i'd love to be able to get towards that top end of the spectrum.

Steve Church:
Yeah absolutely and what i've been seeing, particularly with our company, where some people are going back into the office, some people are still working from home, is that there's that trickiness to being able to manage people that are working from home, and in the office and trying to do both at the same time. I'm not sure whether you've seen a lot around that or not?

Chris Pinner:
The split teams idea is a tricky one if you are a leader and managing team performance. We've started to get requests in again for in person delivery from September, October onwards and the question of practicality, how do you do that if you're doing a cook-along with a nutritionist, you've got a group in the office as a team building exercise, what about all the people at home and, ultimately how do you figure out the best way to deliver that session if you've got some people who feel a bit detached from the room itself? I think practically there are some considerations there. But at a high level I think what we're seeing is this zoom fatigue really starting to kick in and the split teams point really boiling down to good communication.

If I come back to the Q12, John, the leadership coach will always reference Gallup Q12, a really good, well recognised engagement survey that can help with understanding a team's performance and level of engagement. So basic point is, if you can answer yes or good to these 12 questions, chances are you've got a high performing team, whether that's remote, whether that's in the office or whether that's a split team. It's things like Q1 is do I know what's expected of me at work? and I think Q5 or Q7 is did I get praise in the last seven days for the work I did? I think Q1, do I know what's expected of me at work? In the office it’s a little bit easier maybe to have that informal communication, to say ok, how are you getting on with this task?, how are you approaching it? Okay, I expected the deadline for this should be Friday, but now it's got to be a dedicated meeting so that presents a different challenge in terms of productivity. I think if i'm thinking about praise for good work, again it's something that you could have done previously to say ‘oh nice job’ passing someone in the corridor or at the water cooler, but now it's got to be part of that dedicated meeting or one to one so definitely a challenge, I think communication has a lot to do with it, but again interested in your thoughts on this one?

Steve Church:
I think a lot of it is coming back to that level of communication and like you say with Q1, do you know what's expected of you at work? as you say, when you're in the office you get a feeling for that, you can just have a chat with your boss, you can just ask them whether you're hitting certain levels. I think when you're working from home it takes that effort to reach out and like you say there's another meeting going into discussing all this, which will go on for another half an hour or so, which could potentially lead to burnout. Does an employee working at home feel like they are trusted to be getting on with their work or not, and if they feel like they're performing they might not reach out, so I think going back into the office can lead to that being a lot better monitored than necessarily working from home.

Chris Pinner:
I hope so and that Microsoft research I mentioned before, actually if we split it down by group they found that 61% of business leaders were thriving, versus 39% were struggling. If you look at the other end of the spectrum, the millennials, new employees who have joined within the last year and potentially never met anyone, frontline workers and gen Z, the ratio is flipped, so actually you've got 67% to 61% struggling. I think that communication you'd hope and connection when you go back into the office will come through again, particularly for those people that have joined within the last year and never met anyone, we've seen a lot of people feeling a little bit isolated. I like your point about feeling comfortable enough to speak up, and if you're underperforming or think you're not doing so well, are you going to really proactively communicate that at this point, i’m not sure.

Steve Church:
Absolutely, and I think that brings us to a natural close to this episode. I think that the piece around the high performance Q12 with John was new to me but really really interesting so thanks so much for that. In the next episode we're going to go into a bit more detail on the challenges that leaders are facing and any potential solutions that we may be seeing, but thanks again for your time today Chris.

Chris Pinner:
Thank you Steve.

»
abstract orange wall

Diversity & Inclusion  

»

The Robert Walters Leadership Series 

»

Hiring Advice 

»