Return to Office with Innerfit - Episode 3

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.

This episode is the third in the series where Steve and Chris dig a bit deeper into the mentalities of leaders when it comes to returning to the office, their internal policies, what we are seeing, the challenges they're facing, and any potential solutions to these challenges

 

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. This is episode three of the four part series around the return to the office and its effects on wellbeing and mental health with Chris Pinner from Innerfit.

Today, we will dive a bit deeper into the mentalities of leaders, what we are seeing, the challenges they're facing, and any potential solutions to these challenges. Morning Chris, how are you?

Chris Pinner:
Very well thank you, you?

Steve Church:
Yeah really well, thank you, not too bad at all.

Chris, i've been reaching out to a few clients recently and what i'll say is that the views i've been getting are quite polarising from when I speak to candidates on a day to day basis, who quite like the idea of hybrid working. Whereas a lot of the leaders i'm speaking to from, as an example, FTSE listed natural resources companies, they seem to have a very positive outlook on returning to the office. They feel that it encourages that element of collaboration when going back to the office, and there's also elements with HR as well, where emails are getting misinterpreted while doing remote working and they're finding that it's causing a few more issues by being remote. It would be interesting to get your perspective on thoughts from the leaders of companies you're working with, and the challenges that potentially they're facing, and any routes that they're taking to help this?

Chris Pinner:
One hundred percent, and actually i'd agree with what it sounds like you're hearing, that there's some people who obviously love the idea of staying remote completely, then there's others who really want to or need to get back in the office. If I think about what we've seen from a leader perspective, thinking about a HR business partner at a marketing company, they did a six month pilot to see whether remote first and a four day work week could work for the business. I think they're just getting the results in now and it sounds like surprise surprise, no one has voted against the four day work week. But the challenge with that, and the HR business partner was explaining to us, is you’re not really sure if you're seeing what's underneath the surface on those results because anyone's going to be reluctant to have an extra day at work, depending on how much you love your job. It's nuanced I think would be the initial thoughts that come to my mind Steve.

Steve Church:
I think the first thing that springs to my mind about a four day working week is great. The second thing that springs to my mind, is, I need to fit all of my work into a four day working week and does that mean that i'm just going to be spending longer hours on those four days and potentially increasing the chance of burnout on those four days, rather than just spreading across a five day week?

Chris Pinner:
That's exactly it, and that's exactly the hunch that this person's got, especially if you tie in the whole remote working piece. I think there are some tasks which are obviously more productive to just do at home, if you want to put your headphones in and you've got a report to write, you need to get into that flow state and you don't actually need any collaboration to make it happen, absolutely fine.

The other end of the spectrum, if you need to come up with creative ideas, you need to brainstorm, you need a whiteboard, yes the Microsoft teams whiteboard function is great, but ultimately there's something special about being able to move post it notes around a wall. I think as a leader the type of thing we're hearing is that there are still big question marks on how to bridge that gap, and I think that whether you're a millennial just looking for that team connection, or actually you're a leader and in six months time you're wondering, are we still going to be functioning at this point because what we've done so far is increased the number of hours we've worked, to our previous conversation you're probably wondering how are you going to bridge that gap? So I think what we're seeing practically is people hedging their bets a little bit and going more towards two/three days in the office over the coming six months or so and to track the results that they get. But same question back at you in terms of the average that you're seeing, and maybe the range in terms of days in the office?

Steve Church:
I will echo your sentiments again on that, I think the majority of people that I have spoken to, especially some of the clients that we work with, they’re looking at a 60% return to the office, part of me thinks that it's a follow the herd mentality, that's what other people are doing so maybe that's what I should do. I have spoken to other clients, a big oil and gas company who want their employees to be back in the office five days a week because they feel like having them back will increase those elements of collaboration, they feel performance will be better by having everyone back in the office. I wonder whether it's to do with the leaders mentality and whether they're from a older school of thought, where they feel like everyone should be back in the office and they can't necessarily do their work from home. Sometimes I feel like the more modern industries are moving towards that hybrid working scenario whereas some of the more sort of I suppose old school industries are happy to try and get everyone back in the office, whether it's down to trust or whether it's just down to that leaders mentality I don't know. Ultimately I think it's going to have to see those leaders going to a HR function, going to a head of HR, head of wellbeing and getting they’re perspective on it.

Chris Pinner:
Trust is an interesting word. I’ll pick up on that as well as the idea around age and type of company, and age being part of type of company. I think the four day working week we are mentioning was definitely young, I think the average age was below 30. The fashion company we're working with, average age again below 30. I know that their customer care team has gone completely remote so there's this fresh way of thinking. Culturally, do we have what it takes to make this possible? I think trust is a big part of that and having the right remote working policy and guidelines in place is important. That then comes back to the leadership piece around trust and I think it's okay to have a loose remote working policy if you have some accountability in there as well across teams. Because I think unless you have the accountability and the trust to go and make it happen you're going to be struggling to really have a common approach, and what I mean by that is, in the absence of accountability. For example, if you want to have zoom free Fridays once a month and that's your remote working policy ,that's the extent of it, but senior leaders are booking in meetings on Fridays regularly and there's no accountability and no actual consequences of doing that, the whole thing becomes lost and people lose faith and people lose trust in the business. So that was what I was thinking on that point and again it is down to the individual culture of the business.

Steve Church:
Absolutely. I'd quite like to touch on something that you briefly mentioned in the last episode about leaders and the necessity to try and retain talent, which obviously, from my perspective, I speak to leaders a lot about a) retaining talent b) attracting talent. Candidates I speak to, alot of the time it's going to be the first question they ask, is what's their hybrid working policy? am I going to have to be back in the office now? I have to brief clients now that is what people are asking. 18 months ago it would have been a benefit to be able to work from home one or two days a week, now candidates are seeing it as a necessity, it's not a bargaining chip anymore, and I don't know whether you have those open conversations with your clients about how they can retain that talent?

Chris Pinner:
Definitely, I think the talent retention and recruitment piece is one of the more quantitative ways of getting at the value of wellbeing and culture. I think teamwork, team connection and talking about the value of a culture in a conversation with a candidate or existing employee, and the level of absence and presenteeism as well. I think it's not something you can necessarily get in the candidate experience and recruitment experience, but just coming to mind as i'm thinking about the quantitative side of the business and the value of wellbeing. But to loop back to the talent question, one company we're working with did say they're hearing rumblings that people were looking to leave because they hadn't quite nailed this remote working piece and people were on the verge of burnout. We've also, on the other more positive side of things heard clients speaking about definitely putting wellbeing front and centre of their recruitment process. Especially for the younger audience, I think what we've seen is social media posts on LinkedIn talking about all of the wellbeing days that people do, step challenges, and I think that's playing a more prominent part in why companies are looking at wellbeing. Yes obviously it's a good thing to do and they think it's important, but ultimately it has a business benefit as well. Including it in the onboarding process as well, talking about these are the health and wellbeing streams, this is the diversity and inclusion group, if you want to get involved you can email healthandwellbeing@companyname.com. All of that contributes to engagement and retaining a new candidate at the start of their journey which i'm sure well you know better than me is very important.

Steve Church:
100% and I think the word that springs to mind is evolution, because at the start of the pandemic when everyone went remote it was quite clear that we were seeing a lot more, whilst there was job uncertainty there actually was quite a lot of candidates coming onto the market because of the way that companies were dealing with this, and because they hadn't necessarily put wellbeing and mental health onto their radar. How far we've come in 18 months is quite impressive realistically, but i'm sure we'll go into that a bit further in episode four as episode three comes to a close. But do join us next week when we'll have a bit more discussion focused on employees and we'll be bringing together some conclusions from these last few episodes. Thanks again for your time Chris.

Chris Pinner:
Thanks Steve

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