Return to Office with Innerfit - Episode 4

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 fourth & final episode in the series sees Steve and Chris discuss further the impact of returning to the office from the employees perspective and the different mindsets of different generations. They review the previous three episodes and leave us with some actionable takeaways.

 

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 the final episode in a four part series around the return to the office and its effect on wellbeing and mental health with Chris Pinner from Innerfit.

In this fourth and final episode we'll be delving a bit more into the employees and the different mindsets of different generations and reviewing what we have covered over the last three episodes. Morning Chris, it feels like these episodes have flown by.

Chris Pinner:
Hello again Steve, they have yeah

Steve Church:
I am quite interested to discuss with you, just before we make any conclusions, I know it's meant to be from an employer's perspective, but also from the leaders. Do leaders now need to be prepared and have a set plan or policy in place, or do you think there's a justification for companies to wait and see?

Chris Pinner:
I think it's useful to start from what a good leader looks like actually, so if I’m to imagine the most effective influential brilliant leader that I’ve come across in my working career, or indeed sport, like the football going on at the moment, you think of people that envision the future and get on the front foot and are proactive and almost shape the path for the rest of the team. They're at the front, that's the thing, they're seeing the future and then creating it. So yeah huge argument I think for leaders at an organisational level, but also at a team level to envision what they want the future of their working life to look like. But also then to get the input of the team on that as well, because you ultimately have to have buy in. I think a lot of organisational engagement surveys and wellbeing surveys have been thrown out to employees over the last 12 months and it's about listening to the answers you get from those. I think at a team level you've got more scope to really have those one to one conversations, whether it's a formal one to one or a more informal one, about how people like to work, if you're introverted or extroverted and that would be my startpoint, the initial thoughts that come to mind.

Steve Church:
Absolutely and it's quite interesting what you mentioned about the sport piece because I heard some interesting stats recently regarding when the football came back from lockdown and a lot of the teams were playing with no crowd in front of them and performing a lot better actually, so they were scoring more goals. I think it resonates a bit with an office environment in terms of the pressure that sometimes people feel, from my perspective as well just being in an office, where you feel that pressure to perform, hit targets, it sometimes feels for people that it can be a bit easier working from home and that pressure is taken off. Ultimately there are other people who feel completely the opposite and will perform better and there were football teams that scored less goals when there was no crowds there to cheer them on. I'm not sure whether you've got a thought process on that at all?

Chris Pinner:
I love the sports metaphor so i'm going to try and flow that through the response. The initial reaction would be to say that thinking about remote work and performance can be quite abstract can’t it, it can be really high level, but breaking that down and trying to make it really practical about specific actions we can take to move forward and to having that training session, which is going really well and then you've got your big event of the key game, at the end of it.

Different people will work better in different scenarios and I suppose it's what are the practical things that a manager in a business context as well as a sporting context can actually take? so what we've seen working well is all the similar stuff you'd see in a great leader anyway, it's good communication, its role modelling good behaviours, it's practically now just encouraging movement through the day and getting away from the desk and realising that we don't need to be stuck to the screen all day, it's asking good questions as well, I think of the team.

So if you want to get on the front foot and be really proactive it's not about realising three people in the team have been signed off with stress like we came across at one company recently. It's more about having a wellbeing action plan in place with your team and having questions like are there any signs and symptoms that I should look out for that you're struggling with your mental health? it's questions like how would you like us to approach wellbeing as a team? What would you like to do? do you want to have a Wednesday walkies where we go out for half hour chat and there's no work chat? or do you want to get involved in other organisational led offerings and stuff like that. So yeah getting proactive can be done in so many ways, i've just shared a few examples, but I think, ultimately, a good leader is on the front foot.

Steve Church:
Absolutely and I completely agree with that, about being proactive, I think we see a lot of stuff on LinkedIn at the moment that may just be being put up there for the sake of being put up there and just to show face a little bit sometimes which is obviously great to show that they care, but I think it's more about delving into the organisations deeper structuring, to make sure that these things are actually being carried through, and the employees are being talked to about it by their leaders and their managers and their mentors. But it'd be interesting as we bring this series to a conclusion to I suppose share any practical tips that you have for leaders going forward. Like you say, being proactive is great but if there's anything else which could work for them, that'd be good to hear from you.

Chris Pinner:
Yeah sure, I guess the last piece that comes to mind before jumping into practical tips and cool stuff i've seen would be that everyone's a leader really. We talk about this phrase cultural architects, anyone who's responsible for shaping the values and culture of an organisation and that can be a senior leader, but it doesn't need to be, it can be the kitchen porter. So I guess, if you're listening to this hopefully the practical tips or things i've seen apply at an organisational level, Bumble and KPMG came to mind, giving people the day off. I don't know much about where that came from, but I think there was an element of trying to save burnout and recognising how hard people were working. I guess at an organisational level structurally that's quite a cool thing to do, whether or not it’s proactive is a different question.

I think that at a more manager and senior level/leader type angle we've seen some interviews be quite effective, so a lot of the time that trust and communication isn't there, but if you have a panel style conversation, for example, with the CTO and HR Director about how they experienced the pandemic, all of a sudden you're probably going to get quite a lot of questions and phone calls, and all this type of stuff from employees who previously felt disengaged, so I think we've seen that work quite well.

Then at an even more granular level, I suppose if you can, putting one to ones and wellbeing as a strategic objective, getting into team conversations, we did a session recently on you, your team and wellbeing and also leading remotely and some of the stuff that came out of that was really, really cool. One person committed to doing a wellbeing action plan with everyone in their team, another person committed to saying no more often. As I go through these, this is all role modelling as well isn't it, because if people see you saying no i'm going out for a walk, all of a sudden they feel like they can as well. Another one was normalising not feeling 100%, so just making yourself vulnerable and sharing with someone else in the team that you haven't been on 100% form recently. One more would be just ring fencing that personal time, so blocking out in your diary a lunch break, sounds really simple, but if you do honour that you're not going to get those overlapping teams meetings and lastly is that how are you? question, maybe asking it twice to someone. That often comes out as one of the most powerful and common commitments people make at the end of an Innerfit session, because how often do we do that, I mean we've probably done it today Steve like how are you? I am good, how are you? but actually in a remote working world it's really difficult to really know.

Steve Church:
Yeah you just brush past it don't you, you brush past it with a simple ok, and I think it's really interesting what you say about a couple of those points that you just mentioned, they really resonate with the anyone can be a leader point of view, anyone can ask how are you, like you say anyone can ask how are you twice, to actually kind of drill down into how people are actually feeling. Anyone can say no, and i'll be taking that away from today as well, I think, just actually having that ability to say no, and just say I am going to go out for a walk, I am going to take that time just to have a bit of me time I suppose.

Chris Pinner:
Good I’m really pleased and actually that can be that can be my commitment for a full hour lunch break today, it is Friday after all.

Steve Church:
Yeah absolutely and I think ultimately, coming to the end of these episodes, hopefully we'll come back to it for a second season, maybe to see how our clients are getting along with it, but I think it's all coming down to that piece of adaptability. It's coming down to it’s not going to be straightforward, employees aren't all the same, and the right thing for one employee is not necessarily going to be the right thing for another employee, and I think that piece on maybe leaders/HR teams being water, adapting to the flow and just continuously keeping up that communications piece.

Chris Pinner:
Love that, acting like water. Really powerful. Thank you so much Steve, really enjoyed it.

Steve Church :
Yeah, brilliant Chris and thanks so much for your time over these last four episodes and like I say, fingers crossed for the second season to see how this is all going.

Chris Pinner:
Looking forward to it. 

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