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Christina Lewis is the Head of People at Restless Development.

On the 14th March, I’m due to be part of a panel hosted by TLC on How to Build a Happy Workforce. I’m there as a panellist to talk about employee welfare and wellbeing and ultimately what I think creates a happy workforce and how we at Restless Development do that.

As the time approaches closer and closer to my debut panellist experience I started racking my brain about how we actually do this at Restless Development. All the stats point towards saying that we  do this really well. Our 2018 Agency Survey states that 95% of our global staff felt that Restless Development has a strong, shared line of sight across different teams and functions globally. Furthermore  98% of our global staff feel proud to say that they work at Restless Development.

Our Exit Interview data is pretty positive as well, With staff feeling sad to leave and so grateful for their Restless experience. As many restless staff generally move onto much bigger and better things, most ex staff members feel confident that they have gained a ton of experience and skills that Restless Development has grown with them.

The question is how do we actually do this? Is there a magic wellbeing wand that we get out periodically and shake across the staff to make them all happy? Of course not.

We also don’t have a wellbeing policy or guidelines, telling staff how to be happy. Instead, we believe that wellbeing is a product of the systemic interventions and processes we run across our agency. therefore wellbeing isn’t regarded as separate policy or strategy, it’s simply integrated across everything and at the heart of everything we do.

At Restless Development we recruit on potential. What does that mean exactly? It means that we will take a risk hiring someone if we can identify a passion, drive and potential through our recruitment process. It means that we will give somebody a role and, more importantly, an opportunity that perhaps another organisation wouldn’t because they might lack experience.

From the onset, we are therefore demonstrating to our new employees how much we are willing to believe in them. Immediately we create a relationship built on trust and belief and it sets the tone of who we are as an Agency. In return from our staff we get hard work, ambition, drive, commitment and of course trust back.

In effect, a true feel good relationship.  

A few years ago in my career I tried to compartmentalise myself constantly. I had a persona for work Christina, at home Christina, Mum Christina, daughter Christina and so on. Quite a skill to develop and one pretty hard to keep on top of. I had an executive coach at the time who really challenged this strategy of mine. Why couldn’t my work colleagues see me as my whole self? Why did I feel the need to compartmentalise my life? She convinced me to try and drop this method and try a be more authentic to my true self in the work environment.

The result was quite astonishing. I think my colleagues found this really humanising and I was able to connect with people further on all different levels.

Here at Restless Development you can be yourself at work. This is something that was also highlighted recently to me at International Women’s day event last week, as one of the panellist felt that this was vital organisations should be encouraging this. We encourage it, we want to know you beyond the office and we welcome this insight in our Creative Space session we hold, our values, our socials and also our First Friday Fun sessions. When people get to be their selves at work it makes them feel welcome, safe and respected, all of which feeds into their wellbeing and wider happiness.

A more practical intervention that I believe we have here at Restless Development is a true and trusted flexible working approach. Our staff can work remotely and take real ownership of their work and thus their development and career. Giving someone control on how they deliver their work helps to drive that commitment, trust and respect between the employee and employer. We take our flexible working global as well, where sometimes working from home isn’t quite as simple in some of our hubs so instead we close our offices early on a Friday allowing our staff to kickstart their weekend and giving them back time to spend with their families.

Finally, I think one of the most important parts of wellbeing is having meaningful and effective Performance Management systems in place. We all need feedback on how we are doing as well as guidance. We all need an opportunity to create a good working relationship with our Performance Manager and this is a great way to do it. Regular Performance Management gives an employee clarity and focuses on the work that they are doing. It means that the employee understands their purpose in the organisation and the value they can add. These systems are paramount to help an employee do well and succeed, whether things are going well or not.

All the interventions above feed into what I feel makes a happy working environment. Of course lighter touch aspects such as mindfulness sessions, massages etc all contribute but I think it’s the trust that you build between you and your staff that accounts for true wellbeing, and it goes without saying that all of this behaviour has to be across the Agency and truly championed at the Senior Leadership level.

So upon reflection, and in preparation for my panel appearance, how do I know that we have a high standard of wellbeing and a happy workforce at Restless Development? I have the data, I have the surveys but I think the most important aspect I have is walking into the office and being able to be myself, knowing that opportunity will be coming at me that week and also the relief that I can fit my job around my crazy busy family life. I know we have a high standard of wellbeing because I can feel it and I also feel the trust that the Agency has invested in me.

No magic wand required.  

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