THE WELLNESS GAME
Published in partnership with Warsaw Business Journal
In these turbulent times, never before has the subject of employee wellbeing received so much attention. But more than just a fleeting trend, the topic has be- come a dominant issue that stands to change the very way the world works…
It’s been a while since CEEQA last convened, and much water has passed under the bridge. Quite rightfully, history will ultimately remember the pandemic years in terms of the millions of lives lost – however, and in a direct reflection of the times we live in – the resultant economic havoc will also bear more than just a footnote.
Yet for all of that, cracks of light emerged during the height of the coronavirus, many of which appeared to promise a brighter future. Faced with uncertainty and adversity, people the world over responded in an unexpected manner – amid talk of ‘a big reset’, we witnessed instances of kindness and humanity come to a fore.
Perhaps naively, people saw hope, a hope that found itself swiftly shattered with the murder of George Floyd. Again, we were reminded of mankind’s capacity for cruelty and of the bitter ha- treds that exist within our society. These negatives have been ampli- fied yet further to impossible new highs with the ongoing horrors occurring in Ukraine. As people, it appears we have learned little.
However, this would not be the entire truth. Though clearly paling against the brutalities played out each day on our news screens, a sometimes subtle process of work-place betterment is taking place, a process that stands to revolutionise not just the way we work but also how we fundamentally function and act as human beings. As far-fetched as this might sound, it is these steps that are being taken that could yet stand to shape the future of our planet – to follow simple logic, better, happier people make for a better and happier world.
THE BIRTH OF WORK- PLACE HAPPINESS
Given the tumult that has followed, it is tempting to look back on ‘the lockdown era’ as a false dawn that failed to deliver on the unwritten assurance of better times ahead. But this would be disingenuous, for on many levels we have seen progress – and never has that held truer than in our places of work.
Faced with a quite unprecedented situation, employers found themselves dealing with a work- force working remotely – initially, misgivings abounded, but in many instances these soon gave way to pleasing surprises: against the preset odds, several firms found them- selves reporting increased output, improved communication and a heightened sense of teamwork. Forced as the circumstances may have been, ‘the great experiment’ provided ample proof of what many knew already: that adopting a more flexible approach guided by an awareness of employee wellbeing had the potential to reap dividends.
Whilst covid accelerated the shift, for many this way of thinking presented nothing new. For decades, the Nordic nations have danced to this very tune – spidering out from philosophies first born in the 1950s, these countries have long enjoyed dynamic economic development underpinned by a workforce given the right space and tools to find an optimal work- life balance.
In more recent times, this model has been given fresh impetus, not least by the New Zealand business- man Andrew Barnes. An advocate of the four-day week, it was on his behest that his firm introduced an 80-100-100 rule in 2018: offering staff the chance to work 80% of their former hours in return for 100% productivity and 100% of their pay, the trial was an over- whelming success and was made permanent soon after. When Mi- crosoft Japan trialled this concept the following year, productivity increased by 40%.
Now firmly committed to bringing his practises to a wider audience via his non-profit NGO (co-founded with Charlotte Lockhart), Barnes has been lauded as a pioneer: “The five-day week is simply outmoded, a relic of a now distant era,” he says. “Much like the spinning jenny and the telegram, the five-day week is obsolete – but it persists because it is mistakenly believed to be optimal for the economy. It isn’t. The four-day work week has proven to deliver as much, if not more, productivity while improving lives: individuals, families, and entire communities.”
WHAT MAKES US HAPPY?
The switch to a four-day week can be considered the most radical strategy of all when it comes to improving employee wellbeing, but this is not the sole method to gather steam. Gaining in popularity long before covid, the concept of hybrid working has also continued to crest by connecting the benefits of remote working with those of being present in the office.
THE MONEY OBSESSION HAS LEFT US, AS PEOPLE, SPIRITUALLY DEHYDRATED. FOR TOO LONG, WE HAVE SEEN PEOPLE TREATED AND TURNED INTO LITTLE MORE THAN CAPITAL PRODUCT.
Crucially, despite all of this ‘the office’ itself has not been made irrelevant and has in itself become a core consideration. Once seen as the realm of Google and rebel media companies, today the need for dynamic office environments that spur creativity and nurture wellbeing has become a major issue.
Andrzej Pośniak, managing partner of the international law firm CMS in Poland, says: “The
last few years have seen things like mentoring, health insurance and an awareness of wellbeing become mostly standard, albeit with some firms being more committed than others. At CMS, we go beyond that, and our forthcoming move to Warsaw’s landmark Varso Tower is part of that commitment.”
“We don’t want only to talk about wellbeing; we want to make things really happen,” Pośniak continues. “Our new office will soon undergo the process of WELL certification. We believe that the creation of a work environment that is fully certified is key – it demonstrates that we implement an internationally recognised standard.”