2021 Vision with...Laura Powney, Principal HR & Employment Law Consultant

04 February 2021 Interviews

Laura Powney has almost 20 years’ experience of working in both her own businesses and subsequently in mainstream and corporate HR. She has extensive experience both in the UK and Ireland particularly in Employment Law, gaining a wealth of exposure to Industrial and Employee Relations. She has also dedicated a lot of her career to Transformational Change in Compensation and Benefits and Strategic HR planning and the Wellbeing space. Laura talks with us about the importance of Wellbeing both in and out of the Workplace.

We discuss Wellbeing….

What does the term Wellbeing really mean?

Wellbeing means different things for different people. Essentially it means feeling safe, secure and content. Whilst lots of Organisations provide Wellbeing initiatives which are really positive like yoga, self- care tips or access to mindfulness it is important to not feel that the provision of these events is the answer to a really forward-thinking organisation in this space. To truly own Wellbeing, Employers must look at Organisational Culture which is in itself at the heart of Wellbeing. What do I mean when I say Organisational Culture? Areas like Leadership Style, Diversity and Inclusion, Values and Development….

Why is Wellbeing so important to us as professionals and people?

As mentioned above, Wellbeing is about feeling safe, secure and content. When any of those areas are knocked it can have a big impact on us. Increasingly Employers are recognising that the professionals who walk through the door of an office or click on another Zoom meeting link are also human beings. If our personal Wellbeing is off kilter it can have an impact on our professional life and vice versa.

What’s the impact of neglecting Wellbeing on productivity and motivation?

If employees aren’t feeling like their Wellbeing is in the right place it will impact their drive and focus on their tasks. It can negatively affect productivity, absenteeism and employee retention to name a few. Wellbeing both in and out of the workplace is a basic human need.

Let’s look at factors that can have a negative impact on productivity; Stress and Anxiety, home distractions, lack of connectivity with team, lack of setting clear milestones, lack of support. The question that Employers need to ask themselves is, ‘what are we doing to make sure that each employee is having each of these factors addressed.’

In your view are organisations fully equipped to look after their workforce’s Wellbeing?

I feel that a concerted effort is being made by lots of Employers but that there isn’t yet a strong enough focus on Organisational Culture as the starting point for Wellbeing to be woven into the fabric of the Organisation. Wellbeing needs to become more of a priority and to trickle through from the top down. The strongest starting point is to invest in a Wellbeing Audit so that senior teams can hear directly from their workforce on their Wellbeing needs as opposed to just assuming to know what they need….

To what extent has this Pandemic impacted employee Wellbeing?

The impact of the Pandemic on Wellbeing is palpable. Not only are Employees trying to juggle a new working life via technology, but they are also at times having to home school or work in small spaces with family members/ flatmates etc around. With redundancies at a record high in both the UK and Ireland, job security is having a massive impact on Wellbeing also. There are also feelings of isolation and lack of connection to their colleagues. Wellbeing has never been more important than it is right now and if there are any positives to be taken from this strange situation we are all in it is that Wellbeing is at the forefront of both Employer and Employee minds and this can be powerful for cultural change.

What are your top tips for any Employers reading this? How should they go about improving the Wellbeing of their workforces?

My top 5 tips for Employers are:

1. Start by assessing and asking yourself what your workplace culture is and if you’re truly happy with it.

2. Invest in a Wellbeing Audit and fully engage in the process that comes with it.

3. Listen to your Employee needs and avoid assumptions about what you THINK they need.

4. Walk the walk….you need to demonstrate the behaviours from the top or employees will not feel the commitment is serious

5. Know that Wellbeing is not a tick box exercise but a continual journey that should form part of your strategic plans for your business

Where does the responsibility of Wellbeing sit?

Wellbeing within the workplace needs to sit with the Senior Management Team. It must become a strategic imperative for the organisation. At this senior level, there should be regular review of achievements against expectations for establishing a culture that is fully conducive to Employee Wellbeing.

Finally, as a busy professional who has a lot to balance in life, what do you do to look after your own Wellbeing?

I appreciate the things outside of work that make me happiest, I love spending time with my little boy. I practice mindfulness & mediation in the mornings, and I find this centres my thoughts. I spend as much time outdoors as I can as fresh air is a wonderful, free medicine.

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