Wellbeing at work is more important than ever. With traditional separations of work and life obliterated, people around the world are finding it harder and harder to juggle all their disparate interests – and it’s their health that’s taking the hit.
So what exactly is wellbeing at work? Simply put, it’s about how someone’s life at work affects their health. This can encompass their roles, duties, expectation, working conditions and working relationships, alongside much more. It’s about how all of this affects their physical, mental and social health. In fact, many companies have fallen into the trap of assuming it is just about physical health – which is far from the truth. It’s important for companies to understand this so they can build a people department and strategy that puts their employees first.
COVID-19 has left a big impact on all types of health. Stress has never been so high, with uncertainty, layoffs and furloughs a constant presence in workplaces over the last year. The constant videoconferencing and physical isolation has been a burden too. And all of this while fighting the most deadly public health issue in a generation.
All of this is why our Chief People Officer Dr. Nikoletta Tamas will be discussing this topic at the Wellbeing At Work summit next week. In preparation, we caught up with Niki for a quick chat, to find out more about how companies can re-engage the workforce with a focus on wellbeing. See you there!
Find out more about the Wellbeing at Work Summit here.
Hi Niki! First I wanted to delve a bit into your background —which is originally in law. How did you transition from law into people?
I started my career as a lawyer, specialising in labour law. Then I started working as a legal counsel and advisor at companies, including big international companies and startups. Here’s the thing: If you are a lawyer, you are most likely getting in touch with team members when they are leaving the company. It’s not so joyful. I also started to become more and more interested in employee development and culture topics.
At some point, I started to pivot. Luckily at the time I was working in a small company, so it was possible for me to change into a more people-focused role. There I was lucky to have a boss who was a big mentor for me. She didn’t care about my title, background or diploma – just about giving me the chance to prove myself in what I wanted to develop into. Of course, it was intense. In a small business like that one, it was often a one-woman show – and I had to learn everything from payroll to development topics all at once.
In fact, in German there’s this term Quereinsteiger – describing workers who have a certain background, but change their career to do something entirely different. I guess that’s me!
How can companies establish the People team as an important advisor in a company?
You need a mindset change. Until a few years ago, companies saw HR – as it was called – as more of a service partner. You give tasks to HR. They prepare it. Done and dusted! But if companies want to be successful, they need to know that the HR of companies is not a service provider. In fact, we are a partner team. We know the employees. We are the ones recruiting them. Onboarding them. Aiding their development. It’s important to establish a connection to ensure that they will work with the company for a long time. And this only works if the People team is constantly in exchange with leaders and employees to understand their focuses, problems and where they need support. This will only work if we are involved in these topics, integrated into the fabric of the company and not only seen as a service partner.
What are the current trends in People teams right now?
There’s so many right now! A very important one is establishing core values, like we have here at DCMN. These core values will give you guidance in everything that comes up – and not just focused on business but also on the personal side.
Another big topic is mindfulness, especially relevant since the onset of COVID-19. This is exactly why we have started to work with different tools in the last year. We’re trying to help our team members have good work/life balance, to ensure there’s free space for everybody to take a step back and work out what is good for their own health. This was a much bigger topic than we originally thought it was. In the last year, some of our colleagues needed other types of support. So we introduced collaborations with the likes of Seven Minds and Mindshine – both app based solutions to help you get time for yourself to get inner balance. Then we also collaborated with Selfapy. They are an online therapy app. If you are feeling troubled, you can reach out to them, if you don’t want to reach out to somebody at the company. This is a big topic for us – especially as home office will be a big part of our working life in the hybrid future.
How do you align company values with individual purpose at DCMN?
It’s important to speak to our colleagues directly. Sitting down and thinking is the first step. Ask yourself: what do I want to achieve in 5-10 years? Is this the company I want to work for? What is the best part of my job? What are the elements that keep me moving forward? After all, we want to have more of these moments!
Our core value candid till it hurts is all about honesty: that we are all honest with each other – and that requires you to be honest with yourself. We expect people to be empathetic to individual needs and this value stands for constructive, constant and clear feedback to help people grow. All in all, we need to work together to find the best way forward for your professional development at DCMN.
What work have you done on fostering good leadership at DCMN?
Here’s the crazy thing: In late 2019, we changed our company structure and created many new leadership roles. And then just a few months later, all of our new leaders went into lockdown and had to become virtual leaders! That wasn’t easy for anybody.
So what have we done? From the beginning, the first step was internal and external trainings from coaches. For example, we worked with an external agency for young leaders’ development, where our leaders could discuss the challenges they faced at work. These workshops were less focused on strategic business topics – and more about the mindset of leadership. What does it mean to become a leader? Why do we work with core values? And how can we actively use these values in our daily business? From there, we created a platform to ensure that there was constant communication between us and the leaders. Remember this is a never-ending process of looking at what is working and what doesn’t work. In fact, we still feel we can do so much more! We’re always asking our leaders for feedback. DCMN has a culture which is open for discussion and values everyone’s opinions. After all, from a marketer to somebody in the People team, everybody is facing completely different challenges and the only way to know about them is to share them.
How are you focused on your own wellbeing at work?
In my job, people are always coming to me for advice and help with personal matters. But when it comes to my own situation, I always blocked it out.
Last year was a big learning curve for me. Me and my husband have a little girl and full time jobs. As you can imagine, it was difficult during lockdown with schools and childcare shut. And it was the classic situation many people felt in lockdown. You feel like you have to perform in your job. As a parent. As a wife. It’s important to be there for others – and to provide structure for them too. I really struggled with this and felt overwhelmed.
Luckily Matthias (our CEO) noticed something is not completely fine – and we had several conversations to try and sort it out. In fact, I used one of our tools to help me to achieve some balance. To learn how to take a step back. To say, “I will do this tomorrow”. But it wasn’t easy!
What is the future for People teams?
In 10 years, there will be huge changes because of AI taking over many things. With regards to number-based processes like payroll, this won’t be the main focus of the People department anymore. But all the personal and soft skill based attributes will stay important. Basically anything where personal exchange is required. It’s important to know the strengths and weaknesses of a person and come up with a plan to make them committed, happy and healthy in the company. It’s important for the employee to receive something back from the company. This can only come from a living, breathing People team – and definitely not from a robot.
Fancy hearing more from Niki? Find out more about the Wellbeing at Work Summit here.
What exactly is wellbeing at work? Simply put, it’s about how someone’s life at work affects their health.
This can encompass their roles, duties, expectation, working conditions and working relationships, alongside much more.
It’s about how all of this affects their physical, mental and social health.