Happiness at Work: One Business’ Story of Wellbeing at Work

To mark International Week of Happiness at Work, we asked Glenn Branney TEP from Julius Baer International Limited – a STEP Gold Employer Partner – to talk about how the business has been supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their people so they can be happy at work.

The heart of any business is its people. It is our job as employers to work out how we help them thrive within their jobs, and looking after their mental health is a primary component. In years gone by, the stigma associated with talking about one’s mental health was almost prohibitive. It wasn’t unusual that people totally separated their home and work lives to the extent that they weren’t their real selves at work, rather a character that performed on the stage of the office. As time has passed, society has shifted, and the pandemic was a huge accelerator of that shift ‒ particularly in the workplace. It thrust into focus the absolute necessity of looking after both the physical and mental health of one’s employees.

The isolation forced upon us by the pandemic completely changed working life. No longer were we surrounded by conversations in the office and able to go for impromptu coffee catch ups with colleagues ‒ instead we were glued to our computer screens in order to connect with one another. As we were now working from home, there was a feeling for many that they could never ‘escape’ their work, as home and office were now one. It was clear that this was a moment to build upon our internal support culture.

One of the early steps we took was to train a broad range of our colleagues to be Mental Health First Aiders – from members of our Executive Committee to relatively junior members of the team. We set up roundtable sessions to allow people to share their experiences in a ‘safe space’ and mental health is now a standing agenda item in our Executive Committee meetings. This all goes towards normalising discussion around mental health and fostering a supportive culture in the business.

Now it is important to remember that as a wealth management business, we deal with more than just our colleagues on a day–to–day basis. Clients go through the same things we do when it comes to mental health. It would be foolish not to be aware that they may not want to show any mental vulnerabilities to someone responsible for managing their wealth. However, by using the supportive culture we have fostered internally, we have seen a genuine deepening of the trust between clients and their relationship managers.

With the pandemic over, it was important we got the transition back to work right. We wanted to empower our people to make the right decisions for themselves and the business. It wasn’t about mandating a minimum number of days in the office; we want our colleagues to want to come to the office and recognise the benefits of the social interaction it offers. By trusting our people to do what is best for them and their teams, we’ve seen a very healthy balance between home and office develop naturally across the business.

To close, I want to highlight that the pandemic and returning to the office shouldn’t mark the end of the work to support the mental wellbeing of our employees. I started by saying the heart of any business is its people, and so investing in one’s people is paramount to running a successful business. And that does not only mean providing opportunities for them to grow professionally and personally, but also asking the right questions in the right way to encourage genuine human interactions. It is when you foster a culture in which your employees are comfortable to be themselves and speak their mind that you get the best out of them.

Thanks to Glenn Branney TEP from Julius Baer International Limited for writing this for us. Happy International Week of Happiness at Work! To find out more about STEP’s Employer Partnership Programme, visit www.step.org/epp

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