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There seems to be lots of discussion around employee wellbeing. And I think we can all agree that it’s great that companies are thinking more and more about how to make sure that their staff are OK.

That said, it can be tricky for businesses to know where to start – how to ensure staff wellbeing whilst also managing a successful (and profitable) business?

Exeter Works caught up with Lisa Vanstone from One Voice PR, who told us about some of the fabulous ways in which this Exeter based PR business is enabling a positive work / life balance, whilst still achieving fabulous results for their clients:

One Voice is its people.   

And our people are brilliant. They’re creative, they’re skilled, they’re nice (believe me, it matters). 

So, with that, it is key to our success to attract the right people to work with us (employees, clients, partners and suppliers) and it’s my belief that we can do so by creating a culture of collaboration, creativity and innovation.  

We already had a good team culture, forged over the years.  We work very closely together, with smaller teams working for each client or project.   

However, this didn’t extend necessarily to our processes or documentation, and I knew we could do more to be a more modern, more attractive workplace. 

In reconsidering our employment policies and practises we wanted to ensure that the team was treated with the respect that they deserve and given the autonomy to make their own choices.   At the same time, we are a service business. We have brilliant clients who need to know that their projects will be delivered. 

We pinpointed three areas that we could make improvements: collaboration and transparency, work/life balance and mental health in the workplace.  Here’s what we’ve done:  

Collaboration and transparency

  • We’ve increased transparency in sharing business information with the team 
  •  We’ve launched a new internal comms publication 
  •  We’ve brought the full team into new business development
  • We’ve updated our employee contracts and handbooks with this new approach
  • And we’re more consciously making decisions as a team

Work/life balance: 

  •  We’ve reduced working hours from 40 to 37.5 hours per week, the equivalent of almost 3.5 weeks less time at work every year  
  •  We’ve trialled and launched a well-used flexi policy giving people the freedom to manage their own days, around core hours of 10am-3pm.  There’s no booking this in, no paperwork, no sign off, no admin for employee or employer!  To ensure our office is covered everyday one person is in charge – that is their day to work 9am-5pm – everyone else can choose their hours without worrying about the phones  
  •  We’ve introduced a policy for Time Off In Lieu for evening work as well as weekends
  • New starters now get their birthdays off, as well as 20 days holiday, 3 extra days at Christmas, plus bank holidays, of course.  Holiday entitlement rises to 28 days, plus Christmas, plus bank holidays, reaching 39 days in total 
  • And we’re keeping a continuing option to work from home for at least part of the week 

Mental health in the workplace: 

  •  We’ve developed a culture that allows people to be more open and honest, for example the senior management team share their own challenges as part of day-to-day conversation, fostering an environment where talking and sharing is welcomed
  • We’ve introduced Spill for all employees.  Spill is a confidential employee support service where everyone can get easy access to qualified counsellors and therapists, free of charge. We can choose to message a therapist and get a response in writing or book a ‘face to face’ video chat session. Read more about this here
  •  We’ve run a session on “How to build strong mental health when life makes it difficult” and have another coming soon on “Avoiding Burnout”, both delivered by Spill therapists 

The impact: 

  •  We’ve had a really positive response to changes from the team (see below) 
  •  The team is more engaged, and happier  
  •  We’ve successfully onboarded three new junior team members during periods of lockdown and WFH
  • Return to the office is between 60%-100% of the working week for team members – with no call to return or pressure tactics
  • And together, we’ve achieved a significant uplift in new business and some stand-out results for our clients

What the team say: 

“The flexible working arrangements enable me to juggle my work and my home life calmly and effectively. This is vitally important for me as I am a parent carer to a disabled child with complex needs and without this understanding and flexibility, I would be unable to work. I adore my job and have worked on a job share basis for the last ten years at One Voice. This further increased flexibility means I know I can give my all at work and still be the parent I need to be at home. Just knowing that we have initiatives like Spill reminds me that I am treated with compassion at work. Knowing we are being considered in this way has a hugely positive impact on my wellbeing.”  

“Having the mix of WFH and in office is great and something I really appreciate not only does it save on petrol, the commute etc. I feel I can achieve more in both settings.” 

“The introduction of Spill has been amazing. Knowing that we have this facility is a huge comfort in itself. I used the service within the first week of it being launched and I can honestly say that it really helps to put things into perspective and provides useful tools to help manage worries and stresses that may occur. This investment into staff wellbeing is essential to a happy and strong workforce.” 

“Flexi time has been great for me as it means I can manage the school run before I start my working day. This along with the choice to WFH and reduced hours means my job works well alongside family life.” 

What’s next: 

  •  We’ve chosen our first Charity of the Year – FORCE Cancer.  We’ll be supporting FORCE with a series of team events this year 
  •  We’re working with UWE Bristol to develop a bespoke employee engagement scheme
  • We’re rolling out a presentation skills course and coaching programme for the full team 

And more of the above – we’re still on the beginning of our curve, there’s lots more to do! 

Useful Resources 

Help to Grow

Exeter Chamber

Enterprise Nation

Spill

The Guardian

One Voice Media is a 10 person team of PR and marketing specialists based in Exeter.   The business was founded 30 years ago and underwent a management buyout in July 2021.  Now run by managing director Lisa Vanstone and associate directors Jo Holdom and Sharon Foxwell, services include PR, marketing, content creation, event management, advertising and media buying. 

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