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The 2021 Priority - Wellness in the Workplace

Taking the time to reflect on last year, I think we can all agree we learnt a lot; adapting to the world around us both at work and home through the highs, lows, tiers and lockdowns. Undoubtedly this has changed how we think about work and the priorities we set ourselves and teams we work with.

2020 saw familiar workplace support systems in retreat, with post-work drinks, lunch time catch ups and the daily commute replaced with virtual meet ups and quick text conversations. Those familiar, in-person moments of release to defuse, de-stress and just take a breath disappeared. People struggled to find ways to understand how to deal with those things that previously would have required no second thought. This is why focusing on wellness became the number one priority here at HPE and continues into 2021.

What action did we take?

We saw that ‘working from home fatigue’ had set in. Months into a global pandemic, the pressure was taking its toll on the workforce, some of whom had been juggling home-schooling, caring for family and losing loved ones, and were simply exhausted by the continual coping mechanisms. Exacerbated by the shortening of the days and the dark nights drawing in, more cameras were being turned off in video calls, morale was dipping and anxiety increased.

Wellness above all else.

Holding an ‘all hands’ managers call in our Q4 to ask them to prioritise looking after themselves and their teams was a pivotal moment. Making this the number one priority was the first step in demonstrating that we recognised colleagues were struggling, that it was ok to feel this way, and that most of us were!

We prioritised ‘Let’s Talk’ sessions – a simple way to stay connected in small groups to every team member – listening and feeling the pulse of the entire organisation and providing direct access to the senior leadership for direction and clarity.

We were very prescriptive in introducing two actions:

  1. Every team member has an hour in their diaries blocked for them between 12pm and 1pm each day, with no meetings or calls. In this hour we encourage freedom to do whatever they like, whether that’s taking the dog for a walk, doing some exercise, taking a nap or catching up with some admin.
  2. At the end of every day, a 30 minute ‘reflection’ break replaces the commute, giving a moment to take a breath before heading back to family time or into the busyness of life. These 30 minutes give an opportunity to reflect on the day, switch off from work and prepare for whatever’s next.

These two simple actions were rolled out universally across the organisation, giving staff much-needed breaks each day.

Championing a collective purpose

Our scattered workforce had lost the camaraderie that so easily flows in an office environment and we were missing working together towards a collective goal and a chance to cheer each other on. Our Winter Wellness Club was launched, collecting data through the Strava app from every team member who took any sort of exercise, with the ambition of racking up enough miles to match the equivalent of the journey from London to Lapland before Christmas, visiting every capital city where HPE has an office on the way.

Over five weeks 2,500 activities were logged, with team members running, walking, swimming, cycling and rowing their way to Lapland. As well as encouraging a team spirit, we saw people getting active, breathing fresh air, moving their bodies and encouraging a more energetic, less stressed team. With 260 team members signed up, we encouraged everyone to join in, with even a short dog-walk around the block logged as a valued distance. Twice a week our progress was shared, and individual colleagues praised for any achievements. We have seen a real boost in morale as people interact on the app, giving ‘kudos’ for a logged activity, and sharing in the banter and chat.

With such a successful initiative boosting the camaraderie and spirits of our teams, we listened to those who wanted to take this a step further and made a monetary donation to Shelter, matching the number of activities logged for the Winter Wellness Challenge in pounds. Supporting those in a time of need became part of our DNA.

Keeping momentum

As well as these new initiatives, HPE has introduced a range of activities and ideas to help staff including podcasts, apps, sessions, helplines and making mental health first aiders available to all.

How to look after the wellness of your teams

Awareness of mental health continues to grow, with the pandemic bringing it mainstream and helping to de-stigmatise the notion of needing to reach out for help. It’s important that organisations prioritise the wellness of their staff and engage with teams to build a valuable resource that colleagues will engage with and benefit from. If you’re not sure where to start, my advice would be to:

  1. Listen. You need to start with an understanding of where the people are at in your organisation. Listen to the issues and struggles they are having by creating a safe space where they can be honest.
  2. Lead from the front. Demonstrate your commitment to any initiative by getting stuck in and showing your staff how it benefits you. Be honest about where you’re at too. Opening up about your struggles may encourage someone else to reach out for help.
  3. Make it prescriptive. People do not have the capacity at the moment to come up with their own initiatives, so make it simple and digestible to take the burden off them.
  4. Make it universal. Ensure anything you introduce can be done by everyone.
  5. Talk. Keep communicating with your teams, feeding back, encouraging and letting them know we’re all in this together.

The pandemic has thrown up many challenges, affecting every single person’s mental health in different ways. At HPE we have found that simply telling our people that we know they’re struggling (and we are too!) has been the first step to finding a solution. These small, simple steps will lead to greater initiatives through 2021 and beyond as we continue to recognise the importance of wellness in the workplace.

2020 was a huge learning curve for us all, providing the opportunity to make some beneficial changes. But there is still so much to learn, and by communicating with teams and understanding their priorities, needs and struggles, we have a very real opportunity to invest in and develop a strong and resilient workforce. I have committed to continuing this dialogue and will be sharing ideas and thoughts throughout the forthcoming months.

Matt Harris
Hewlett Packard Enterprise



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About the Author


Starting his journey as an intern, Matt Harris joined HPE in 2004 and in his current position he is heading up the UK Sales Organization, which encompasses the Account Management, Inside Sales, Product Specialist, Presales and Channel functions. He believes in business as force for good and the responsibility that tech leaders carry to make the world a better place. Matt is passionate about the people within the business, the culture of our UKI organization and HPE’s core purpose – to advance the way people live and work.