The beauty of having a go

Do we always have to know exactly how things will pan out?

What I find difficult about the pandemic is plans being cancelled.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in the moment but I’m also a natural planner and I get a lot of joy from putting dates in the diary. That’s largely out of our control now and as much as I dislike it, I’m actually getting used to it. Sad but true.

That’s because as human beings we’re incredibly adaptable. It is possible to get used to a situation which we’d never normally have thought of or chosen. New habits are formed because we try something new and are incentivised do it repeatedly until it becomes second nature.

The question is: How often do we genuinely have a go at something new, to be in with a chance of forming a new (hopefully better) habit?

I once ran a campaign to encourage employees to spend more time on their wellbeing – to see taking care of themselves as part of their job rather than something to do in their spare time.

You’d think this was a fairly easy sell. However, in the same way that we currently feel violated by the imposed Covid rules, we couldn’t ask people to do anything they didn’t want to do. People don’t often warm to ‘forced fun’.

So we decided to experiment.

We asked people to try something new on their terms, with no commitment and no judgment. We offered all sorts of options that you might not expect to see at work: chair yoga, a live juicing demonstration, mass meditation, walking a mile for £1 or enjoying a live rendition of their favourite song at their desk (yes, we did this). Things they might not have naturally chosen but when put in front of them were hard to resist.

We wanted to challenge the cultural norms and make it easy for people to throw caution to the wind.

In those few weeks we completely changed people’s views on what they thought was ‘allowed’ at work. When asked at the end whether they felt they could take time to manage their own personal wellbeing at work, the response had risen from 64% to 84% positive. A significant change.

And all that from a campaign that never pretended to know what the right answer was.

We never said “do this and your wellbeing will improve”. We piqued people’s curiosity, we approached them humbly and we didn’t take ourselves seriously. We created a constant conversation, encouraging people to share their experiences and provide feedback so that we could see what worked and what didn’t.

Gradually, people realised it was acceptable to take care of themselves at work. And we started to see new habits forming

We got people’s attention and invited them to test something new for their own health and wellbeing by simply having a go. There was no ego. We didn’t know what the outcome would be, which activities people would like, where we’d get the most engagement or what effect it would have on performance. Aside from the survey finding above, we aspired for nothing more.

And what was the outcome for the organisation? First and foremost there was a definite shift in mindset, by both the employees and the leaders. For the leaders the pressure was on. Their teams started to come up with their own ideas for promoting and improving staff wellbeing. The floodgates had opened.

People started walking regularly at lunchtime or having walking meetings. Mindfulness sessions started cropping up, run by colleagues themselves. External wellbeing experts were invited in to run sessions (not by us).

Following the campaign, the annual engagement survey showed that employees were 87% positive about their wellbeing at work. This is a high figure, considering a recent CIPD survey showed that on average in the UK, just 61% of employees feel that wellbeing is high on senior leaders’ agendas.

(We also discovered that employees were 40% more engaged in general if they felt positively about wellbeing, which shows that focusing on wellbeing is worth it. A future blog topic, perhaps.)

So what was our secret?

Well, I’ve already given you an idea but to be more specific, as a project team we wanted to learn quickly, fail fast, and keep in constant contact with employees to get the best possible sense of what they needed. Sound familiar?

We were using agile principles for a communications project. Agile is historically a software development methodology but we found it a great way to cut time to market, reduce the number of sign offs and ultimately end up with a solution that’s far better suited to the audience.

As I said before I love a plan, but with agile you focus more on responding to change and adapting plans accordingly, and I’ve found I love that even more. It works brilliantly for communications because you can change your approach based on the response you get from your audience. Or as I like to say, you can go where the energy is.

And the great thing about being agile is, you don’t have to have all the answers before you get going.

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? So what are you going to have a go at after reading this?

#haveago #wellbeing #agile #communications

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