Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Building an employee-first culture to attract and retain the best talent

Richard Guy, Country Sales Manager UK and Ireland at Ergotron

It’s impossible to predict the long-term impact of unregulated home working conditions – only that there are clear signs of escalating physical and mental health needs within organisations. It used to be the status and wealth of a company that made a brand attractive to prospective candidates, but now the brand values associated with being employee-first, and caring for your workers is becoming the driving force behind attracting and retaining top talent. In fact, according to an Ergotron survey, 73% of UK workers would choose their next employer based on provision of ergonomic equipment and a healthy working environment.

Amidst the tech skills crisis and rise of the Gen Z tranche of more socially aware UK workers, business leaders, HR pros and hiring managers are scrambling for ideas to support employee engagement, retention and well-being. Creating a flexible health-first workplace culture that uplifts, motivates and empowers employees is essential to business success. But creating and sustaining a vibrant culture when many employees work remotely presents a challenge.

Ergonomics basics

Early on in the recruitment process, even before an interview, conversations focus on what it’s like to work at the company and its culture. Pre-pandemic, comfortable remote working used to be mainly a freelancer’s concern.

In 2022, those companies that actively consider and prioritise their workers’ health and wellbeing stand out from competitors, regardless of size or industry. Comfort is linked to productivity, creativity and innovation and it’s vital that HR managers and hiring managers have policies and practices that promote some ergonomic basics. This will create optimal ways of working that maximise existing worker productivity and attract the best new talent.

Especially when workers are based remotely and at a greater physical distance from managers, they require best practice guidelines and the right equipment to ensure they are working safely and comfortably. Poor working habits can quickly escalate to injuries or long-term health conditions, impacting on staff productivity, staff turnover, brand reputation and more.

Ergonomics basics include ensuring workers adopt a neutral posture, which feels natural and comfortable. This uses less energy and puts minimal stress on the body. Working when standing at a sit-stand desk and standing or moving while working is less tiring than sitting in one place during work hours. It helps workers to feel alert and balanced and improves blood circulation. Rest time is also critical to business performance. Taking quick regular breaks and engaging in light exercise and stretching keeps the body moving and relaxes eyes, wrists, and hands.

Foundations for a flexible, health-minded workplace

Business leaders can develop some practical solutions to build healthy and flexible work environments that engage and attract workers. Here’s some recommendations to building a robust strategy for an employee-first working culture, which will support employee retention, engagement, and well-being:

Empathy is key

The power of employee empathy is extremely influential in fostering creativity and innovation and in building successful teams. Empathy must come from the top, with workers’ needs, concerns and preferences shaping the look and feel of an organisation’s workspaces. True empathy might even mean changing a business model to suit your employees’ changing lifestyles and limitations.

Carry out an audit of staff needs and provisions

As part of truly addressing workers’ needs means conducting a formal evaluation of their current provisions against what’s needed for them to carry out their particular tasks within their job description.

Invest in the onboarding process

Engaging effectively with a worker must start by investing heavily in the onboarding process. and going the extra mile to ensure workers feel heard, appreciated, and validated. Progressive companies also establish employee resource groups to facilitate meaningful connections, as well as promote mental health support and company benefits. Time-in-seat is irrelevant now. It matters how you treat employees and customers.

Prioritise connecting personally

It’s important not to overlook the importance of frequent one-on-one conversations in modern workspaces to ensure workers’ mental health is supported. In the Ergotron survey, only 36% of workers have a line manager regularly checking in with them on health and wellbeing and over half (54%) of UK employers admit they don’t regularly check in with workers on health and wellbeing. A supportive culture is one where individuals are positively encouraged to ask for help when needed.

Flexible working means policy and practice

Flexibility is key to becoming an attractive company that workers want to work for, and can widen the talent pool to embrace specific social groups who have previously found employment inaccessible. This helps to build more diverse teams and support a healthy work/life balance. It can also help to solve career drop out points that are most typical for women as they experience lifestyle pressures. A work-from-anywhere policy should go further than merely “permit” employees to work from home, and be backed by the C-suite, to be truly successful.

Adopt flexible tech and working equipment

Companies should invest in dedicated ergonomic home office equipment for their workers and go the extra mile to ensure workers feel like their workspace is a haven of health rather than a den of stress. Sit-stand and mobile workstations, flexible monitor arms and ergonomic desks and chairs which can be ideally positioned for the individual worker, could all be considerations – or workers can alternatively be offered an employers’ subsidy to buy their own equipment.

Strategise for a long-term holistic view of wellbeing

Making plans for long-term investment into a holistic view of employee well-being will attract the workers you need and keep them safe, comfortable, and productive – for the long term. Employee wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. So make plans for long-term investment into a holistic view of employee well-being.

Securing and retaining the best talent

It’s important to stay focused on the end goal. With people arguably an organisation’s most important asset, building more flexible and supportive working environments is set to promote worker engagement, wellbeing, productivity, and staff retention. This combined with the operational savings of staff churn means that the health of employees doesn’t just ‘matter’ – an employee-first culture has a direct influence on the performance of the company as well as the bottom line.

Cultivating a movement mindset of healthy behaviours starts at the top, with health-focused leaders building working cultures that will attract and retain all talent - from the interns to the c-suite.