Offering free fruit is not a wellbeing programme

Next up as part of our “work and life balance” initiative, we are featuring a range of topics revolving around the conscious step of putting people at the centre as your greatest asset, the single most important ingredient at the very core. Wellbeing at work is a hot topic, and an important factor, but are certain organisations missing the point entirely?

To share some first-hand insight, we managed to catch Peter Wakefield – founder at Loving Monday, to gain his perspective on why he thinks you should stop feeding bananas to our people.

peter wakefield loving monday

ADLIB: What specific considerations and practices do you think can truly lead to “wellbeing” in the office?

Peter Wakefield:

We have a lot of conversations with new clients who are looking to develop engagement, some of whom have been trying for years, not making the progress they feel they should’ve seen. The problem is that many people are focused on the wrong things, getting too caught up in doing or buying ‘stuff’ and measuring things rather than the empathy, behaviour and good old social skills that create trust and build relationships. So, we’d always advise, if in doubt, make it simple and talk to people before you do anything and shift your focus to “engagement” rather than “well-being” as the first leads to the latter.

ADLIB: What specific factors and practices do you think can truly lead to engaged employees?

Peter Wakefield: In the 20 or so years I’ve been working in this field, the single biggest thing I’ve learnt is that employee engagement has absolutely nothing to do with ‘employees’ and everything to do with ‘people’. If all you’re doing is trying to ‘engage your employees’, then you’re missing the point. You’re missing the one thing that it takes to engage them and that’s to understand them, everything about them, not just the bit of them that spends time doing stuff they get paid to do, rather understand who they are and what’s important to them.


Peter Wakefield: Don’t just focus on the numbers. Surveys and data are fine and still have a place in helping to prioritise things, but simply having actual conversations and asking employees ‘what can we do better?’ is much more valuable. If employees don’t feel they can sit down with their boss and have a conversation, it doesn’t matter how many surveys you run, you have a problem.

Research tells us that up to 80% of an individual’s engagement comes from their immediate line manager so if you’re a manager or leader I think you have a duty and an accountability to challenge yourself. For example, a useful test for any manager is to ask yourself, ‘how much do I know about the people I work with?’ Not just how long have they been here, what they last did last week, or how they like their coffee, but who are they? What are their lives about? What’s important to them? If you don’t know the answers, you haven’t built up a relationship or level of trust with them, and you probably won’t know when things are wrong.
The final thing I’d say to develop engagement is ironically, don’t overly worry about employee engagement. Instead, treat people well, listen to them, and give them room to grow. Don’t do that just to squeeze more productivity out of them, they’ll see that coming, but because it’s the right thing to do. And if your heart is in the right place, they’ll see that too.

Thanks Peter for sharing!

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