'Our people need a break' | Hootsuite to launch company-wide 'Wellness Week'

Hootsuite to launch company-wide 'Wellness Week'

A boss has shared details of a company-wide wellness week, which has been designed to give staff a break from professional duties, saying it will boost productivity in the long term.

In a LinkedIn post, Ryan Holmes, Chairman and Co-Founder at Hootsuite - a social media management platform - explained that the firm would shut down for a full week this summer to launch a company-wide wellness week.

He wrote: “We can’t run back to back marathons without burning out and our people need a break.

“We believe productivity goes up when you’re given the space to slow down.”

Following this news, HR Grapevine exclusively caught up with Tara Ataya, Chief People and Diversity Officer at Hootsuite to find out who this benefits, what sparked this idea, and how having this time off could positively impact the HR agenda.

Who does this benefit?

Ataya explained that the Wellness Week is company-wide and applies to its more than 1,000 global employees which are based in 13 international cities including London, Madrid, Rome and Sydney.

“The inaugural Wellness Week - which will take place between 5th-12th July - is separate from each employee’s annual vacation allotment, and its aim is to give everyone an opportunity to step away from work and ‘unplug’ together as a company for a well-deserved break,” the people lead added.

‘Leaning into discussions’

The coronavirus crisis has had a huge impact on mental health as data has shown. 

For example, research from Close Brothers’ Expecting the unexpected: a spotlight on preparing for a crisis report found that more than half of staff have experienced an increase in worries relating to their mental health due to the pandemic.

With this in mind, Ataya said that the idea for this week off was fuelled by leaning into conversations about the impact that the pandemic has had on mental health.

She said: “From homeworking burnout and being separated from loved ones to the collective wider hardships we’ve witnessed during the pandemic, it hasn’t been easy.

“We believe that organisations have a duty to prioritise mental, physical and financial health, and we've made it our goal to support our people in every way we can, in these challenging times and beyond.”

Aside from the introduction of Wellness Week, it seems that Hootsuite had other initiatives in the pipeline when the pandemic hit.  

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have focussed our internal communication strategies on destigmatising mental health challenges, promoting self-care and providing the space and time for that self-care," said Ataya.

“Initially, we introduced 'Owly Quality Time', where we log off for half-day Fridays in the summer months - Q1 in the Southern Hemisphere and Q3 in the Northern Hemisphere focussed on wellness and this was very helpful for employees. 

“We also know that part of striving to be the best is constantly re-assessing what our people need right now, not solely what they will need down the road.”

In addition, Ataya explained that the firm has deployed other benefits to help support staff mental wellbeing, including increasing its paid sick leave policy globally, as well as offering appropriate counselling around the world. 

Business benefits & the HR agenda

When rolling out any new policy or initiative, the people function will likely be interested to know how this will benefit the HR agenda and the business.

Firstly, Ataya said that studies have shown that staff who take time off have reduced levels of stress and are therefore more productive at work.

Her thinking dovetails with data from The American Psychological Association - as was reported by Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation - which concluded that taking time off can reduce stress by removing staff from settings and activities that they associate with anxiety and stress.

In addition to this, research by Oxford University's Saïd Business School and BT found that workers are 13% more productive when happy.

She added: “We’ve been redefining what a healthy company culture and workforce means and are focusing on building a diverse, inclusive, and results-oriented workplace that welcomes everyone as they are. But this productivity shouldn’t come at the cost of burnout and instead requires ample moments to recharge.

“Having strategic, built-in breaks offers our people some well-deserved R&R. Slowing down now and then is the only way to get up to full speed again and we encourage our people to find a healthy work-life balance. 

“We also know that a hybrid approach to work allows for greater diversity by providing access to a global talent pool, leading to better productivity and engagement in the long run,” Ataya added.

Should other employers follow suit?

Given the benefits that this can bring both staff and the business, it begs the question as to whether other employers should follow suit.

Ataya said that employers should consider what their staff needs are and lead in on conversations relating to mental health.

She added: “What we’ve always known, and what has been amplified through the pandemic, is that it isn’t healthy for anyone, mentally, physically, or emotionally, to work under pressure or stress for extended periods of time—and that everyone deserves a break when they need it. 

“While a week-long break is, understandably, not possible for all organisations, we are already starting to see influential technology companies such as Bumble, and LinkedIn adopt similar initiatives. We hope that organisations within tech and beyond can look to each other for great examples of how to encourage happy, healthy and productive employees through empathetic, agile leadership,” she concluded.

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