As part of our series of interviews with those carrying out sterling work in the employee wellbeing space, we spoke to Linda Nguyen, HR Manager at Waste Creative, a company which last year was recognised by Campaign Magazine in its ‘Best Places to Work’ awards.
SWW: Can you tell us about some of the initiatives Waste Creative is currently running to boost employee wellbeing. What are some of your favourites?
Linda Nguyen: We also understand that whilst working in a hybrid way, those working from home can naturally work longer hours and feel burnt out more easily. To tackle this issue, we’ve put together a list called the ‘Waste WFH Etiquette’, which contains useful tips and tricks for employees’ day to day working. Things such as being mindful if people have their status to ‘busy’, ‘in a meeting’, ‘lunch’ or ‘sick’ on Slack and to avoid disturbing them if possible. We encourage the team to schedule messages so that the messages can be sent in the morning if people have logged off for the day. Additionally, we have set the company Slack so that it automatically turns off everyone’s Slack notifications at 6pm and turns back on at 9am the next day, to encourage people to switch off out of hours.
Providing a supportive environment for Wasters is really important to us, and wellbeing is at the forefront of helping us do that. We have recently redesigned our benefits to reflect the future of work, as we’ve added ‘Work From Anywhere’ (geographically) allowing Wasters to do exactly that for up to four weeks a year. We worked hard to make sure our Wasters didn’t feel isolated during the pandemic, and one of my favourite initiatives was our Executive Creative Director (Alistair Campbell) regularly putting on a radio show called Waste Radio, taking on song requests and song dedications. It’s a lot of fun and connects the entire team, and we’re still doing it today! The show has developed with themes for every edition, and it’s definitely something I always look forward to tuning into.
We also send out a bi-weekly Waste Wellbeing newsletter, which provides ideas on how to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. This is also complimented by a separate Financial Wellbeing newsletter delivered by our Finance department that shares resources and information to help support the team on financial issues.
The Waste Water Cooler channel on Slack sounds interesting; How did it come about? Can you describe how it works?
LN: We have multiple channels focused on people’s interests (‘#pets’, ‘#inspiration’, ‘#insights’, ‘#gamestuff’, ‘#wfhwithkids’, etc) and we expanded the channels further during lockdown. Our ‘random’ channel which was created for water cooler chats was something we had set up years before the pandemic. It was a way for us to share news, discuss random topics and even do funny polls such as “pineapple on pizza – yes or no?” It allows the team to connect with each other and get to know one another on a personal level.
I see that Waste has a diversity panel to support its commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment. What impact does this have on employee wellbeing?
LN: We have many things in place to ensure that diversity and inclusion is a key element in all areas of the agency. The panel is just one of them, and it started with a team of 12 people, but developed over the past year as we decided to open the panel discussions as an open forum to everyone at Waste Creative who would like to join. This was to make everyone feel included in the conversation, as belonging is something we want all Wasters to embrace and feel whilst working here. As a result, it’s been impactful on people’s wellbeing, as it gives them more confidence and assurance to be themselves here. We conduct a Diversity & Inclusion survey every six months to monitor our progress and 92% of employees said they feel included and respected at Waste.
The pandemic proved challenging for many employees, particularly those working in HR. Can you tell me one thing you learnt about employee wellbeing during this time?
LN: More than ever it highlighted to me how important wellbeing is, as many people on the team felt anxious about the pandemic, feelings of isolation, and concerns for loved ones. It was a vital time for us to look at how we could further support employees’ wellbeing and mental health during those difficult periods. We encouraged managers to check-in regularly with their teams, signposted to our EAP services and sent out regular pulse surveys to monitor how the team were doing. This is something we have continued to do, whilst working in a hybrid way.
When it comes to your own wellbeing, what are your non-negotiables / must do activities that you turn to maintain your wellbeing?
LN: A good playlist is a must for me whilst working through the day, I find music really helps lift my mood and I try to go for a walk everyday (even if it’s for 15 minutes). The fresh air really helps to clear my mind so that I’m able to come back and be more productive.
More info on Campaign’s Best Places to Work 2021 can be found here.