Back in July, we used our long-standing reputation to offer something a little bit different. Rather than focusing on recognising employees themselves (which is what we usually do), we worked with Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to help recognise the families of their staff. The hospital felt it to be important to recognise and thank families for providing invaluable support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hampshire Hospital staff were able to nominate the younger members of their family for an award with a handful of winners selected by the trust’s public governors each month.
Saying thank you to the children of Hampshire Hospitals’ staff
Hampshire Hospitals wanted to say thank you to all of the children of their staff who had done such a brilliant job in supporting them during the pandemic, by giving them a special WOW! Award for being an amazing NHS helper. The award consisted of a personalised letter from Alex Whitfield, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals, and a named certificate produced by The WOW! Awards employee recognition programme. Nominations were open for submission from all of our clinical and non-clinical staff at team HHFT and we had well over 700 submissions from people across our sites.
Feedback from the staff members
The accolades went down a treat with children and staff. Feedback from one staff member said “Thank you HHFT for our son’s WOW award. It’s not been easy for him during COVID, especially with most of his family working at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital (BNHH) including both of his parents.” Another noted “Receiving a WOW Award today made my son a little teary. Thank you so much for the lovely letter #madehisday”.
“The way the trust has utilised the WOW! Awards, by awarding them to staff’s families, really highlights how much NHS workers need strong family support when we get home after a long, difficult shift. Whether a chat with the spouse to decompress or just a cuddle with the kids. I hope when my daughter is a bit older she can look back at her WOW! Award and be proud of the team effort that I was a part of at HHFT.“Quote from Ben, Radiographer, X-ray Department
Recognising the fantastic support provided by family members
Alex Whitfield, the CEO of Hampshire Hospitals, said: “All of our staff have gone above and beyond in responding to COVID-19, and continue to do so as we work towards restoration and a busy winter period. We have heard countless stories of the fantastic support that families have offered throughout this time and wanted to recognise the important part they continue to play. We hope to welcome some of our smaller NHS helpers to team HHFT in the future!”
We felt incredibly proud to be working with Hampshire NHS Foundation Trust in their campaign to recognise and thank those who have supported our essential front line workers. Everyone working in the NHS has done an absolutely incredible job in the care they have provided to our communities during this pandemic. But those individuals could not have achieved all that they have without the support of their families, friends and loved ones.
Why recognising families is important as part of employee recognition
With the awards at Hampshire Hospitals now over, it’s made us realise how valuable initiatives like these are – especially at a time where so many of our lives have been disrupted due to the ongoing pandemic. Recognition should go beyond just the employee. It should extend to family as well. They too have their part to play in supporting people to excel in their jobs – both in frontline services and in general.
Families undertake an important role in ensuring an employee can perform at their best. They act as support mechanism at home, so by helping family members to support employees, this can only have a positive effect on your organisation. When individuals have successful personal lives, they will feel more driven to succeed at work as well. Research undertaken by the University of Oxford in 2019 revealed that happy workers are 13% more productive. By investing in family-focused initiatives for your employees, you can promote a sense of care and fulfilment both in and outside of work.
Loyalty and trust
Engaging staff members’ families can also build loyalty among employees. Family members are, through the connection with the employee, a customer of the organisation in so far as they have a relationship with the brand. They have a vested interested in the organisation, even if it is from afar, so their affiliation with your organisation should always be considered. Recognising employees’ family will demonstrate to your staff that they are a valuable part of your organisation and can help to establish trust.
Recognising that work/family life can be challenging during the pandemic
With many people now working from home as a result of the pandemic, employees are now part of a wider social network than just their office – their network now includes their family members or children as well. Additionally, many are no longer in an environment that’s setup for work only, so it can be harder to concentrate and separate work from downtime.
As the lines between home and work life become increasingly blurred, it’s crucial that organisation help staff members fit their work schedules around other commitments. A Labour Force Survey conducted by HSE reported that British workers took a whopping 21.6 days for stress, depression or anxiety in 2019, and this was before Covid-19 hit. As individuals battle with the converging challenges of childcare, remote working and a worldwide pandemic, it’s never been more crucial to have support measures in place.
When schools shut during the pandemic, some organisations went the extra mile by rolling out initiatives to keep the children of employees occupied for a few hours while their parents worked. This provided some much-needed focus time for those that were juggling remote working with childcare. Genpact, Accenture, Deloitte, AMD, and Hinduja Global Solutions were just a few of the organisations to implement this idea. These are the kinds of forward-thinking initiatives we need to be championing, especially as many offices plan to transition to a permanent work from home model in future.
In September, Working Families conducted a survey which revealed that during the pandemic, many employers provided flexible working arrangements for those staff with children, as well as wellbeing support, paid leave, the acceptance of children appearing on video calls and the amendment of deadlines to reflect caring commitments. Before the first lockdown, 65% of employers surveyed said support for families was good or very good whereas after the first lockdown 100% of employers surveyed said support is now good or very good.
As more and more organisations adapt their practices to reflect caring needs, employees now have a broader variety of choice when it comes to choosing family-friendly employers. People are more likely to be motivated to work for a organisation who shares the same personal values as them, especially now that organisations have a better understanding of the challenges they face. So it could make all the difference to them joining your organisation over someone else’s
Those organisations during the pandemic who have stepped up to the plate to accommodate family responsibilities have come out on top, whereas those who have failed to make compromises have been named and shamed publicly. At the same time, a lack of flexibility towards child care commitments could cost your organisation money, as evidence shows your employees might be more likely to take more sick days or leave their job as a result.
Family engagement through the medium of work is by all means not a new concept, many organisations have provided initiatives that engage with the family on some level. For example, certain medical benefit packages extend not just to the employees but to family members as well.
More superior family-inclusive benefits have included on-site nurseries to care for employees’ children. From a social perspective, many organisations choose to invite spouses or partners of employees to their paid for annual Christmas party. But there needs to be more of these initiatives in place and on a wider scale. The pandemic has changed the working dynamic as we once knew it, and fostering a family-friendly work environment is more important than ever. The more understanding you are of your employee’s family demands, the better they will engage.
So, what can we do moving forward to make sure our workplaces promote family engagement? I’ve outlined just a few recommendations below.
Create a supportive culture
Create a supportive culture. At the very least, workplace support and benefits should include the ability to work from home and flexible working hours, where possible. Allowing time for employees to enjoy their lives with their family, but still get their work done, is crucial in encouraging a healthy work-life balance.
For those individuals who work in organisations whereby flexible working isn’t possible because of the nature of their job, try to offer alternative provisions instead. This could include mental health support or the opportunity for staff to take regular breaks so that they can speak to family members when they need to. You should also take the time to understand that every family is different – the nuclear family is no more. Each family has different needs that should be responded to accordingly.
Work-life balance will mean something different to each employee, so speak to them individually to find out what would personally benefit them. Communicating boundaries are equally important. It can be hard for employees without family commitments to understand the sorts of demands other colleagues have to grapple with, so try to encourage open discussions around other people’s commitments. Put a stop to late-night calls, emails and meetings scheduled at the end of the day. Instead, create a family-friendly environment whereby staff feel comfortable sharing any concerns they may have.
Create benefits that centre around your employee’s needs
Introduce benefits that centre around your employee’s needs. Some staff members might have children to pick up from school or nursery, others might have elderly relatives to look after, or they might even fall into the sandwich generation where they are juggling both.
Think about the kinds of benefits you could tap into to make the balancing act between your employee’s home and work lives easier. It could be subsidised discounts for care homes, on-site childcare facilities, or even entertainment benefits such as family cinema tickets or meal vouchers.
The benefits don’t necessarily have to be of monetary value either, it could be as simple as setting up changing facilities in the office in case your employees ever need to bring their young child in, or encouraging flexible working during the school holidays. All these little considerations can make a huge difference to your employees’ overall wellbeing at work.
Be flexible towards parents’ needs
Children are going to fall ill during working hours – there’s no doubt about that. While in the past, support in this area might have slipped under the radar, we must do everything we can to support parents moving forward. Put some provisions in place for when these kinds of scenarios crop up, and build these into your organisation’s HR guidelines. The more support you can give to parents, the better.
Thank the employees’ family members
So many of us sacrifice time away from our families to dedicate a huge chunk of our lives to the organisations we work for. Inviting family members to attend online awards or recognition events can be a small gesture that could go a long way in thanking them for enabling their loved one to give back to your organisation. At the same time, it helps to promote a sense of community within your organisation, which could cultivate better friendships and ultimately boost employee satisfaction.
Celebrate the good work of your people by thanking them over social media
Sharing recognition via social media platforms is another thoughtful way to celebrate and thank your staff, especially at a time where work is being done digitally and it’s not as easy to recognise people in person. Better still, spreading positive messages in this way will reach friends and family members within your employees’ networks.
Introduce genuine recognition programmes
Sometimes, a genuine thank you is much more meaningful than a cash reward such as a prize or voucher. Showing gratitude can go a long way in leaving a lasting impression on your employees, and they’ll naturally pass the feedback on to friends and family too. For us at The WOW! Awards, we’re all about genuine thank yous, and we offer a recognition programme that makes visible the great customer service that might otherwise not be seen.
Many positive changes have come as a result of the lockdown, and it’s vital that these continue in the future. There’s been a positive cultural shift in employers’ attitudes towards family commitments, mainly because the enforced lockdown restrictions have meant there has had to be. But these attitudes shouldn’t get forgotten about once the pandemic is over. It’s important that the sentiment remains at the forefront of HR professional’s minds.
Engaging with the family of employees needs to be a priority that’s embedded into organisation culture if we are to engage with employees successfully over the long-term. After all, better family engagement could lead to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and help you to attract a wider variety of talent.