by Steve Barry, HR Director, Engage Mutual Assurance
Find out how employers are using empathy, understanding and flexible working practices to help improve their employees’ work-life balance.
We all come to work for all sorts of reasons – and recognising this is a good starting point for any employer. You can then start to create an environment that people are happy to recommend to their friends and family as a great place to work. At Engage Mutual we’ve worked hard on this over the years - introducing policies, benefits and working practices that help us stand very favourably alongside other organisations.
Of course, no amount of policies will help navigate through every individual’s circumstances, particularly ones that come out of the blue. But that’s when I think organisations like Engage Mutual really come into our own. Our business is not huge in terms of numbers of staff employed (200) and we have the benefit of being able to greet everyone by their first name in the morning. Sure, our policies provide a framework to help employees and managers – but the key lies in the word “empathy”. Getting the right blend of being “personable and professional” gives organisations like Engage Mutual the best opportunity to help staff when their circumstances require it. It’s this application of empathy that allows us to really demonstrate who we are as a business and also, vitally, how we support our colleagues when they need it most.
when empathy is needed
Childcare is a common example of the kind of situation that requires an empathetic response from an employer – and it affects quite a number of people. How do you write a “rule book” to cover situations with children when what’s required is a more empathetic perspective than the guidelines suggest? Another example is when someone needs time off to care for an older relative. At Engage Mutual, this happened to Jacqui, our receptionist when her mother fell ill.
Jacqui’s dedication to the job meant she kept juggling all aspects of her life so she could accommodate the various hospital appointments she now had to attend. Time away from work, although supported by her line manager, brought her more anxiety. Thankfully, talking through the situation with her line manager really helped. It allowed everyone to appreciate the complexities of her situation and, importantly, the implications of caring responsibilities. Critically it also allowed Jacqui’s manager to underline her value to our business and assure her that her job was safe.
striking a happier balance
Jacqui’s relief was noticeable and, with one less thing to contend with, she took the much needed time off to provide care for her mum. She also reduced her hours to mornings whilst her mum still needed care. Thanks to the empathy of her line manager, they worked out a solution together that worked for all concerned and Jacqui has been able to strike a much happier balance of work and home life.
There will no doubt be other situations at Engage Mutual, and other organisations, where this approach is needed. Whatever the circumstances, the constant question should be: “If it was me, how would I like to be treated?”
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