How we’re transforming the nine to five 

Matt Davies | Chief People Officer

With more than 15 years’ experience in HR, Matt joined Target Group in 2017. Matt has a background in Employee Engagement, People Projects and Employee Relations, and since being at Target has launched an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. Matt is passionate about developing a People Strategy that enables Target to be an employer of choice, and creating a great place to work.

Hybrid working and the new normal

Monday 7th February has the dubious honour of being ‘National sickie day’. Statistically, the first Monday of February is when people are most likely to phone in sick to work. It got me thinking about why this is and how companies can support their colleagues better.

Action Mental Health cites a combination of gloomy weather, seasonal illness, and poor mental health as the main contributing factors to the phenomenon. We all know how vital it is to get outside and feel the health benefits of natural sunlight to shore up our vitamin D levels. Dark winter days, recent restrictions and lockdowns haven’t helped.

The pandemic effect

In 2020 the average sickness taken was 3.6 days per worker, down from 4.2 days in 2019. According to the Office of National Statistics, while Covid-19 led to absence, measures to prevent the spread, like social distancing, shielding and working from home, appear to have reduced other types of sickness.

Reports suggest people were also less likely to call in sick “when they were a little unwell” during the pandemic. Previously they may not have travelled to work and had a day’s absence, while now they soldier on because they can work from home.

Nailing the work-life balance

There’s no doubt Covid has been devastating for many, heaping more pressure on parents, carers and those living alone. There’ve been some positives too. Over the last two years, hybrid and flexible working has become a necessity, forcing businesses to reimagine their whole approach for the better.

We can’t ignore that in some cases working from home increases feelings of isolation and loneliness, harming mental health. Target has several measures in place to support colleagues:

  • We’ve trained a team of mental health first aiders to offer impartial support
  • We provide access to free counselling and support via a dedicated helpline (UNUM)
  • We’ve launched a carers policy and well-being package

The new normal

We trust our colleagues. Their commitment, dedication and performance during these challenging times continues to be exceptional. I’m incredibly grateful for this. As we plan to move towards a new normal, we’re being colleague led. We asked our teams to share their preferences on where they’d like to work in future. We want our colleagues to be fully supported and listened to as we move forward together.

We appreciate everyone is different, and no one solution fits all. We respond to our colleagues’ unique needs. The world has changed forever; employers will thrive when they respond and adapt to this change. People are rightly readdressing their priorities and work-life balance in the wake of the global pandemic.

Businesses can no longer dictate terms based on an outdated nine to five status quo. Forward-thinking brands are introducing and piloting a wide range of initiatives to offer their people more flex. In turn, this will help them attract and retain the brightest talent.

Looking to the future

As an ambassador for our people, I’m excited to see how the landscape continues to change.  We’re constantly reviewing new opportunities and exploring flexible working ideas. I’ll continue to seek colleague feedback and input to shape our future working model. I’m looking forward to seeing the long term benefits our new normal brings to our people, clients and business.

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