This overview of PR agency Manifest's workplace well-being initiatives is given by Ali Maynard - Global Business Director. So let's jump right in and hear from Ali how Manifest has created a business that is one of the top 3 agencies to work in Campaign's Best Place to Work 2019.
Tell me a little about who you are and how well-being fits into your role at Manifest
My role within the agency is to look after client services, business development and our team to ensure we create a collaborative, happy, dedicated working environment across Manifest Group. I work closely with our local Happiness Officers in each of our offices located in London, New York and Stockholm, their role makes them responsible for creating the happiest place in the world to work.
Your well-being package is called Balance! How do you encourage staff to find their balance? And how do you support diversity and individuality in this?
We curated our well-being package, Balance, in a way that it provides perks and benefits that would help the work/ life balance. The communications industry is notoriously stressful and demanding (remind me why we put ourselves through it!?), and we know our team works hard on achieving incredible results for our clients, so we want to ensure they are able to switch off when they get home and truly enjoy life outside of work.
We don’t live to work, but it shouldn’t mean we don’t enjoy our job - if we can make Manifest a place where people are happy to come to everyday, it will make the “working” part of our lives that little bit better.
What does balance mean to Manifest?
Whilst the lines are blurring more and more across our work/life balance in all industries with ‘always on’ cultures, we recognise that people work in such different ways, and one size does not fit all when it comes to understanding motivations and needs within our team. Some of our team prefer to check in on Slack and emails on the commute to work, or as I do on Sunday nights just so I feel fully prepped and organised for the week ahead, whilst others may prefer to switch off and come in ready for 9am to hit go.
I am a terrible morning person, and know that I am most likely going to turn up just after nine, but we are not an agency driven by presenteeism and never will be. We have trust in our team to work hard and get their job done, by offering flexible working hours, working from home and also from our other offices it allows us to be truly supportive of the different ways people like to work.
We have recently launched “Amplify” our mental well-being plan which takes a much closer look at what it takes to be truly happy. The initiatives are based around different dimensions of wellness including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, occupational and spiritual. We tried to create something for everyone, something thought out and tailored to individuals rather than an off-the-rack employee programme.
Does fresh fruit and yoga cut it? What have you seen that is different that works?
Fresh fruit and yoga are definitely nice offerings, especially if previously you have been doing nothing BUT yoga won’t appeal to everyone, and employees definitely expect and look for a little more these days. We always talk about our benefits and policies during our interview process and it's something that people get involved with from day one. Within our team, they all selected Balance subscriptions like Spotify, Netflix, Buddy Box, Tate Membership, Kindle and Audible. But we also have perks like a van hire if you are moving house, an engagement ring design service and a personal trainer who holds weekly sessions like Beyoncé Booty and 80’s aerobic classes. We like to mix things up, and keep our thighs strong.
A common concern for Business leaders is how to encourage staff to look after their personal priorities and responsibilities so that THEY feel balanced, without it impacting business?
How do you feel Manifest achieves this?
We understand why it is important to have a good work life balance, we all have lives outside of Manifest that deserve time and attention. We encourage the team with their professional goals, as well as their personal goals. Expecting personal priorities to not overlap in to people's working life is unrealistic, but having policies in place to help manage this will make it easier for both sides.
We have flexible working, remote working policies, and career clinics to review goals. As part of Amplify, going forward we are going to start monthly 'Happy Mondays' where we set out our personal and professional goals for the month ahead. This way everyone is aware of what everyone is working towards and can encourage them to achieve their goals. One of our team members in London is an awesomely talented illustrator (@emloustudio) and using her unlimited holiday she is able to do art courses to further her artistic talents. Similarly, in New York, our senior campaign manager is part of an art collective arranging events to showcase independent art (@ReadyMadeCollective).
For us, we see these passion projects that make them more creative and better at their jobs - we wouldn’t ever see it as having an impact on their Manifest roles, if anything we would see this as a benefit.
Lastly, it would be easy when reading this to assume that Manifest has a big budget to support this. How do you afford and justify the spend?
You can’t put a price on happiness! If our team is happy, this is representative in the work we produce. We have always invested in our team and our office environment to try and make it a great place to work but as a relatively small agency, we do have we use our budgets strategically to ensure everyone benefits from the perks. We also have unlimited holiday as standard at Manifest which we invest in across the group. So whilst budgets aren’t huge, there are loads of things you can do that don't cost money or are relatively cost effective. If there is a group of people, you can always negotiate group discounts. Our Happiness Officer in London is excellent at finding ways to make our budget work hard so the team gets a variety of different rewards and benefits every month.
And whatever you invest in well-being, these costs are SO easily justified! Every time we do a team survey our benefits and well-being plan come as one of the top things that people love about working with us. It improves morale, well-being and makes us one of the best places to work, which means we attract and retain the best talent. That, and the ball and chains we hand out to people on their first day.
To find out more about Manifest and the great work they do, both for their clients and their staff, visit here.