The online conversation around remote work and hybrid teams has certainly lost momentum over the last few months. Businesses are settling in to whatever way of working feels right for them, and the naysayers seem to be a little quiet too. (Good.) As I see and speak to other agency founders, the challenge is no longer operations, technology or culture, but instead, the arguably more important matter of employee wellbeing.
I’ve said before that the extra touches like a ping pong table or a fridge full of carbonated treats are not benefits, but merely perks. So even if agencies had once relied on these to lure in new staff, that certainly won’t work in 2022 and beyond, where employees are looking for hybrid work and flexible hours over bouncy balls and fizz pop.
The conversation may have been hushed somewhat online, but for me, as a co-founder and Chief of Happiness, it’s fundamental that I continue this conversation, not only in my own consciousness, but with our teams too. After all, culture is the very lifeblood of Kyan, and now, more than ever, employee wellbeing is a colourful thread that knits our people and their passion with our purpose and our products. We want to be a business where folk can come together and be their best selves and do their best work. If either of those are not working, then we are failing.
Moving forward with purpose and permanence
I’d like to draw comparison to the ‘new year detox’, which I’m sure you’re no stranger to (only two months to go). Whilst ditching the dirty stuff and eating green will allow you some short-term benefits, it’s all for nothing if you go back to bad habits come February.
The same can be said for efforts in company wellbeing. This reminds me of team building weekends from yesteryear – enforced corporate fun dressed up in wellington boots and whimsey. The day itself may be a good laugh for the many in attendance, but ultimately, it’s back to work the next day, often to the same old same old.
Effective wellbeing efforts must be long-term and consistent. They must be accessible to all, and they must directly contribute to the physical and mental health of all who wish to take part, today, tomorrow, forever.
Introducing ‘Kyan Wellness Week’
Part of finding what fits is trying new things, and this was the purpose of our recent ‘Kyan Wellness Week’ – a week dedicated to feeling good and thinking good about ourselves. This came out of the annual team survey we did back in the summer where it was clear that some of the team were feeling mentally challenged and malnourished by the impact of hybrid working.
I also believe that even though we have become more comfortable and open about talking about our mental health challenges, there is still some way to go, and the Wellness Week was a way for us to be proactively upfront about this and look at some strategies and practices that could hopefully benefit everyone in the team, not just for the week, but for the future.
We set up a programme across the week, with each morning starting with a communal Zoom-based physical activity to bring members of the team together and try out some movements to free us from our desk-based lethargy. We had Jac Wynn-Williams taking us through some desk based stretches, one morning we had Mark Shayler running a Qi Gong session which was a first for most of the team and I even did a yoga sun salutation class.
A dog walking lunch, a cycle to work day, a walking meeting day and a lunchtime run were some of the other physical and in-person events we organised but as a hybrid working team. It was also important to ensure there was a balance of online happenings that would appeal to our more remote players.
Finding serenity in sound
One of my highlights of the Kyan Wellness Week was the sound bathing session. A tribe of sonic shamans came into Kyan HQ and arranged a set of huge gongs, for a group of us, to lay down in front of, and become immersed in the sonorous flux of the crystalline heart of the universe.
It was my first official sound bath (if you forget standing in front of bass bins in fields in the early 90s) and I didn't really know what to expect. Some of the team had experienced them before and had talked about the sense of release, the tears, the visuals, the uber chill and so it was with some excitement that I lay down in front of the Great Gong Wall of Kyan and closed my eyes.
Then it was done and I’d felt like I’d been bathing in an orangey tidal sea of sonic static that tumbled and rolled me, and transported me to a timeless present where I could feel my alpha brain waves start to thrum. I emerged from the cosmic washing machine, feeling lighter, brighter and somehow cleaner. I slept a full ten hours that night. No tears though.
Sleep, read and doodle
Michael Hogg’s Sleep Lecture talk on how to be better at sleep was excellent and we all picked up tips on how to minimise the distraction from our tech when needing to sleep, as was the Mental Health talk by Claire and Michael. We also enjoyed a book sharing session where we discussed books that had a positive effect on our wellbeing and that had shaped us for the better. My reading list has just grown significantly.
Helen’s creative lunch, where we took the time to draw Zentangles as a way to create a sense of calm and mindful flow, was also very enjoyable and I’ve practised the art several times since.
It’s hard to find something that appeals to everyone and some activities were quite experimental, more a way for us to try a few different routes and help us to continue the conversation around how it’s so important to feel good at work and beyond especially in a more remote working world.
It is important for us all to find new ways to balance the tensions and pressures of working in a technology agency and I’m hopeful of two things. Firstly, that we can embed some of these wellness activities into everyday life at Kyan, and secondly, that we can put on another Wellness Week and bring new activities into the fold. I, for one, am already looking forward to the next swelling of the sonic surf.
We are Kyan, a technology agency powered by people. And gongs.
Previously from Piers:
‘No one said it was gonna be easy’ – adventures in hybrid working
2021: Working differently but still very much together
Kyan Culture as told by our people – a short film