From the Circus Street mindset of empowerment, self-awareness, strength-based development and optimism, to the “Wellness Wheel”, our new Wellness Strategy formalises a cultural philosophy that was already well established.
Wellness has always been central to everything we do at Circus Street, but when I joined a year and a half ago as the Wellness Manager, there was no formal wellness strategy. With a naturally supportive and positive culture, there was a great foundation to build on, but with a pandemic and enforced remote working testing our limits as a company and workforce, it was time to make our approach official – and we’re proud to tell the world about it.
We face different challenges to a lot of companies, and we’ve been lucky that in the upheaval of 2020, we didn’t have to furlough anyone or make redundancies. At this point, a lot of people in my position would have had to try and “sell in” wellness activities to a senior leadership team, but it just hasn’t been the case with Circus Street – this move has been driven by them. So I’ve been busy reviewing how we support staff and their overall wellbeing, while creating and communicating a wellness strategy that is clearly defined, easy to understand, future facing and as a truly diverse workforce, we need to support a wide range of people’s needs.
The four principles of the Circus Street mindset
Core to the Circus Street wellness strategy are the four principles of our company mindset – empowerment, self awareness, strength-based development and optimism – alongside a “Wellness Wheel” which breaks down the different dimensions of wellness from sleep, rest and relaxation, to movement, nutrition, creativity and values and purpose. We then bring it to life across the business through events, and all other communications. The aim is to take care of everyone’s mental health, while focusing on building resilience and coping with change - helping individuals thrive as they reach their personal and professional growth, hand in hand with the business’ wider objectives.
What does this actually look like? Let’s start with our Circus Street mindset. All its principles hark back to this motto: “Life is not about how fast you run, how high you climb, but how well you bounce.” It’s important our teams have the tools they need to become more resilient and bounce back from setbacks they face. The more we do this, the more resilient we all become.
Empowerment is all about embracing ownership to solve difficult challenges. We work in a high performance culture and we all face challenges each week. One big issue has been getting people to work less - the hard work for me as Wellness Manager is to make people recognise when they need to take a break and really own that. It’s important people use their judgment about the best way to tackle this, whether that’s taking breaks, structuring their day or prioritising work.
Self awareness means making positive behavioural change to move towards higher personal success. A lot of research has shown us that self awareness is in direct correlation to both success and emotional intelligence. That means, by being genuinely self aware, as an individual you can create personal goals around health, sleep, breaks, in line with what you can do, and then eventually achieving those goals, and always striving for growth. We don’t expect that people will feel their best everyday, we just ask people to notice what they need and communicate that.
Strength-based development identifies and cultivates strengths at work to improve all business outcomes. As an approach, it’s been tested across 50,000 businesses and two million employees, and has proven time and again to improve every business outcome.
We promote life-long learning, but that’s as much about hard skills as it is soft skills and personal development. This is how the best performing teams work. We encourage everyone to take time to recognise their strengths, and understand where the need to develop lies. We don't expect people to be perfect, but we do expect them to take responsibility to understand where their own personal growth might need to come from, working together to create a plan to help them achieve that.
Optimism defines the way in which we approach a challenge, determining the experience and outcome. It’s obviously a key personality trait held by happy people, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone - it must be cultivated and is a key attribute of being resilient.
Delivering across the “Wellness Wheel”
Working in a high performance business, we attract the best people and we want to make sure that what we provide people with to do the job is also the best. Yet how we deliver wellness at Circus Street should be simple to understand, universal and inclusive, optimistic in outlook, and have a basis for measurement so we can continually improve. That’s why we have created a “Wellness Wheel”, to demonstrate all the ways we invite people to make sure they are at the top of their game. How we deliver wellness is across all of these dimensions from goals, to creativity, social connections and stress management.
We do expect a lot from our people, as they are all extremely talented individuals, and high performance does mean high delivery and output, so what we provide in terms of support needs to match this. Yes, the challenges will be big - but then so will the rewards. We provide multiple ways for open dialogue with our people at all levels, like a Pulse Survey to check how people are feeling about things like workload and if they are taking frequent enough breaks. We also have anonymous ways of communicating with the Senior Leadership Team so that people can share their feelings on sensitive topics without fear of judgment.
Being present internally and externally
In terms of measurement, our activities are wide ranging and frequent, so we are educating people on what they might need and when, rather than trying to meet demand and pushing for uptake. As a truly diverse company, for us it is more important that everyone feels like there's something for them, at the time when they need it.
We changed the whole year’s event plan literally overnight in March, to make sure we were supporting staff who were now all remote. The most important thing for us was to try and maintain company culture and keep spirits up. We adapted, and actually became better at some things. We’re a global workforce and all of a sudden, we got to experience events the same way as our global colleagues. We loved that it grounded us all in this way - we've loved family members popping into meetings and in a lot of respects, it has brought us closer together.
In February our events plan was quarterly, then in March we quickly adapted and started off with a two week events plan, which we reviewed and rotated, then making it monthly. We’re now in a position to plan these quarterly again, which has more recently involved Christmas, where instead of the Christmas party, we have hosted “12 Days of Christmas”. This has involved some charity work with www.beonhand.co.uk, crafting, foraging, candle making with Yougi, a herbal immunity workshop with Hackney Herbal, a choir, a Neal’s Yard Pamper Evening... and a few more surprises along the way. We realise what people needed isn’t a virtual Christmas party (as nice as that would have been) – what we have set out to deliver is a creative outlet, relaxation and more opportunities to just be social with colleagues.
As well as these internal initiatives, we have a number of external outputs that also contribute to people’s overall wellbeing. We work with a range of excellent external partners, like Founded Wellness and the workshops we do, to charity work with New York Cares, the Samaritans and more recently beonHand. We made the switch to Bupa to ensure we continually improve our private medical healthcare provider, and we have engaged with Best Companies, because we want Circus Street to be the best place to work, and understand where we need to improve. As a result of the work that we do in all these areas, we were proud to be recognised as the Top 75 Small Companies to work for in London in 2020 through the Best Companies Index.
The concept of wellbeing is undeniably complex, considering physical, social, financial, mental and emotional aspects. We recognise wellbeing is a fluctuating state, it isn’t stable. We will all face a variety of challenges at different stages of our life - some we will be more ready for than others. But challenges will happen, and we must recognise that the key to maintaining a good balance of wellbeing is knowing what tools you need to cope with the challenges you face.
Undoubtedly, you will begin to thrive when you take care of your own wellbeing – and that’s what we invite everyone at Circus Street to do.