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Revolutionising Workplace Wellness with Charlotte Key

A steering force behind The Smyle Group’s standout workplace culture, People Experience Director Charlotte Key has helped the agency continue to set new standards for employee health and wellbeing. For three consecutive years, her impactful initiatives and policies have earned the agency accolades from the Inclusive Workplace Programme and Campaign Best Places to Work.

Now a finalist for the Campaign Inspiring Women Awards, Charlotte shares her journey, approach, and vision for the future of employee engagement.

How have your external roles in mentoring and mental health advocacy contributed to your employee wellness approach at The Smyle Group?

I'm extremely passionate about supporting positive mental well-being and have been lucky to work with mentees from a range of backgrounds. 

Recognising the impact of management on team wellness, we rolled out mental health first aid training to create a more open, supportive environment for people to talk about mental health without judgement. The feedback has been amazing and many of our managers have said they feel more confident and knowledgeable in supporting team members who may be experiencing mental health challenges. 

We love that our people can bring their true selves to work so that their energy can be channelled into achieving their best work. If our teams are happy and thriving in their careers, they can produce the best, most innovative creative work for our clients.

What’s the one thing you’ve implemented at The Smlye Group that makes you most proud?

Our approach to hybrid and flexible working. 

Continued remote and hybrid working is an important trend that has really evolved over the last couple of years. We remain passionate about creating a more flexible way of working that creates balance, agility, empowerment and importantly inclusion. Knowing that one policy won’t suit every individual role and need, we instead focus on four core values (agility, trust, respect, and well-being/balance) to make this work for The Smyle Group, our colleagues and our clients. 

Our flex policy was born from a working structure that allows people to take accountability for their own time with the guidance of 50/50 time spent in our offices and home working. It has been hugely popular and has given our teams greater work-life balance, autonomy, engagement and job satisfaction. 

How have internal groups such as Women of Smyle, Collective DEI Committee, and Planet Sustainability Committee impacted employee engagement and satisfaction?

Our wonderful initiative teams drive the culture of The Smyle Group. They include one member from each department to ensure we are canvassing opinions and expertise from across the agency. Accountability is key within our internal groups with a huge focus on engagement initiatives, innovation, DEI,  and sustainability. By taking part in business decisions, these groups help drive internal engagement and satisfaction.

For example, our Forum team has been fundamental in rolling out many of our people-focused initiatives. Having a range of voices from around the agency brings an understanding of what's important to our people and what makes a positive difference. 

Can you explain how the When Life Happens policy came to Smyle and its impact on the company culture?

We undertook a full benefits review 18 months ago and went to our Forum team to understand what's important to our people. People have all sorts of priorities and our suite of benefits needed to appeal to everyone in some shape or form. When Life Happens leave was born from within our People Experience team to support and acknowledge that balancing an active professional life can sometimes be challenging especially when life throws a curveball.  

The policy is intended to allow our people to take some paid time away from work when needed, without having to clarify or take time off under another policy (e.g. having to take holiday to deal with the death of a family pet). We wanted to promote consistency across the agency, empowering our people to find the right space for time away from the business. Feedback from our teams has been hugely positive and has helped to promote a culture of fairness and inclusivity. 

Looking ahead, what are some emerging trends or innovations in employee wellness companies should be prepared to embrace?

Flex working! Ensuring companies are creating inclusive workplaces where employees can balance their home life with their work, recognising that people have many commitments outside of work and making sure companies can support their teams to thrive at work. 

A key trend that is super exciting is how we manage five generations that are active in our workforce right now. With differing mindsets and expectations, it's important that we recognise generational differences, embrace change and consider how to motivate, support and engage with all generations in the workplace.

The future of wellbeing needs to take a more rounded approach. In addition to physical wellbeing, we need to look more holistically at emotional, social, financial and community wellbeing, recognising the importance of purpose in people's roles and the fulfilment that can bring.

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