Every month, a regular commitment blocks my working diary for the day. It’s not a board meeting, an operations update or a meeting with one of our advisors, it’s me going for a walk in the countryside and then to the pub for lunch.
But I don’t go on my own. Instead, I take different members of the First Mile team, each from a different department, for what we call our ‘CEO walks’ – and it’s one of the regular ‘work commitments’ that I look forward to the most every month.
It’s a simple concept, but one that has been openly embraced by staff within the First Mile team. These walks aren’t target-related or a reward for any kind for good performance, they’re just a group of a dozen or so employees getting out in the countryside with a mixture of people from across the business, to go for a walk (there's different lengths to suit different abilities) and then enjoy a pub lunch together.
I’m sure they’ll be those people that question whether this is a good use of company time, or comment that we’re obviously not busy enough if we can afford to take the time to regularly take groups of employees out of the office for a whole day. For those doubters and cynics, my response is simply that we can’t afford not to do it, especially now we’ve seen both how valuable, and valued, it’s become. As an environmental company, getting in touch with nature is also important as it helps us feel more connected to our purpose.
Almost as much as the event itself, I look forward to reading the feedback from team members. One recurring theme is always how valuable they’ve found the time spent with colleagues from other departments, with comments including: “It was lovely to meet and speak to people that you don’t always see,” and “It was such a great way to bond with people who you wouldn't normally hang out with.”
But it is the impact on our employees’ wellbeing that means the most to me and makes the initiative worthwhile – comments about “sleeping well and feeling energised”, “feeling rejuvenated,” being able to “reset and centre myself” and feeling “completely reset when I came back to work the next day” are all great sentiments to hear as we strive to look after our employees and their development and general wellbeing.
For those reading this who are still not convinced, I urge you to give it a go. A happy, healthy workforce leads to greater productivity, so the investment of a day out pays for itself in terms of improving performance. It doesn’t have to be a countryside walk, or involve a pub lunch (although I can highly recommend the combination) but getting out of the office environment for the day with different team members is hugely rewarding. In my experience, it brings teams together and increases communication across the whole company. From a personal point of view, it also gives me, as CEO, the opportunity to get to know people better and to gain valuable insights into their views and opinions, work-related or otherwise.
But don’t just take my word for it – it’s only fair to give the last word to our team members, who say: “Such a great initiative. Very lucky to be in a company that does this,”, “I feel so lucky that we are able to do this kind of thing during a working day,” and “I love the initiative and truly value that the company invests in its employees like this.”
Bruce Bratley is CEO and founder of recycling company First Mile