Paying attention to employee well-being is better for everyone

Our employees attach great importance to striking a strong work-life balance. At Volstok, we’re always looking at ways to create more oxygen.

The employees of the Belgian animation studio Volstok can rub their hands with glee having Johanna Keppens as Managing Director. She is fully committed to well-being and has implemented eye catching measures that help counteract the pressures of work. “I want to deal with this in a very conscientious way. After all, our people are our capital,” she says. In this first of two articles, Johanna talks about the seven interventions she’s introduced.

Johanna is an ambitious entrepreneur and has two young children. The daily challenge of getting everything done has galvanized her to play a pioneering role in achieving a good work-life balance. “In a values session with colleagues, work-life balance emerged as a very important theme. And it turns out that it’s not just for people with children; even first job employees don’t always want to work full-time. The reasons are manifold. One person has to pick up the children at five o’clock, another loves surfing and wants to go as soon as the waves are good; a third is making a film outside of work and so wants to have a day available.” With that in mind, here are the seven interventions Johanna has introduced:

1.Working one day less allows you to manage your private affairs and reduce work pressure, whether you’re a producer or a manager. Some see it as weak, but I find it very beautiful that people know what they need to be happy. You don’t want them to collapse in their chair after work, exhausted, and then drag themselves in the following day.

2. Volstok has meeting-free days. Our people have to find continuity working on a job but that doesn’t play if they go from one meeting to the next; it’s too scattered. Days without meetings create extra oxygen. As such, all employees are responsible for their own weekly planning with the only rule being that everyone must be in the office on Mondays. We share information, inspire each other and keep our personal connection strong.

3. Colleagues who don’t have to continuously deal with clients only check their mailboxes two or three times a day. That gives them peace in their day and allows them to focus on the work.

4. Employees are allowed to exercise during office hours without having to request it. If it fits, then it’s allowed. Working days put a lot of pressure on your life. When you have to cram other things around work, then people get out of balance. Moreover, creative work is less of a 9-to-5 job. Sometimes our creatives need fresh oxygen and that’s when it makes no sense at all to be tied to a desk.

5.Colleagues have the right to be unreachable. For a long time, our team used to contact each other via WhatsApp. We decided to stop that and we no longer use WhatsApp. All communication takes place via our internal channel ‘Slack’and e-mail. Colleagues have responded very positively to that because WhatsApp brought work into their private sphere and that caused more unrest than anticipated.

6. Johanna also sees opportunities to work more efficiently, “It sounds banal, but there is still a lot to be gained. I see a lot of potential in digitisation. We are part of PAKT, in which Belgian, Dutch and Scandinavian companies work together. As a group, we are going to set up a central programme for invoicing and customer management. And, if that works well, producers will simply have less manual work to do with quotes, schedules and invoicing. It is a time-consuming and complex project, but it is high on my agenda, because I think it will improve wellbeing for staff, across the board.

7. Finally, the cooperation within PAKT offers a lot of room in which to inspire each other and share work. Our Swedish sister company Bsmart, for example, is already very advanced in the field of wellbeing. I am learning from them. And a good central system will help here too, because it will give us a better picture of the talents and availability of all employees. And in turn that will guarantee a better distribution of the workload.

Has the introduction of these interventions taken place without any issues? What do you have to look out for and what are the benefits? A tip of the hat: Volstok has never had any problems finding new employees. More on this in the next episode.
This article was written by Johanna Keppens. Johanna is Managing Director at the animation studio Volstok, which is part of PAKT, a European ecosystem of content production companies with one vision: Creating quality content at scale!
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