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International Happiness at Work Week: The view from Lancashire

Happiness at work is possible, and Viva's MD Tony Garner explains how...

When Viva MD Tony Garner set up the business nearly 20 years ago in his little back bedroom office, he did it with a view to creating somewhere that he’d be happy to work. Here he explains that’s always been the golden rule…

The way I see it, humans do the work here, not machines.

In the PR industry, we tend to accept that our work can be challenging, because ultimately:

Tight deadlines + high client expectations = stress


But thanks to the strangest 18 months we’ve ever known, which has seen the whole Viva team working remotely for the most part, I took a stance to add a number of methods to look after the team’s physical and mental health.

We already had a few things in place – such as yoga and daily walks – and we’re by no means the finished article yet, but I feel like we’re going in the right direction.

Put simply, I believe that happy, healthy teams are more creative, productive and successful – and that in turn equals happier clients.

As a business, we strive to look after the physical and mental health of our team in the following ways.

  1. We have our own in-house Health and Wellbeing Manager. They are here to ensure we have all the best practice in place and the right framework to deliver it.
  2. Wellness Action Plans. All new and existing employees are invited to complete one. Devised by the charity Mind, they help us understand and support our people.
  3. Standing desks. Some of our team prefer a standing desk, so we added some to the office. We also kitted everyone out with the latest tech to help make working from home more comfortable. I never want any of my staff to feel like they can’t ask for the right kit to do their job.
  4. Our 20-minute walk out. Everyone is entitled to put their coat on and take a walk around the block. Getting some fresh air into your lungs, sunlight on your face (sometimes) and saying hello to the neighbours works wonders for your creative juices and gives your eyes a real break from the screen.
  5. Downward Dog. There is also a complimentary half-hour, fully-inclusive yoga session with Kat from Luna Yoga each week. Her philosophy is that anybody can do yoga and so she avoids teaching set “styles”, concentrating instead on how we can all adapt the moves to our own body.
  6. Sweatshop. We hold twice-weekly bootcamp sessions for those that like to be more active – I was so determined not to miss one of these while away on a work trip, I tuned in from my Munich hotel room! But with everything, it’s fine if that’s not your thing.
  7. Minds matter. We use Spill, the therapy platform, so everyone has access to a therapist — either in writing or face to face. Employees can book a one-off video call session and then choose to take things further with a course of six. Whatever you need.
  8. £40 monthly Wellbeing Allowance. We joined Juno this year – it’s a service that allocates you points each month to spend on whatever makes you feel well and happy. Everyone is very happy on Juno Day and so far, points have been spent on calligraphy classes, haircuts, woodwork for beginners and bouquets of flowers.
  9. 20-20 Vision. All Viva employees are entitled to a free eye test every two years.
  10. Viva Volunteering. We also give every Viva employee time off work to volunteer for any cause that’s close to their heart — they can take up to 16 hours a year. So far, we’ve had volunteers walking dogs at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, helping out as Santa’s elves for the Cash for Kids: Mission Christmas present donation programme and even mucking (ab)out at HAPPA (Horse and Ponies Protection Association).
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