Working in sectors like retail, hospitality, tourism and care has always had its tough moments, but Covid has made this even harder. The upheaval from the pandemic has threatened the security of businesses and employment, and placed new pressures on managers and employees, as well as exacerbating old inequalities – factors which impact on both the wellbeing and performance of workers at all levels.
Helping make work better
In response, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norwich Good Economy Commission launched ‘The Good Jobs Project’ to find ways to support managers and employees to embed good employee experiences of work into the way they build back after the crisis. The project focused on the challenges for workers in areas which are often neglected in studies of working conditions.
The project reviewed academic findings on what supports wellbeing and performance at work, and combined this with first-hand accounts of the challenges and successes facing organisations and their staff, gathered through interviews with employees, employers and public service organisations in Norwich.
- ‘Let me connect with customers’ – Give frontline workers the time, support and flexibility they need to be able to connect with customers and feel pride in their work;
- ‘Care about me and my life’ – Get to know workers and show care for their needs and goals, for example around childcare, working hours or learning;
- ‘Have my back’ – Ensure workers feel safe, and are trained and supported to deal with difficult situations;
- ‘Make me part of the conversation’ – Involve workers in discussing decisions that could impact their lives, ensuring managers are open and approachable.
The handbook includes a section on each boost called, ‘why is taking action on this a win-win?’, written in plain English, but with a reference supplement for readers interested in the academic sources.
Helen Fitzhugh, the project leader, commented,
“Sometimes people get caught up in the idea that they need to have beanbags in the offices or regular work outings to attract people. Actually, the employees we were talking to, said it’s the fundamentals that matter – for example, being able to pick up their child at a certain time, or being given work opportunities that could help them in their career in the future.”
Making a difference
This project aims to be practical and helpful: to make work better for people across Norfolk. As Helen said,
“We are not only gathering research data, but also spreading the word about what employers in the area can do. The short-term goal is to get lots of people involved. The longer-term goal is to add to our resources, videos, infographics, blogs – so people can use them and improve jobs for people in our communities.”
Next: what is work like outside Norwich
So far, the project has looked mainly at work in Norwich. Now, the team wants to take it out into the rest of Norfolk. Helen said,
“Now, we are going anywhere in Norfolk that isn’t Norwich, including Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn, Breckland, and North Norfolk. We are especially interested in the challenges and opportunities of seasonal work and work in rural areas.”
So, the next phase of work has two aims:
- To hear the opinions of more employers and employees on what makes a good job in their local area – Great Yarmouth, Kings Lynn, Breckland, and North Norfolk.
- To share the ‘4 Boosts for frontline worker wellbeing and performance’ with employers, and hear what is relevant, useable, or challenging about acting on them.
The project is keen now to talk to Norfolk employers and employees about the experience of frontline work, especially in retail, hospitality, care, tourism, and charities. Interviews will be confidential, and done by video call. They will also provide a chance to discuss how the “four boosts” might apply in particular contexts.
If you are an employer or frontline employee in Norfolk outside Norwich and would like to take part, please contact R.Woodard@uea.ac.uk or fill out the contact form at https://evolveworkplacewellbeing.org/contact/ before 18th July.