Health and WellbeingCreating a culture of wellbeing at Sony Music UK

Creating a culture of wellbeing at Sony Music UK

Liz Jeffery, VP, HR, Sony Music Entertainment UK, outlines how the organization have kept mental health and wellbeing front-of-mind during 2020's various challenges.

Let’s face it, 2020 was tough on just about everybody. Earlier this year, mental health charity Mind found that 60% of adults and 68% of young people said their mental health worsened during lockdown. Parents with children under the age of 18 have also been hit especially hard, with more than half reporting that the high demands of caring for their families whilst working from home has affected their mental health and wellbeing.

As such, for HR leaders, this year has been the ultimate test of our fundamental mission: to be there for our employees when it matters most. For the last several years, Sony Music has made it a priority to provide the resources and benefits our workforce needs to create an inclusive and supportive working culture. This year, we’ve found that the lessons we’ve learned about creating a culture of wellbeing in our offices continue to apply—no matter where our employees are working.

Prioritizing mental health

At Sony Music UK, we have made the mental health and wellbeing of our team a top priority for many years – an initiative that has been driven in large part by the personal passion of our CEO and Chairman Jason Iley MBE.

In 2018, Sony Music UK joined with George Ezra and Mind to launch a mental health campaign at the BRIT School targeted at young people. Around the same time, we hosted an internal mental health and music day, introduced an initiative we called ‘Premium Days’, which gives employees time to spend on themselves, and offered 24/7 access to financial, legal and counselling support.

By establishing a strong wellbeing culture from the top, we could support our team members with different challenges experienced during the pandemic, from imposter syndrome, to parental guilt, to achieving work-life balance in isolation whilst staying at home.

Spreading awareness of existing benefits

Though offering wellness benefits is important, it’s important to bear in mind that they’re only useful if employees understand how they can take full advantage of them. That’s why, in 2019, Sony Music UK launched an awareness campaign to remind our teams about all the resources we’ve introduced to help enhance emotional, physical, social and financial wellbeing.

The campaign received great feedback from employees and also resulted in a spike in signups for services on offer, like Unmind which works with clinicians, authors, and academics to provide digital tools that nourish all aspects of mental wellbeing.

Normalizing the discussion

Spreading awareness of company resources from the top is just the first step. For that communication to be truly effective, it needs full alignment with company-wide efforts to normalize open, non-judgmental discussion about mental health among everyone on the team.

This is where leadership from Jason Iley has made a big difference; by signalling that these discussions are not only normal, but also encouraged. Throughout 2020, Jason regularly encouraged employees to consider how they could improve their wellbeing, and to reach out to leadership about what adjustments or support they might need.

By proactively starting these conversations, we have been able to keep mental health front-of-mind as a company. This gives employees the confidence to raise issues early—and gives us the time to help them sooner. It’s a win-win!

Upskilling managers on mental health

We are always experimenting to find new ways to make sure we are prioritizing wellness in our company structure – not just as a passing concern that is only addressed reactively.

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With that in mind, in 2019, we collaborated with Mind to provide mandatory mental health awareness training for our managers, so they could have the tools they needed to support their teams. We have also incorporated wellbeing as a key factor in our objective-setting sessions, and provided conversation guides that help managers lead these discussions confidently. This approach has allowed people across the company to set meaningful, achievable objectives that take their feelings and experiences into account.

On a personal level, I can say that since my team started working from home, we have all done regular check-ins to stay in touch with how people are feeling and what they need. This practice has helped build trusting relationships, which are the bedrock of our business.

Offering purpose through learning & development opportunities

We have done a lot of work that addresses wellbeing directly. However, we can also help ensure wellbeing over the long-term through our learning opportunities, and programs that offer a sense of purpose outside of the typical daily routine.

We have worked with our learning and development team to move our curriculum completely online, and seen more adoption of our training content this year than ever before – which signals that people are finding the material genuinely helpful for their career growth.

Moreover, in collaboration with the Creative Mentor Network, we have also continued to offer our talent inclusion program, Positive Influence, which provides mentoring opportunities for creative young people from lower socio-economic communities. It creates enriching connections for both the students and our employee mentors. Another win-win.

It all starts with leadership and compassion

Beyond the programming, the initiatives, and the benefits – which is all, of course, crucial, – the key to a positive culture that supports wellbeing is leadership and compassion at the top. That means supportive communication, consistent relationship-building, and proactively starting honest conversations across the company.

That approach helped us stay resilient through a tough 2020, and it will help ensure that everyone at Sony Music UK can thrive in the years to come.

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