Show 87 – Mental Health & Wellbeing from Mad World 2019 – Pt.2

The second of our two episodes recorded at Mad World 2019, Europe’s only conference and exhibition putting mental health at the heart of a cross industry, cross functional agenda.

Produced in partnership with commercial interior designers, Cirkularis8, we chatted to a number of the speakers from the event.

In this episode, we were joined by:

1/ Paul Farmer, Chief Executive, Mind
2/ Petra Velzeboer, Mental Health Consultant together with Kristoff DuBose, Founder, Cirkularis8 and Kaye Preston WELL AP, Design Manager
3/ Claire Walsh, Head of SHE – Occupational Health and Wellbeing, BAE Systems Maritime
4/ Kai Haas, Head of Occupation Health, Airbus
5/ Julian Hitch, Director of Wellbeing, Leon Restaurants
6/ Amanda Lambert, People Director, Three UK

Paul Farmer

For our first interview, we were joined by Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind and co-author of ‘Thriving at Work’, The Stevenson/Farmer Independent Review into Workplace Mental Health that we’ve talked about on this podcast previously.

Paul Farmer

Chatting with Paul Farmer of Mind

Paul had taken part in a panel session at Mad World titled ‘Thriving at Work, the Now and Next’, where they were looking at the challenge of ensuring interest and awareness of mental health in the workplace is turned into action.

Paul thinks the most impressive thing about what has happened since the Thriving at Work report was published is the way in which businesses in particular, and parts of the public sector, have really addressed the question of mental health in their own workplaces. He said that they’ve used the Thriving at Work standards as a kind of navigating tool to really help them think about what they could be doing inside their own organisation. He added that at the conference, they heard some great examples of big corporates taking great strides in terms of leading from the top such as Lloyds and HSBC showing the boardroom leadership that’s important, but there were also smaller businesses of people who are really doing things very differently, supporting their people as people and thinking about them in the round in terms of being able to give people proper time off work to go and spend time with their kids when they really need to, and offering more flexible working. Paul was really encouraged by this kind of groundswell of activity and he said that an event like Mad World wouldn’t have happened three or four years ago.

However, Paul said he is impatient for change and doesn’t think things are moving quickly enough, but that based on what he had heard at the conference, if you take a broad sweep at all the data, we can say that probably roughly half of companies are doing something around mental health, but of course, the other half aren’t. He added that even the half that are, aren’t necessarily going deep into some of the causes of why people develop mental health problems. So, whilst we talk quite a lot about the fruit and pilates approach to mental health, Paul doesn’t think that’s the simple answer to tackling mental health in your workplace.  He said that we’re beginning to now see issues like:

  • How do you tackle bullying and harassment in your workplace?
  • What about the long hours culture?
  • What about your business model that might be contributing to poor mental health amongst your staff?

Those are the kinds of issues that Paul said we’re beginning to see organisations get into, and that is where we’re really going to see the change in the long term.

Another theme Paul said that we hear a lot about is the role of technology, which he said is a real aid for good quality work, enabling us to work flexibly so we can work at home and spend more time with our family and our children if we want to or take our caring responsibilities? However, he asked why is it that we now seem to expect that we have to answer emails at 10 o’clock at night or on the beach when we’re on holiday? He sees this as the next wave that we have to think about. We have to think about how do we really manage our work in an effective way, because he said that most people he works with and for himself, if he spent all the hours thinking and working, he’d become much less productive, stale and lose his sense of perspective. Therefore, this isn’t simply about giving people time off, but is actually about how we help people to be the most productive they can be.

Finishing off, Paul said that we need to raise the bar so that the poorly performing organisations do feel the impact of the Equality and Human Rights Commission or the Health and Safety Executive, so that it becomes unacceptable for bad behaviour in the workplace to take place.  He added that the government is looking at the question of amending the Equalities Act to make it much more explicit about mental health. He added though that we are seeing some big organisations making some big changes because it’s the right thing to do, however, in terms of naming and shaming those that aren’t, he said he is a big fan of public reporting. He found the hundred or so organisations that take part in the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index are increasingly happy to talk about what they do – big companies like Deloitte and BT describing their wellbeing activities in their annual reviews. But whether that will then lead to a shaming as opposed to celebrating. He’s not sure this is yet the moment for that, but he doesn’t think we’re very far away.

For more information, visit www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk


Full show notes to follow soon.

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