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

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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

Petra Velzeboer, Kristoff DuBose and Kaye Preston

Our second interview was with Petra Velzeboer, a Mental Health Consultant, Kaye Preston, Interior Designer and WELL Accredited Professional and Kristoff DuBose, the founder of Cirkularis8, our partners for the two episodes we were producing at Mad World, who we spoke to on our previous episode.

Petra Velzeboer, Kaye Preston and Kristoff DuBose

L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Petra Velzeboer, Kaye Preston and Kristoff DuBose

Kristoff, Petra and Kaye had been involved in a couple of roundtables sessions at the event on the topic of leveraging office environments for maximum wellbeing impact and within those sessions, they were looking at how to overcome the challenges of creating an office environment that meets the wellbeing needs of a diverse workforce.

Kristoff said that they had a very dynamic mix of people in the sessions and that it was inspiring to know that people are focused on their workspace and that they’re aware of the impact it has on their mental wellbeing.

Kaye talked about one example that was shared in her session about a project in a Grade 2 listed building. She talked about how WELL can be played to the building strengths, so in that example, celebrating the fact that know, it’s Grade 2 listed, rather than trying to fight it and instead work with that. She explained that it meant in that example that they were going to have the same levels of natural light to play with that some of the big buildings in the City or Canary Wharf do, so they have to work with lighting specialists to see how they can get the lighting levels on the inside as well. But there’s different things you can do. There’s furniture that you can play with, acoustic panels, so that you don’t have to build permanent walls. Kaye said they also talked about how they identified certain departments that really like small spaces and as the building had lot of small spaces, they could look at the organisation and who can use those spaces, therefore and playing to those strengths. Kay added that it’s about looking about the culture and what you want to achieve, but not to fight it when you have an old building, but instead, try and work with materials. So, for example, there are a lot of stone and timber, work with those and create a homely cosy, sanctuary space.

Kristoff said that if people feel like they’re a part of that space, then they take ownership of it, and then if you provide a variety of space for people, so it’s not just your work desk and a tea point but space for focus work, collaborative work, training and development, cultural work – if you provide different types of spaces for all that, you don’t have to worry about having your workspace be of a certain setup or size. It’s more about whether you have the opportunity to do all the different things that you want to do and if you’re not fixed and stuck in one place, Kristoff said that you’d be amazed at how much productivity you can get out of understanding that you get choice.

Kaye also talked about ownership – about having a holistic approach and not just ticking the wellbeing boxes and a certification. She said that it’s about looking at the organisation as a whole and giving people choice and making employees feel like they have a say, perhaps in the design of their spaces, giving them different choices in terms of where they work and how they want to work.

Petra said there was one example discussed where one company had a beautiful wellbeing space, but it felt really formal as you had to sign in to use it, or if it was mental health first aiders, you’d go in there if you had a problem. Whereas a different example was where they had a wellbeing space as a just drop in – it was open with the idea that the culture reflects that you can go in and just take a breath – you don’t need to sign in, you don’t need to pre-empt, you don’t need to think, “oh, if I walk in there, somebody’s going to think something’s wrong with me”. So, Petra would love to see that gold standard of wellbeing integrated into everything. She thinks that having a formal wellbeing space is counter intuitive.

Kristoff added that it clearly doesn’t sit very high on the agenda if it’s that unloved corner in the space with no window, where you just put a wall up around it and call it wellbeing space. He said that it needs to be something a little bit more thought through and intentional.

Claire Walsh

Claire Walsh is Head of Safety, Health and Environment, Occupational Health and Wellbeing at BAE Systems for the Organisation’s Surface Ships Business and she spoke at the event the topic of ‘The elephant in the room – linking performance management with mental health’.

Claire Walsh

Chatting with Claire Walsh

She explained that she spoke about her organisation’s experiences and how they’ve been introducing, breaking the stigma of mental health at work, to the business and breaking through some of the ’macho culture’ that she said hangs around in the shipyards. However, they also need to make sure that they address things the right way with the leadership teams and performance, and the performance of a business, be it whether it’s bottom line, quality, safety, which she said is vital for any successful organisation, and to make sure that you’ve got a healthy workforce, that is present and correct in both body, mind and soul can only be a good thing for your performance.

Claire said that in Glasgow, they have a workforce, many of whom who have worked in the same shipyard for 40-50 years, their families have worked there too and still continue to work there.  Then there are employees who design complex warships that the organisation builds for the UK Government. She said that there is therefore a big difference in the perceptions between those two groups of employees and how you engage with them.

Claire carried out a quality of working life assessment for the full business, the first of the BAE businesses in the UK to do this with a partner organisation. She said that they are looking at the HSE’s management standards for managing mental health risks at work, but also the culture – how people feel about being at work. Do they feel supported? Do they feel confident that a manager would be able to help them and steer them in the right direction? From there, they are able to gain really rich conversations and pictures about what they can do to change and actually build that into their ongoing mental health improvement strategy.

Claire said that having a good social network, be it at home or at work, is very protective against anxiety and depression and helps people feel good at work and so it’s about building that community. She said that she therefore uses the same sort of techniques in safety and they talk about behavioural safety and changing that culture that way to have people look out for each other. You don’t want to do something that is potentially going to injure your friend/colleague and so you look out for your mates, and your mates will look out for you.

Claire said that her organisation is now looking at different ways of making these changes over a long term and that it’s not something you can do overnight and then expect it to be embedded. She added that these are actually things that a business should be able to take in and change the fundamental way that it works rather than something that’s just sort a ‘flash in the pan’ – it needs to become a permanent part of the culture.

As for the elephant in the room – Claire introduced Mark (in the middle of our photo above). She added that they have another elephant called Ashley – who is non-binary, and one called Edna. She explained that the elephant in the room as a signal, an indicator, of something going on with mental health, with the idea being that the elephant in the room is the thing that everybody knows is there, but they don’t want to talk about or mention. Claire will therefore be found wandering around with the elephant under my arm and people know that’s a sign something’s going on with mental health. She said that they have 110 mental health first aiders who they describe as their herd of elephants and they wear little elephant badges or stickers on their hard hats. She added that elephants are all there for each other, they form a very close society, they learn from each other, they look after the ill, the infirm and the young equally. She said that she sees that as a great analogy for how you want your community at work to be.

Kai Haas

Next to join us was Kai Haas, Head of Occupational Health at Airbus.

Kai Haas

Chatting with Kai Haas

Kai said that in his talk, everyone agreed that we’ve achieved a lot in the last few years. Using Airbus as an example, he said they have carried out a thorough psychosocial risk assessment for teams. He explained that they have clinical pathways, like employee assistance programs, psychological counselling, and that they have also introduced health focused leadership, where they teach leaders about what the impact is that their leadership has on health topics.

In terms of the future, Kai said that one motive was that they said this focus in terms of leadership is really important and has to be leveraged so that really it has a focus on leaders being role models and even being measured by the impact they have on people when they’re assessed. Another focus, which he thought to some degree was a concern as well, is how you get all these programs and systems that you have established in bigger companies? How do you get them to the vast majority of the working population that work in small to middle size companies so that we really ensure if we want to tackle the problem of mental health for a population, that they get the same kind of service support etc.

In terms of the psychosocial risk assessment, Kai said that Airbus are not only assessing teams, but have defined a set of actions that people are supposed to take. For example, if you identify there’s a conflict within a team, you would have an externally moderated workshop to go deep on it. Then there is mandatory training on health focused leadership, which explains to leaders what the impact is that a good or bad leadership might have on the health of people. With clinical pathways, Kai said that in the past, a lot of companies had engagement services that you would do on an annual or every second-year basis. However, this tool has now been enlarged so that a team can say, “OK, I want to talk about a certain aspect of team dynamics of engagement” and they just initiate a survey within their space very quickly, with an IT tool, and can take this as a basis for discussion so that they get more into assessing engagement and the mood on a day by day basis.

Another thing that Kai said is very simple, but that he found was very effective, is just talking about this in senior management meetings.  For example, he said that Airbus sites, if they have senior management talking about topics on a weekly basis, at the end they would include a wellbeing round where everyone says, “OK, this is how I feel. This is what’s affecting me”, probably in private life but it doesn’t have to be as it could be an issue that is challenging the person emotionally. Kai thinks this is very powerful because it allows people to talk about this and if you have a site head talking about it, it encourages the other team members to do so as well.

Julian Hitch

Our next guest, Julian Hitch, brought something very different to the discussion.  He is not only Director of Wellbeing at Leon Restaurants, but is also one of Europe’s foremost masters in the ancient Chinese martial art of Wing Tsun, which he has introduced into the Leon Organisation as part of their mental health and wellness program.

Julian Hitch

Chatting with Julian Hitch

Wing Tsun provides students with the skills necessary to defend themselves against an all-out attack by a stronger, larger and more aggressive opponent. However, Julian added that that definition actually doesn’t really go into what it’s really about, which he said is personal transformation, which it does through understanding who you really are and how you get to that knowledge. Julian said that quite often our schooling is telling us who we should be and the skills we should have. But when we’re asked who are we, unless we really understand who we are, we’re going to fundamentally have a challenge. He added that Wing Tsun brings a framework to how you integrate mind, body, spirit and social into one. So, it allows you a mechanism from the physical training to the concepts involved, to be able to explore that.  Julian said that what they want at Leon, is what they call a journey to wholeness, a way that they can empower you through things like that.

He said that there are two things when it comes to bringing this all into the Leon experience and company culture.   They use the framework which they call ‘winning, not fighting’, which is the idea of understanding. Fundamentally, they want to create harmony and Julian said that this is the idea which Wing Tsun started with, because it was the only martial art ever created by a female. What it allowed you to do was see things differently and see interactions differently. So, he said they start from a different concept from day one. Secondly, the physicality allows you to get out of your head and into your body. So, Julian said that they give people the opportunity to learn the martial arts for free. They have built a studio in Oxford Street and are building another one at London Bridge in their new offices, and this allows that way of becoming more connected with yourself. Leon do this on their onboarding process, which is called Eat Well, Live Well. They have positive psychology, nutrition and do the martial arts on employees very first day and then offer them as many free opportunities to train as they would like.

In terms of reactions from new starts, Julian said that the key thing is they want them to feel involved, but not forced. They also have free Zumba classes and yoga, massages and furthermore, try to find what people’s passions are in wellbeing.

Data is a really key point for Julian in terms of measuring effectiveness, but he said that if you just do it for the data, it will never work. You have to do it because you believe in it. It has to be fundamental to you and when you do it that way, the data results happen.  It’s what they believe in as a company.

Julian’s also written a new book with the Leon founder, John Vincent, called ‘Winning Not Fighting’, and he said that it explains how they developed this culture through Leon.

Amanda Lambert

Our final guest at Mad World was Amanda Lambert, People Director at Three UK, who was taking part in a panel session on the topic of ‘Harnessing the power of business’, looking at why boardroom buy-in or senior level sponsorship for mental health and wellbeing strategies is key to making a real impact.

Amanda Lambert

Chatting with Amanda Lambert

Amanda shared with us how Three are supporting mental health and wellbeing in the organisation but began with why their started to focus on wellness.  She explained that a few years ago, they were going through an acquisition of one of their competitors, which ended up not happening. However, they recognized the enormous amount of pressure it put on people and the uncertainty of what it meant for their jobs in the future as well as a lot of extra work. Alongside all that was also the fact that on a personal level, Amanda also had a mental health experience and had come back to work from that and so realised that they needed to look after their people and make sure they were okay. Three looked at all the different aspects of wellbeing – physical, emotional and mental and started their program then in terms of looking at all those different elements.

To begin with, Amanda said that they started quite simple, but with symbols. So, the two biggest symbols they had was to introduce ‘Wellness Wednesdays’, which was in response to the fact that they work in a really fast paced industry, with lots of meetings, and their people had said that there wasn’t really much time for a break. So, on a Wednesday, Three have no meetings between 12pm and 2pm. Instead, they encourage their people to get out, take care of themselves, do something, that’s exercise or just a break or going for lunch with their team. They have a rock band club, a film club, creative drawing clubs and lots of different activities. Amanda said it’s become a real ritual and a real symbol of wellness in the company.

The second thing they did, which also needed no financial investment, was to share their own mental health stories, which they did during Mental Health Awareness Week a few years ago. Amanda said they started with her own and then someone in the retail business talk about their experience of anorexia, followed by different people across the business. By the end of the week, their CFO had also told his story, which was not known at the time, meaning it was a big thing, internally, to have such a big character in the business doing so, and Amanda said it made a big impact on people.

Amanda thanks that it really created a movement because people perceived that the company cared about them, plus they were making it okay to say you’re not okay.

From there, they have added other things to their programme, including more preventative measures and more time off. They have increased their annual leave policy and introduced ‘personal days’ for people to take off for things that aren’t necessarily a holiday, for example, attending your child’s school sports day or taking a loved one to hospital – all the things that go on in your life that you have to deal with.  They also extended their compassionate leave to four weeks and trained all their people on mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy, and anchoring, plus introduced language about ‘am I feeling above the line or below the line today’, and techniques of how to deal with it.  Three also now has a wellness fund, so that every year, they open a window and people get to apply for money for their wellness activities, which can vary from a team activity right through to paying for mindfulness sessions.

In terms of measurement, Amanda said that it is less about the financial payback and more about the engagement. So, while this is by far the biggest thing their people mention as a positive in their three times a year survey, they measure that through their employee net promoter score, which tells them how much their people love them. Amanda said that score has gone from +14 three years ago to +30 this year, and that the number one thing that people tell them that they love about working for Three is the focus on wellness.

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