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The second of two episodes recorded at the fourth Mad World Summit, which has become the global go-to solutions-focused conference and exhibition dedicated to turning talk into action; creating cultures of care and embedding mental health and wellbeing as a strategic business priority.
Russell Goldsmith was joined by a number of the speakers at the event. In this episode we hear from:
Our first guests for this episode were Gary Raucher, Executive Vice President, Head of Product, Marketing and Merchandising at ASICS EMEA, and Professor Brendon Stubbs, Senior Clinical Lecturer at King’s College London who had just presented at the event on the topic ‘Measurement matters: the impact of movement on our minds’.
Gary said they had introduced the ASICS ‘Movement for Mind’ program, a movement-based program that makes it incredibly accessible for all workers to move more during the day to improve their mental well-being. He explained that this has been tested rigorously and they were incredibly pleased to see just how significant a difference the program can make.
Brendon led the scientific trial on the programme. He explained that when most people evaluate wellbeing programs, they may carry out a collection of surveys or just ask people how they’re doing before and after. But he wanted to do the gold standard, which is a randomised controlled trial. Essentially, this is the only research design method by which you can move from correlation to actually saying, does something causally improve people’s well-being. This involved recruiting 189 people across eight individual employers, engaging in the Movement for Mind program, and everybody completed internationally validated outcome measures and well-being and several other metrics. Then they allocated to the Movement for Mind Group on a random basis or the control group. That randomisation process reduces bias, and the control group means that you can compare what happens with the intervention on the Movement for Mind program versus a control group. This is the robust way to say whether something works, and both groups were followed up to the halfway point. So just after four weeks where they repeated the measures and the control group carried on as usual, the Movement for Mind group carried on with the intervention and at the end of the study. Brendon said that they focused on a primary outcome measure and good research focuses on one specific measure and doesn’t go fishing for 20 or 30 individual metrics. They primarily said they want to improve people’s mental well-being. They did that via the Warwick and Edinburgh Wellbeing Scale, and they found that the Movement for Mind group, compared to the control group, had an improvement of just over three points, which is not only statistically significant, but it’s also clinically meaningful important in terms of that difference, which they saw over the course of this time period. They also saw reductions in sedentary behaviour of around an hour a day in the Movement for Mind Group versus the control group, so the benefits of movement extended beyond the program itself. They also saw a 10 percent increase in people’s objective levels of physical activity and improvements in people’s mental health, too. So, they saw a wide range of benefits, which they can attribute to the success of the Movement for Mind program because of the robust research process and the comparison versus a control group who were the same in all of the characteristics but just didn’t take part in the program.
Brendon added that about a year or two ago, specifically talking about apps, there was a systematic review, which is essentially looked at all publicly available apps that focus on wellness and well-being, and they found over 1,089 apps which were there to try and improve well-being, whether it be for a movement-based program or whether it be through helping you sleep better or meditate, etc. However, when you looked at the detail and said, have they tested these apps, 2%, 27, had tested their app on individual people and virtually all of them said we’re evidence based, we’re backed by evidence. Brendon said that if you looked at that two percent, what did they do? The science wasn’t really of a standard where it was a randomised controlled trial and it had good sample size. It was often of a pre and post-test study, or people did surveys or used limited numbers of people or just did it over the course of a week. So, the evidence base for apps more generally is quite limited, particularly when you look at various different aspects, such as they did within the Movement for Mind program.
Gary explained that this study is at the heart of who ASICS are and what they do. ASICS is actually an acronym for the Latin phrase ‘Anima, Sana in Corpore Sano’, which means a sound mind and a sound body. So, from the days that the company was founded, Gary said that they have always been about trying to uplift people and uplift the moods and the spirits and the mental well-being of people through sport and movement.
Gary said ASICSwe were very pleased with the quantitative study and research that Brendon carried out. But one of the things that also pleased them enormously was to hear some of the qualitative feedback from the participants. They know that one of the real barriers to participation is in fact motivation. And so therefore it’s incredibly important that the content is engaging, people enjoy it, and it’s something that they look forward to. 86 percent of the participants said they thoroughly enjoyed it. 71 percent said that they felt happier as a result, more than 70 percent said that they were moving more specifically because of the program and 99 percent said that they would recommend it to a colleague or a co-worker.
Gary added that ASICS are on a mission to help all people everywhere achieve a sound mind in a sound body. So, they are making the app freely accessible to all people. All people need is to have a phone, a pair of headphones, some comfortable clothing, and some great footwear.
Debbie explained that in the panel, they spoke about how we might keep wellbeing at the forefront of people post-pandemic. There was an element of using social well-being as a hook to engage people in the typical elements of physical, mental, and financial well-being and bringing people together in that sense of community. They talked about the science of well-being and how actually treating us as humans and simplifying the wellbeing offering, and if you can think about well-being of the person and less about the individual elements, you create a holistic whole organisation approach to it.
She also specifically was talking about the element to do with hybrid working and how we might need to look at how wellbeing is different for different people, but also really importantly, how we make roles and jobs good for people’s wellbeing before anything else.
Debbie describes well-being as a three-legged stool. The first leg being an individual desire to want to get involved with well-being. The second being benefits that an organization can offer, which are quite prevalent, and a lot of organizations do that. And the third leg is culture. So, if you have that third leg in place, the wellbeing program and support is stable and sustainable and that’s about diversity and inclusion. It’s about good job design. It’s about understanding that it’s a collection of things that support wellbeing because if you haven’t got the right culture, but you’ve got great benefits and personal desire, then those things aren’t going to get used. But similarly, if you’ve got a great culture and a great personal desire, but no benefits to use, so all three legs need to be there, really. Debbie thinks the bit that a lot of wellbeing practitioners don’t do is look at that culture peace, look at how do we make a job good to start with, with clear accountabilities, with a sense of purpose and with empowerment.
Aviva are looking at how they build wellbeing into job design, into organisation and business architecture when they are looking at the structure of the organization and Debbie said that they are not perfect yet by any means, they are still learning and evolving, but building that into that element of role and design. They are working closely across the people function and across the business to embed it so people realize that it’s more than a wellbeing function’s job to do those kind of things. It’s everybody’s role. And really importantly, embedding it in the culture means getting their line managers and their people leaders on board and engaged and supporting them in understanding how they can help build wellbeing for the people that they lead.
Debbie thinks that impact is the hardest thing to measure, so it’s quite easy to measure engagement in wellbeing programs and activities and support. But the actual impact that has is quite difficult to measure. She explained that Aviva have employee engagement surveys, which includes questions such as ‘Aviva values my health and well-being’ or ‘my manager supports my health and well-being’, and they are tracking really good positive scores on that. In the recent survey that’s just come up more than 86 percent globally of their colleagues (approx. 15,500) believe their manager is doing a good job of supporting their well-being. She added that stories are also a really good way of tracking and understanding the impact and sharing those lived experiences in those, how people have used the wellbeing services and how Aviva is supporting their overall wellbeing, whether that be through job design, through policies like equal parental leave or that wider piece. Those lived experiences and stories are as strong as monitoring impact and one of the best ways they have of monitoring impact.
Debbie’s worked for Aviva and its predecessors since she left school at 16, She thinks there’s a greater focus now on elements like mental health. She said that we need to remove the stigma around issues such as mental health, menopause, fertility and all those things that are badged as wellbeing and their age of ambiguity research actually suggests that people want more of that connection with people and with their employer, and that’s what they expect an employer to provide now.
Our next guests were Lee McNamara, Group Head of Internal Comms and Culture at DFS, and Gareth Fryer, Co-founder of Fika, the mental fitness app, who were speaking at the conference about preventative culture.
Lee began by explain that DFS are a retailer that are vertically integrated and so, as well as selling sofas, they make and deliver them as well. He said that when you look at the gender, makeup and gender specific challenges that manufacturing and the logistics industries face, they are male dominated businesses. What that brings is a certain special set of issues when it comes to mental health, particularly when it comes to men’s mental health. What you find is that problems are more acute in the demographics that work predominantly in those areas for them, and the people that need the help most have the least propensity to go and seek it out. So, they are very clear that they have a duty of care to their employees to make sure that they equip them with tools, techniques and support that mean that they move past the discussions around mental health and how you can have good mental fitness because there’s a marked difference.
Lee said that having good mental health is a result of being mentally fit. Good mental health outcomes are something that you can get by practicing your mental fitness. And that’s what they are doing, working with Fika. In the same way that when we have a duty of care, if they bring on someone who’s going to work in their warehouse, for example, they have to lift sofas, and some of those sofas are pretty heavy. They wouldn’t just go ‘off you go, go and have sofas’. They would make sure that they trained them and that they knew how to safely lift sofas and safely conduct themselves in that environment. But Lee said that loads of organizations don’t take that sort of approach around that Day One duty of care when it comes to mental fitness, because stress, strains, anxiety, we all go through it at work, at home, but we don’t do anything to help colleagues day to day have really good outcomes through mental fitness that you can train and get better at and equip yourself with those tools and techniques.
Gareth said that they are four years into their journey at Fika of mental fitness. Both Gareth and his co-founder, Nick Bennett, come from a background of building products and services for other people. They both have their own personal stories with mental health decline. Nick’s best friend Ben died by suicide a few years ago and Gareth has been diagnosed with cancer twice and had a burn out in the middle, sandwiched in the middle of those things. So, they left and decided to put their skills to doing something more meaningful and understanding how do they prevent the decline of mental health, not treat the decline of mental health?
Fika have identified that actually there are about 100 psychological techniques that if you use them and know how to apply them, you can manage your mental fitness. You can be better prepared to deal with challenges before they happen. Yet when it comes to mental health, we typically think of it as something that we need to react to and that good mental health is to do with, basically, a good mental health means not being mentally ill. Gareth said that isn’t the science of how mental health actually works. So, they developed a formal training platform – that education and performance psychology based. It’s all about helping people build skills that are actually essential for the future of work. It’s not just about mental health, it’s about everyday performance to bring that kind of whole self to work. Through that platform, Fika helps organizations like DFS and many educational institutions, universities, employers, etc. to put those skills into their cultures to help people have those sustainable, positive mental fitness habits for the long term.
Gareth said that mental fitness is increasing its awareness. He thinks that’s a great thing because actually, if you look at mental health and compare it to the physical health spectrum, because we have high literacy in physical health, we’re taught how it works. We understand positive physical fitness, we know that that’s good and we don’t blame the external factors for our own physical health, we blame ourselves for our own physical health because we know that we have accountability for it. Yet when it comes to our mental health, according to the Wellcome Trust, only 26 percent of people believe that globally, that science can make a difference to their mental health. Through Fika’s own platform they have helped organizations understand that circa 40 percent of employees don’t believe that their mental health is a thing that they can have any control over, so they’re never going to go near a proactive wellbeing initiative because they don’t even believe that they can make a difference to it. Gareth said that’s why we have to fundamentally change the way we think about skills for work, to help people perform.
Lee said that DFS have deployed the Fika app and have higher than industry average usage, but there’s still a massive proportion of colleagues that aren’t engaging with the tools and techniques that can make their lives better. So, they are looking at how they can take those tools and techniques and move away from encouraging colleagues to go and access them via an app, which Less described as a great, easy, democratized way to get access to it, but blend it into everything that they do. So how they induct colleagues, they are taking the tools and techniques of Fika and blending that into their induction process, so colleagues just get more mentally fit just by going through their induction process, or, for example if someone gets a promotion, when they are transitioning from not being a line manager to being a line manager, as no one’s born with great leadership skills, how can they, through tools and techniques, help blend in aspects of mental fitness into the support and wraparound care that DFS give their managers as they transition from one job into another.
Lee said that they are trying to change the narrative around the thought that being anxious is bad, as it’s perfectly natural in certain circumstances to feel anxious. It’s what your body does to make you prepare. It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed. It’s what your body does to help you get ready to perform. So how can they help have better conversations about these aspects and equip colleagues with different tools and techniques to a certain extent without them even knowing about it?
Gareth said that circa 40 percent of people are thinking of moving jobs within the next 18 months, and the term ‘rage quitting’ has become a real thing where people now don’t have the patience because there’s so many jobs out there. Just one day they just turn around, they just leave. He added that the definition of resilience is bouncing back from having a problem. That’s the psychological definition of it that can’t be the best we aim for in mental health. Using Lee’s analogy, he said that we don’t train people to heal quicker how to lift a sofa if they hurt themselves, we train them how not hurt themselves in the first place. Yet, with mental health, we don’t do that. He said the key point that everyone is facing is 87 percent of organizations offer wellbeing services but only twenty three percent of people use them, twenty three percent from a mental health wellbeing app point of view, unless you’re willing to have a better in different conversation about that, you’re not reaching the colleagues that need the help the most, which is why deploying an app is only ever going to get you so far. And talking about mental health is only ever going to get you so far because we talk about mental health at crisis point. How do we talk about how you don’t get there in the first place? We don’t have enough of those conversations.
Gareth added that it’s actually a recognition that mental health is amazing. The best of us as humans comes from the mental health spectrum. We evolved to be the dominant force of this planet because of our mental health. We’re not the most physical, not the strongest but we can form shared belief systems. Our anxiety mechanism is about planning for the future and see things that haven’t happened yet. He said that the World Economic Forum has finally recognized these skills as essential for the future of work. If you think about the post-COVID world that we’re in, we’re going through transition periods all the time, having to connect differently, having to bounce back. We are having to think differently about everything that is the epitome of mental fitness, and those skills are essential for work. He said that when we talk about mental fitness, they are not saying that everyone needs to be Adonis like pinnacles of mental fitness because the reality is if we take the physical fitness analogy, none of us are. We accept that most of are a bit unfit, and that’s OK. But we accept that we’re all working on it because most of us know that being the pinnacle of physical fitness is really hard when it comes to mental health.
Lee said DFS arenow working hard at how they can from the very top of their leadership, from their CEOs community down, start to get them genned up on the programme and mental health, and help them be more okay talking about it and understanding and just genuinely getting better literacy about it. So, they can start thinking about how they equip leaders to lead their teams and have really good conversations around these topics and feel comfortable in having these conversations and doing that alongside offering the products via the app and also blending that in, that starts to feel a little bit more like actual driving cultural change as opposed to going ‘There’s some support there if you need it’. They are interested in creating an organization that is mentally fit than going after a wellbeing agenda, because if you’re really going to make a difference, it takes a lot of hard work. It’s uncomfortable, pushes people to places they might not necessarily want to go, but that’s what change is, and that’s what they are trying to bring.
Henry explained that Togetherall provides a digital peer to peer community that creates a sense of belonging sharing and supporting for its members. He said that what is very unique about the community, is that it is moderated 24 hours a day by a clinically led team of mental health professionals that make sure that it is a safe, non-judgmental, positive environment. Ultimately, if individuals on the platform which are identified as at risk, they will make sure that they are looked after and get to a safe space.
Zabetta had chaired a session at Mad World on ‘Anticipating risks and keeping staff safe. What works in wellbeing?’. She said the focus had been on the need for employers to provide a very safe environment, not just from a physical point of view but from a wellbeing point of view. It’s the importance of all employers to realize that a high percentage of their employees could potentially be at risk together. Togetherall’s research highlighted that 12 out of 1000 people employees are currently at risk, as opposed to, for example, only three out of 1000 at universities. She said that it’s not just the employees themselves, but the whole group of people around them, their colleagues, their customers, their suppliers, and their families who are all impacted every time something happens. Therefore, it is important to create a level of rigor in evidence, in identifying which solutions to choose to put as part of your overall ecosystem and provide the support each of employee might need.
Zabetta said that employers are now very aware of the importance of supporting their employees and their mental health and well-being. There’s been a big cultural shift, and we are seeing a move from what one would have said was a focus on traditional metrics on productivity, and now we realize that actually having a group of employees that are healthy physically and mentally is as important. However, it is important to understand the fact the underlying risks are real, and we all need to do something about it.
Henry said that last year Togetherall looked at their data from over 100,000 members using their platform, across different sectors. One of the things that they looked at is what is the proportion of the population that is flagged at risk by their clinical teams, so they are either a risk to themselves or regarded as at risk to other individuals. The data included students, the military, and the general population, but the population that had the highest level of at risk, which was 12 out of every 1000 members, was corporate employees, which was probably explained a lot by Covid and isolation. It is therefore something that businesses need to take very seriously.
Henry was also chairing a session at the event on the power of peer-to-peer networks in employee mental health. Here he was hoping to cover is two issues:
He said that ultimately, Togetherall believe that community in the power of people supporting people creates huge benefit around a sense of belonging support. The benefits of sharing lived experience, etc. It’s a very scalable and useful part of any solution.
Finally, Zabetta said that identifying the right mix of solutions for your employees is absolutely key. We are all aware that mental health and wellbeing is a challenge for an increasingly number of people. The good thing is nowadays we’re more vocal about it, but the risk is still there, so it’s imperative for employers to understand the level of risk within the organization and provide the support that each and every person within their organization needs.
He said that there’s sometimes confusion about what coaching is. For him, it’s about helping each individual to have some clarity about the goals that they’re setting for themselves to help them to achieve the best possible version of themselves. In their conversations, it’s about encouraging reflection for individuals to become more self-aware to enable those individuals to take more personal responsibility and to become more choiceful. So, the role of the coach is to explore the choices and options that they have, the pros and cons of each of those choices and agree a plan of action that enables them to move forward, both in terms of performance, but also about well-being.
Jonathan said that in a remote and a hybrid working world or in a world where you’ve got a geographically distributed workforce, if you’re a global organisation, having an organisation who works with you as a partner, providing coaching, means that they can scale that across the world and can meet their clients wherever they are in the world through the app that they enable and through all the learning content that supports each of those individual coaching conversations. People can be matched with a coach through their app to identify the best coach for them and then have as many coaching conversations as they wish or need to progress their goals.
In terms of the risks mentioned in his talk, Jonathan said that remote working brings some really interesting challenges for individuals. The people may be working at home and having to balance care responsibilities alongside doing their job. They may have the challenges of their workplace being in a bedroom or being in a flat where they may not have all of the organisation’s resources available to them. But fundamentally, individuals are detached from that social world of work that we benefit when we go in and we meet our colleagues at the watercooler, in the canteen or when we’re having a cup of coffee, or when we’re having frequent conversations in teams or with our boss about the goals and objectives that we’re working towards. Therefore, having a digital partner available to you on tap to have those conversations, both helping you to stay focused, to move forward with your performance, but also supporting you with that wider range of who you are as an individual, the ups and downs, the emotions that we experience as a result of all the other complexities in our life, can be a real transformational act.
Business For Health was launched in November 2020. Tina explained that it is a social enterprise that is essentially a coalition of businesses, but other organizations who are looking to augment the role of business to enhance and level up the health of the nation. It was established out of the All-party parliamentary group for Longevity as a key recommendation of the Health of the Nation report that they launched in February 2020, right before Covid struck. It was all to do with how can achieve the government manifesto commitment of five extra years of healthy life expectancy while minimizing health inequalities.
Tina said that coming out of Covid, we can see that we really need to tackle the nation’s health. We have to see it very, very differently. We need to move towards preventative health model. We have a sickness culture at the moment. We really have to change that. And of course, there’s a huge role for business to play in key areas. We clearly see a lot of businesses doing an enormous amount to help the health of their employees. So that’s the first pillar of their framework for health that they launched as a report with the CBI. The second pillar is the role of business in terms of products and services to deliver health improvements. The third pillar is actually the role of business in communities and wider society. They are saying health is wealth. You can’t have economic prosperity without health and actually living healthier and longer is actually connected to the green agenda. So, it’s all completely interconnected. They are looking at the route map, how to achieve that index. They’d like to develop a simple benchmarking tool to help organizations benchmark themselves in improvement in terms of what they can do to do more in terms of population health, how it could reduce impact on our health and care system. For example, the CBI reckon at about 10 to 20 percent of the disease burden could be alleviated through business doing more in terms of workforce health and key areas like musculoskeletal, mental health is obvious.
Tina said that it was nice to see that Sajid Javid is committed to addressing public health and mental health as part of his focus moving forward. He himself said that you can’t level up the economy without levelling up health. That is completely their mission. But it’s a long-term mission, and Tina said they have a lot of work to do in the next two to three years developing a methodology, testing it in the real world and working with their academic partners. They are looking at what data matters in the private sector, what they need to collect in what format, and how they can connect it up as part of a system change approach with the ONS Health Index.
Tina said that two members of their working group are advising government on this health index, which measures health in three parameters:
That is mirrored in terms of their framework. They need the collective might and power and collective energy from the business community and find the leaders who are going to help them. They are going to look at sectors that are already improving health, but we’re sectors that are detracting from our health. For example, in the food industry, they are working with Henry Dimbleby, at the National Food Strategy, looking at how can we system shape the food industry so that we’re producing less unhealthy foods.