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The first of 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.
We chatted to a number of the speakers from the event.
In this episode, we were joined by:
1/ Ian Stuart, Group Managing Director and CEO, HSBC UK Bank Plc
2/ Ruby Wax OBE, Founder, Frazzled Cafe
3/ Kristoff DuBose, Founder, Cirkularis8 (at time of recording) & Kelly Steckelberg, CFO, Zoom Video Communications
4/ Rob Stephenson, Founder InsideOut
5/ Laura Willis, Co Founder, Shine Offline & Nigel Hutchinson, Director Workplace and Secretarial Solutions, PwC
6/ Tina Samson, Head of Reward, UK & Ireland, Molson Coors
7/ Patrick Watt, Commercial Director, Bupa Global and leader of the CMHA Graduate Mental Health Programme
Ian talked about what HSBC has done to try and help bring mental health to life in the organisation and to try and get people to be comfortable about speaking about mental health.
He explained that their strategy kicked off just over two years ago. He said that people were talking about Mental Health, but it was in the corridors. HSBC therefore have really tried to give people the confidence to speak up and have, what might be a difficult conversation, and at the same time, give their people the tools to at least be able to have a conversation with people and point them in the right direction, which he added had been quite a big undertaking.
Ian said that HSBC has made training available to everyone who wants to be a little bit more skilled in mental health. They’ve given 280 volunteers extra training, who are now their mental health champions across the business in the UK, who people can go to and get some help or get some advice. He stressed that they have to be careful as they are not experts, but what they are trying to do is give people enough skills that they can point people in the right direction. He thinks their greatest achievement so far is really encouraging flexible working.
Ian also talked about the fact that anxiety is a big problem in part of the mental health make up today, so people don’t know when they’re going to get anxious, they don’t know when an anxiety attack is going to come on. HSBC therefore looks out for that. He also said that a lot of it is stress induced – it might people who have got to look after elderly parents, grandparents, or have got children with special needs, and so trying to give them a flexible working environment just makes their life much easier.
HSBC are running two significant surveys to measure the impact that these programs are having.
As well as taking on mental health, Ian said they are also taking on menopause, which he said 50% of their people will have to go through at one point or another, with another 50% of the population virtually knowing nothing about it. He said that when you talk about these things, the men in the audience generally have their head down and the women in the audience say, ‘about time’!
Ian said that the feedback that is coming through from them taking on these big topics shows how liberated people now feel, saying that ‘it’s OK to talk about that, we can have that conversation’. HSBC now have 80% of their people feeling free to speak up and four out of five people are now saying they’ve got the environment to work in, which helps them get through their daily activities.
Our second guest was Ruby Wax OBE, comedian, author, mental health campaigner, ambassador for MIND and SANE and president of Relate, Chancellor of Southampton University, plus founder of Frazzled Cafe, which she launched in 2017, and is what she was at Mad World to talk about.
Ruby said that the reason she launched the charity is because for as part of her stage shows for the last 12 years, in the second half, she gets the audience to stand up, which, given these are sometimes in big theatres, she said they are brave to do so, and then she asks them to say this what’s gone on in their life, whether work is burning them out, their kids can’t take school anymore, whatever it might be that they feel for that minute. However, she felt that it was so tragic that they had to do it in a theatre, so she decided that maybe she should open spaces where people could speak human to each other instead of, what she described as ‘cocktail blather’, where people ask how your kids are doing like they care!
Frazzled Cafe opened in a number of Marks and Spencer cafes, where the store allowed the charity to use the café after it had closed. People are invited through the website, and there is a trained facilitator who watches over it. Therefore, attendees are safe.
Ruby pointed out that it’s not therapy, but it’s anonymous – she said that people don’t like to talk to their family and friends about [this kind of] stuff, but at the same time, it isn’t a bitching session! She added it’s okay to not be okay and the conversations are fantastic.
The charity had set up a De-Frazzle zone at Mad World as they are keen to make businesses aware that they could have a Frazzle Cafe in their offices. If any company wants further information, they can enquire through frazzledcafe.org
Our next chat was with Kristoff DuBose, the founder of Cirkularis8 and Kelly Steckelberg, CFO of Zoom, who was over from San Francisco for the event. Kristoff had interviewed Kelly earlier at the event in a fireside chat in front of a packed conference room about creating the right environments for happiness at work and maximum wellbeing impact.
Kelly began by explaining that Zoom is focused on delivering happiness to its customers and employees. She said that it starts with their CEO, Eric Yuan, who she said reminds them constantly that, “if you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel great, if you don’t feel happy about going to work today, then take that day for yourself”. She added that if Zoom doesn’t have really happy employees, they can’t be providing happiness to their customers.
Kelly said that Zoom also has a happiness crew who focus on delivering events and driving happiness within the organisation. For example, they recently had a ‘bring your parents to work day’, which she said was really awesome as they get to see the joy in parents’ eyes when they see their kids and how proud they are. They also have a spreading happiness program where if you see a colleague that is struggling with something or having a bad day or you just want to give them a little pick me up, no questions asked, you can send them some flowers, a meal, a gift of some sort. Kelly said that it really is a nice way to empower everybody in the organisation to deliver happiness, not only to their employees, but to their colleagues as well.
Kelly used herself as a great example of how someone has benefited from that approach as she said she was having challenges with something at work and so Eric came to her house on a Saturday to check on her and see if she was okay. She thinks that just embodies everything about Eric and what Zoom is. And she was quick to add that she is not unique in that sense. She knows he has visited employees in the hospital, gone to employees’ weddings. It really starts with Eric and goes all the way through the organisation.
Kristoff added that he believes Zoom is absolutely relentless about this notion of happiness and delivering happiness and that it also translates right down through the supply chain. He said that being one of Zoom’s suppliers, Cirkularis8 really had to get on board with that as well and it’s made a big difference and impact in his company too. He said that it ripples, and you couldn’t even imagine how far that ripple effect goes.
From her CFO perspective, Kelly also explained how Zoom’s approach benefits the business financially. She said that it is because of the happiness that their employees are experiencing that they have attrition of 1% per quarter, so really less than 4% annually of voluntary and involuntary attrition. Kelly said that is huge, when you aren’t having churn in your employee base it promotes productivity, it saves you money on recruiting and training, etc. She said that they also see it in their customer base in that they have a Net Promoter Score® score of over 70 and the average for the industry is approximately 20. Therefore, they helps a lot when they have customers really promoting and talking about the power of Zoom – CIO to CIO selling.
Kristoff added that Eric’s been the most admired CEO on Glassdoor for two or three years running and Kelly said that Comparably had also just published a list of the companies with the happiest employees and that Zoom were number one on that list.
We also discussed the links between using video to communicate and the impact it has on our well-being and Kelly said that it really helps build rapport and engagement. She said that Zoom sees companies that don’t have any physical workspace any longer but with employee bases of 700 to 800 employees. Yet they can do it effectively because those employees live in Zoom every day and they still feel connected to the workplace.
Rob explained that his company created the InsideOut LeaderBoard a means of smashing the stigma by publishing leaders who are open about their challenges of mental ill health. The first leader board had 42 trailblazing role models who all put their name to this list and was featured in The Sunday Times. They then had a LinkedIn campaign – #smashingthestigma – which Rob said really created an impact of people being open about their challenges and added that when our leaders speak out, it starts the process of culture change and allows everybody in organisations to put their hand up if they are struggling with mental ill health. But then it moves the narrative to focusing on wellbeing and preventatively managing mental health.
Some of the names on that first leader board included Dame Jane-Anne Gadhia, the CEO of Virgin Money at the time, Amanda Lambert, People and Customer Director for Three [who we spoke to on the second episode recorded at Mad World], the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, who Rob said has an amazing story of leadership and vulnerability post the tragedy that was Grenfell, where she realised if her firefighters were going to seek the help they needed to recover from the trauma they witnessed, she needed to be open about the fact she was seeing a therapist at a time of intense public scrutiny.
Rob said that mental ill health and the stigma associated with it is a global challenge for him. He feels that the UK are market leaders in breaking and smashing stigma, but he wanted to take this globally and had just been to Sydney and launched the concept out there, where he spoke at Deloitte’s offices and at Herbert Smith Freehills. He’s also launched the concept in Amsterdam and both in the United States.
Comparing those other parts of the world to the UK, Rob said thinks that Australia is pretty good. He said that there is a culture of openness and there are people that are being out, and he thinks the US is getting there, although feels they are a little bit behind the agenda. He added that in continental Europe, if you look at some of the Scandinavian countries, there is more openness. Some of the other countries however are heavily stigmatised, and then those are the territories that such as Asia and the Middle East, which are much more stigmatised.
Rob also talked about his mental form score that he regularly shares across social media. He said that it is something that was given to him by a therapist as a tool in how he can manage his bipolar disorder. It’s a tracker of his mental health and what goes into that is how well he’s slept, has he been exercising, how purposeful does he feel, how motivated do he feel, how difficult or easy are simple tasks and how connected is he to friends and family? He said that at Mad World, he was an 8 out of ten – he was really excited to be there and was on good form. But if he’s a seven, then a six, he wants to know why and what can he do to change. But recently, as a tool of smashing the stigma, he’s started to post it both in his email signature and on his LinkedIn profile, and he’s been blown away by the reaction that he’s been getting from people of sharing their score back, checking in with him if he’s low, but just really connecting at a human level.
Rob explained that there can be differences in people’s scales and doesn’t think it’s dangerous to assess, because that process of self-reflection and monitoring how we’re feeling mentally will encourage us to think of what we can do to manage our mental health. He’s written an article about how he does this, which talks about a tool that you can download to see how he categorises the various levels. But for him, an eight out of 10 is very good form, seven is average, six is low mood and then as we get down to five or four, he’s feeling depression and then three, two or one are in sort of crisis. For Rob, 10 is lifetime best form. So, you might experience this once, twice, three times in your life when all of the stars perfectly align. And that’s something to strive for.
Rob finished by talking about the launch of their InsideOut Leadership Charter, which is a set of seven principles that organisations can sign up to on the Inside Out website.
Laura explained that Shine Online are a digital management and wellbeing company that helps people to understand their relationships with their smartphones and other digital devices where they might be causing overwhelm, overload, impacting their ability to do their jobs and impacting the work life balance and the changes that they need to make to start to get some balance back in their lives. Nigel said that he started working with Laura as he leads a team of about 700 people where 220 of them work at home on a full time basis, and that interrelationship that people have with their smartphone, and that ability or not to switch off, especially for those that work at home, resonated with him.
In their session at Mad World, Laura and Nigel asked if flexible working can be a positive contributor to mental health. Laura thinks that flexible working is something that most people are looking for now whenever they start a new job. People want a flexible approach to their work. She said that digital technology has enabled this because we can carry work around with us now in our pockets and handbags – we’re not tethered to the desk. However, Laura said that the flip side of this is that people do struggle with switching off. She actually experienced a period of mental ill health herself as a result of an overload from her digital technology which inspired her to launch her business. She therefore knows first-hand that if you’ve got no boundaries in your life around how you use your inbox and other work tech in your personal time, you can become really overwhelmed and overloaded. Therefore, their argument in their session was that it could be a positive contributor if you have boundaries, but if not, it really actually can have a negative impact on your mental health and your wellbeing.
Nigel said that he was given the opportunity to take a global role within his organisation, which meant he could work at home on a full-time basis, and whilst on one level that was fantastic, there was a feeling of isolation that built up over him in what actually was a relatively short period of time. He believes the concept of flexible working was one of the contributing factors that led to his mental health issues and stress related work. He learned that he needs the input of people and being sat at a desk at home, did not work for him. He therefore thinks that it’s easy to go ‘oh great, we’ve got a flexible working policy’ or flexible working approach but how do you help people manage it?
Nigel’s team at PwC is an administrative workforce that supports the partners and directors of the organisation. Two thirds of them work onsite and a third work offsite, working at home. Working with Shine Online, they’ve focused on their mobile phone use – how do people take control of it? He said that it is a fantastic tool, but equally, how do they make sure that it doesn’t control them? Nigel explained that every single member of PwC has an iPhone, but it becomes an always on thing if you allow it to be, so the work with Laura is about how the individual feels that they can control that mobile phone – and he’s already seen positive results – simple things like switching off notifications. He said colleagues now feel they can switch off that phone on an evening and that they are in control of it rather than the other way around.
Laura shared some of the results of their work with PwC based on the people who responded to the impact that the learning had on their lives:
Nigel added that it’s not just about the phone itself. He said that it’s a cipher for everything that is going on – the control that they have, the relationship that they have with their stakeholders – and it’s created a permission to have that conversation not only with themselves and their line managers, but also those people that they support and say actually let’s work together to set our own personal boundaries with each other, not just the physical with the phone, but with those that they support and work for. He thinks that’s been one of the key enhancers – that permission, the ability, the willingness to have conversations. He said that one of the things that did come out of the work is the advocates within the PA community who have stood up and said, “this is how I operate and this is how I work and set boundaries with my senior stakeholders” and then sharing that with others. For Nigel, that’s been fantastic.
Of course, there’s always a concern that someone might slip back into that ‘oh I’m going to check my phone tonight’ pattern and so Laura said that it’s something you have to continue to work on. She said that there’s a lot of reasons why we’re pulled back to our technology. She explained that it’s not the technology per se, even though a lot of it is designed in a seductive and manipulative way, but it’s the psychology behind why I feel I need to be back in my inbox? What is the fear? Where is the pain coming from? However, she said people do need support as behavioural change is really hard and if you’ve got ingrained behaviour in your world, like with everybody being on their phone an awful lot of the time or in their inbox an awful lot of the day, then it’s going to take an awful lot of perseverance, experimentation and kindness for you to change that, and support from your employer as well. Therefore, in the case of the PAs at PwC, Laura said that as they’re all in support roles working for somebody, those people at that higher level need to understand their own behaviour too.
She had talked about why it’s important for rewards to own the wellbeing strategy and how, in a war for talent, it’s really hard to attract and retain people. She explained that at Molson Coors, they want to make sure that they are giving their employees something that’s more than just about pay and about benefits and she believes that’s the future of reward going forwards. She said that people are telling them that wellbeing is really important to that overall strategy and that things like work life balance are more important to people as are the environment that they work in, so these are all key to their reward strategy.
Tina said that senior leadership buy in was really key and so at the start of their journey, they made sure that their country leadership team were really on board with the difference that a wellbeing plan could make to the business. She explained that their employees are really passionate about wellbeing and that was evident with their mental health champions, where they advertised for champions, thinking that they might get sixteen applications to train and ended up with over 100 applications.
Tina said that there are certain qualities that a mental health champion needs to have. They need to be able to listen and be able to signpost. So, they’ve got to have good communication skills. They therefore took some advice from their HR colleagues and from their leadership teams as to who would be the right people, but absolutely wanted to make sure that there was a wide ranging group of people across the business – they definitely didn’t want senior leaders but instead people that were seen as approachable within their functions.
Molson Coors has also implemented Mind’s Workplace WellBeing Index, which Tina said has given them some great feedback with regards to the mental health of their employees and what they’d like to see going forwards.
Through that survey, they found that 67% of the employees that had returned the survey had actually completed it and that 62% of respondents have actually had a mental health issue at Molson Coors. Tina added that Mind said that it was great that employees felt comfortable to share that. She added that the next step is how can they make sure those employees know that they’ve got the support and they can actually talk? They therefore created a video with five, as Tina described, brave employees, who came forwards and shared their experiences at Molson Coors. Tina said that as a business, Molson Coors has a really strong culture and support is in place and they want people to know that the company cares. Those five employees’ videos were really powerful and basically said that it’s okay to talk, that everybody has issues and difficulties at certain times in their life, but the business is there to support them.
One of those case studies in the video was a senior leader in the business who was prepared to share his story and Tina said that really encouraged that basis for their mental health champions to then be able to really embed that on a day to day basis.
Tina said that they see a really strong link between mental health and work life balance and that’s been a fundamental part of their plans. They therefore introduced summer hours over the summer to reflect the fact that they know people work long hours and encouraged out of office e-mail deletion while people are on holiday (obviously making sure they had a sensible out of office message to contact someone else in their absence). Tina said this really sends quite a strong message about how they feel about work life balance in the business and making it practical for people. They also introduced life leave – up to two weeks a year on top of an employee’s holiday that is accessible for every employee to help, for example, in celebrating the moments that matter to an employee, such as planning a wedding, where the couple of days before are normally quite stressful, and whilst you may come into work, you’re not really paying that much attention. Tina said that when her son graduated, she had that time off with him. So it’s about really making sure that employees have that time, that isn’t part of their holiday, which is meant to be about downtime, but really celebrate the moments that matter in people’s lives, because they want employees to feel comfortable and to be the best that they can be at work.
Our final interview on this first episode from Mad World was with Patrick Watt, Commercial Director at Bupa Global, who is also leader of the City Mental Health Alliance Graduate Mental Health Program.
Patrick’s session at the event was titled ‘Meeting the University Challenge’, which was chaired by one of our guests from the podcast we recorded at the previous year’s Mad World podcast, Dame Carol Black.
Patrick said the session talked about the importance of student health, and more importantly, student mental health. He added that what we’ve seen in recent years is a large increase in poor mental health at university and that this is increasingly important, not just for universities, but for businesses.
He then gave some background to the City Mental Health Alliance, which was founded about seven years ago with the intention of changing attitudes in the City relating to mental health. Patrick said that business leaders realised that this was an agenda that needed to come out of HR and become more of a boardroom issue. Businesses increasingly realise that happy, engaged workforces are more productive and more creative and make better judgements and overall make better businesses. So, the City Mental Health Alliance really was trying to bring together businesses from the city to talk about best practice and to collectively try and change attitudes towards mental health.
Patrick said that his of observations of the city and how they look at mental health really is in three main streams.
He thinks that what we’ve seen in recent years is a step change in how we talk about this issue and that we’ve seen more and more business leaders come forward, share their stories, which he believes has given people the confidence to recognise that actually workplaces are changing and that the prejudice that historically existed regarding mental health is slowly starting to change in a positive way. He added that we’re also seeing more employers engaged in creating environments where people can maintain their health and wellbeing. Whether that’s walking clubs, social clubs, or some of the new digital apps that help people with mindfulness. He also said that we’re seeing businesses engage in the preventative agenda although the one area that Patrick doesn’t feel is moving as fast is actually when people identify in themselves or others that they’ve got poor mental health, where do they go? He said that it’s only natural that in the current environment where people feel more able to talk about their own mental health and indeed now have mental health first aiders that can identify if there are issues in the workplace, there are still real challenges around where people can go for treatment and for services.
Patrick said that our National Health service is a great service and the two big programs that are designed to support people with mental ill health, the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, IAPT, and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, CAMHS, are still hugely under-resourced and people accessing those services are finding it very, very difficult having to wait weeks, in some cases months. He feels the demand for those services will continue to increase as people feel more comfortable to talk about their mental health and therefore, employers do have to think very differently about how they address this. He thinks it’s great that we do have mental health first aiders and employee assistance programs / services that people can call and get help around their mental health, but more needs to be done. People with moderate to severe mental health conditions need to be given more support by businesses and Patrick thinks that businesses have a real role to play in providing that support. He added that we are now seeing some really progressive companies providing onsite and in-house psychological services, whether that’s a mental health nurse or a therapist, and that is really starting to move the dial in providing better access for people really wanting help.