Wellbeing at Work Conference 2017 – review and takeaways

08Nov 17


Last week we attended the Wellbeing at Work Conference, a highly regarded industry event taking place in central London (there are additional conferences across the globe). With a packed agenda spanning issues ranging from ‘the strategic importance of wellbeing’ to ‘workplace wellness and stress reduction’ the conference was a tour de force in workplace wellbeing that further cemented this as a topic of ever-growing importance.

Speakers included David Brewin (Global COO of EY), Edward Thurman (MD Financial Institutions at Lloyds Banking Group), Carrie Birmingham (former HRD at News UK), Jo Salter (Director People and Organisation at PwC) and Theresa McHenry (Senior HRD at Microsoft).

The conference was impressively well-balanced in terms of content and discussion points – we came away feeling informed and inspired. David Brewin’s incredibly candid account of his struggle with depression left not a dry eye in the house, and Jo Salter’s insights into how it feels to fly a fighter jet (her previous profession!) was brilliant and gave an interesting context to a discussion on workplace wellbeing.

Here are our main takeaways from the day:

  • Data is of paramount importance and will inform the success of any wellbeing initiatives.
  • Employee wellbeing has been proven time and time again to be very closely tied to a business’ bottom line.
  • Employees need to feel a sense of purpose and be aligned to a business culture – the aim is that people should enjoy coming to work!
  • Flexible working is at the top of most employee’s wish list.
  • The focus is moving away from KPRs and appraisals, to having great conversations and empowering employees to recognise their strengths and work with confidence.
  • Digital communication and engagement will play a critical role in the ongoing evolution of workplace wellbeing and is often the key contributor to wellbeing programme participation.
  • Authenticity – we should be able to go to work and be ourselves, or even better, the best version of ourselves.
  • Employees must be responsible for their own wellbeing, but employers need to create the environment to facilitate this pursuit.
  • Stress is a real human response, but it has a direct toxic effect on our health. Emotional vitality enables us to deal with stress positively and effectively.
  • Wellbeing is about culture – it is not about apps, cancer checks and gym memberships – what we are looking for is behavioural change.
  • Physical work environment is very important – the workplace is a physical manifestation of a company culture.
  • Companies must incorporate social responsibility into their business plan – the trend is towards people increasingly wanting to make a difference / have an impact.

Ultimately, if businesses encourage their employees to thrive, learn, grow as people and – most importantly – look after themselves, they will reap rewards on multiple levels, be that through their bottom line, attracting top talent, retention rates, engagement, productivity…the list goes on. As mentioned on the CEO Panel Debate: happy people = happy company = happy clients = happy profit!

We will be returning next year for further insights!

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