We co-host the first Wellbeing@Work quarterly meet up in London
A refreshing mocktail followed by a mindfulness session with wellbeing expert Dr Barbara Mariposa; what a brilliant way to switch off from the working day! This was how we kicked off the first Wellbeing@Work quarterly meet up at The Allbright, which Kamwell was thrilled to co-host together with the Wellbeing@Work event and Raw Energy. These global meet-ups aim to offer an inspirational evening of thought-leadership, information-sharing and networking with those passionate about improving wellbeing in the workplace. Sponsored by Raw Press, guests received a goody bag packed with healthy snacks designed to feed body and mind.
Having unplugged from the work mindset and with our attention focused on the present, Kamwell’s CEO Kirsten Samuel chaired a stimulating panel discussion with four pioneers in workplace wellbeing: James Bishop (Regional Vice President at Salesforce), Alison Fox (Corporate Communications and Living Well Manager at Risk and Business Analytics), Arti Kashyap-Aynsley (Head of Wellness at Deloitte Consulting) and Lawrence Mitchell (Chief Customer Officer at Sumo Salad and CEO of Raw Energy). With their knowledge, passion and experience of fostering a culture that supports employees and businesses to thrive, our panelists shed light on their journey, gave advice, and talked about the challenges they have faced. So, what did we learn?
1. Ask people what they want. Ali’s top tip was: do not second guess what people want and need. Everyone’s definition of wellbeing varies, so we shouldn’t enforce initiatives under the assumption that they will work for everyone. For example, while coders may spend hours at their desk and desperately need an opportunity to build some movement into their day, employees with a client-facing role may simply want to let off steam at a team social. Where you have multiple offices and locations, you could create an ideas bank for employees to submit their wellbeing ideas and request funding. That way you can provide an array of tailored options for your employees, and move away from the notion that one size fits all.
2. Prioritise culture over one-off initiatives. James provided some excellent examples of how Salesforce has achieved ‘No.1 Great Place to Work’ status and a company culture that other organisations aspire to. James puts this down to a combination of organisational benefits and policies that go beyond the basics (such as providing education reimbursement and a monthly wellbeing allowance), having a strong focus on attracting and hiring the right talent and leadership driving the adoption of company values, role modelling these to the wider workforce. James also talked about the importance of ‘Personal Plans’ to give employees holistic goals relating to health, wealth, career and legacy. He touched on the importance of psychological safety (feeling safe to be your true self at work) and the fact that managers at Salesforce are measured on the level of psychological safety their team experience.
3. Understand the employees’ experience. Arti and Lawrence both commented that it’s crucial not to focus solely on driving ROI. While this can be a tricky balance to strike, companies would benefit from really learning about how employees are working on a day-to-day basis. What projects are they working on, what are their challenges and priorities, how can wellbeing support? This is the first step in identifying how to implement long-lasting policies. Ultimately, employees are more important than customers. If the culture does not promote wellbeing, then productivity plummets, burnout increases and, ultimately, the bottom line is negatively affected.
4. Leaders must drive conversations: All four speakers agreed on one thing: whilst both employers and employees should be accountable for wellbeing, it is the leaders’ responsibility to create an environment that gives employees the tools to begin their own wellbeing journey. This means leaders cannot catalyse change without joining the conversation. Indeed, expressing vulnerability and openness is a fundamental step in highlighting that (1) wellbeing is a driver of performance (2) mental health exists (we all have it!) and (3) poor mental health should not be stigmatised.
Aside from these insightful lessons, several other insights emerged:
- Increase psychological safety: James is concentrating on improving his teams ability to be their true selves at work, without fear of negative consequences and in turn creating a culture where employees feel accepted and respected.
- Develop a wellbeing metric: Lawrence raised an important point about measurement and that it would be beneficial to create one single metric for wellbeing that all organisations can use (in the same way that we have the Employee Net Promoter Scores measure).
- Focus on financial wellbeing: Arti emphasizes that this is an important aspect of a wellbeing programme, but an infrequently discussed issue that more companies should be addressing, particularly where you have different generations in the workplace (with their own financial challenges, be it at a graduate level or thinking about retirement or savings).
- Scaling a wellbeing programme: Ali talked about the importance of a wellbeing brand, identity and framework. This enables companies to scale their programme consistently across multiple locations, using local champions to tailor corporate messaging and develop local initiatives.
Following the panel discussion, Rob Stephenson, Founder of InsideOut (a social entreprise with the mission of ending stigma around mental ill-health in the workplace) launched the InsideOut Mental Health Awards to recognise organisations and individuals who champion positive culture change in their organisations. For more information on this, and to enter in a category, please see here.
The discussion was rounded off with a lively and enthusiastic reception with delicious canapés and more thought-provoking conversations. Taken together, the meet-up highlighted that employee wellbeing, whilst still being relatively immature, is a growing industry full of people who are truly committed to creating change. While challenges lie ahead, it was inspiring to see that everyone in the room was determined to work together to continue building on the progress that has been made. We left feeling proud of the great leaps that the industry has taken, and hopeful of its future. Here’s to the next meet-up!
A big thank you to our co-hosts, Chris Cummings and Lawrence Mitchell, our fabulous pannelists, and also to Dr Barbara, Sarah Minchin, Linsday Kirk, Rob Stephenson and Raw Press for your contribution and support!
Our next meet-up will be held in September in London. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more details.