2024 SPEAKERS

Professor Dame Carol Black GBE FRCP FMed Sci

Professor Dame Carol Black GBE FRCP FMed Sci

Government's Independent Advisor on Drug Misuse
Chair, Centre for Ageing Better; Chair, British Library Board
Peter Cheese

Peter Cheese

CEO
CIPD
Dr Clare Fernandes

Dr Clare Fernandes

Chief Medical Officer
BBC
Andrew Gibbons

Andrew Gibbons

Group Head of Wellbeing, Recognition and Hybrid Working
HSBC
Maktuno Suit

Maktuno Suit

Chief People Director
WPP
Clare Gowar

Clare Gowar

Global lead, Health and Wellbeing
Philips
Pernille Hagild
DEI SPEAKER

Pernille Hagild

Global Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead
Ingka Group Ikea
Dan Robertson
DEI SPEAKER

Dan Robertson

Managing Director
FAIRER Consulting
Andrew Masraf

Andrew Masraf

Senior Partner
Pinsent Masons
Richard Martin

Richard Martin

CEO
Mindful Business Charter
Nick Manners

Nick Manners

Head of the PHB Family Department
Payne Hicks Beach
Dr Rachel Gibbons

Dr Rachel Gibbons

Psychoanalyst
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Jennie Armstrong

Jennie Armstrong

Founder
Construction Health and Wellbeing
Jim Beestone

Jim Beestone

HSES Projects Partner - Bids and Communications
Balfour Beatty
Sam Downie

Sam Downie

Managing Director
Mates in Mind
Fred Mills

Fred Mills

Founder and MD
The B1M

The 7th annual MAD World Summit

Since the MAD World Summit was launched in 2018, we’ve been on a phenomenal journey. Accelerating the shift from stigma to solutions and doing our part to ensure every employer has the insights, inspiration and contacts they need to make a difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing.

Many leaders now understand that it’s OK not to be OK. They also recognise that the agenda is much wider than quick fixes.

It’s about taking an inclusive, preventative approach and ensuring holistic programmes are in place that support mental, physical, financial and social wellbeing.

“Real progress also requires health and wellbeing to be embedded as business as usual, right across the organisation. As well as the provision of policies, guidance and training that underpin a strong and supportive workplace culture”. 

Claire Farrow, Global Head of Content, Make A Difference.

To reflect this evolution, we’re expanding the MAD World Summit to become a FESTIVAL of workplace culture, health and wellbeing – incorporating four separate Summit events into one day – each catering to different information needs:

  • The Make A Difference Leaders’ Summit – Driving excellence in workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing: Two tracks of leading-edge content, showcasing best practice in strategy and delivery, profiling thought leadership and enabling attendees to stay one step ahead in the fast-evolving world of workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing.
  • The MAD Legal Industry Summit – Strategies to improve mental health and wellbeing across the legal sector: A one-day Summit bringing the different elements of the law profession together to discuss key issues and decide the best way forward to make the law a healthier profession.
  • The MAD Construction Summit – Building better mental health and wellbeing across construction’s workforces: By providing best practice, toolkits and case studies, this Summit will demonstrate how organisations from across the construction sector can embed a continuous and comprehensive approach to ensure no-one reaches crisis point and mental health awareness becomes everyone’s issue.
  • The MAD DE&I Summit – Creating a culture of belonging to foster equitable, inclusive and thriving workplaces: Building on the success of last year’s DE&I Symposium, which demonstrated the powerful connection between DE&I and wellbeing, we’ll be bringing together leaders to foster the collaboration that’s needed to create inclusive workplaces where all employees can thrive.

Download the report here

For employee wellbeing initiatives to have real impact we need to break down silos and collaborate across departments.

Harnessing the power of business, the MAD World Festival will convene a range of leaders from across sectors, including HR, Benefits, Finance, DE&I, L&D, Health & Safety, Occupational Health, Culture & Transformation, Engagement, Talent and Communications.

Wherever you are on your employee wellbeing journey, join us for the premier B2B event for cross-sector collaboration, inspiration and to find the right solutions for your organisation – now, and for the future.

Register

We'll Be Sharing

INSIGHTS

Meet the people developing the most progressive approaches to workplace culture,mental health and wellbeing

COLLABORATION

Share knowledge in real-time with our cross-sector, cross-function network of like-minded speakers, exhibitors and attendees.

ACTION

Tell your colleagues and book a group pass. Get practical insights to take back and adapt to your organisation.

Latest Make A Difference News

Make A Difference News

In our busy working world where health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly important, there is one vital area that often goes unnoticed – hearing.

Many people neglect their ear health until it starts to deteriorate, yet the importance of our ears and hearing plays a vital role in our everyday lives, from communication, stress, productivity, to our overall well-being.

We’re raising the profile of hearing health in all workplaces, across all industries from offices to factories. There’s no hesitation to get an eye test or a dental check, so why should ear health continue to be overlooked?

Integrating ear care into existing employee wellbeing packages is a proactive, progressive step towards maintaining a healthy, loyal and productive workforce.

Why is ear care important

Any changes to hearing are often gradual and not always immediately noticed, yet 1 in 5 UK adults are affected by hearing loss. Having our ears and hearing checked allows us to ensure our ears are physically healthy and we are hearing within the ranges that are expected for our age. 

Regular hearing assessments can detect whether we are experiencing any small changes in our hearing levels. These checks can determine if there is a loss, and if so, if it’s being caused by an underlying health condition such as Diabetes.

Sometimes having our ears and hearing checked can uncover problems that could allow temporary hearing impairments to be reversed such as excessive ear wax build up. This can affect all ages, and can cause discomfort and further complications if left untreated.

Implications of not testing hearing

Regular hearing tests are crucial for early detection and intervention. Untreated hearing loss can potentially have a significant impact on our everyday lives, leading to issues such as social isolation and decreased productivity. In older adults, there is also research showing links between untreated hearing losses, and increased cognitive decline. 

Individuals with untreated hearing loss might find they struggle to communicate effectively, leading to misunderstandings and strained relationships in both personal and professional settings.

Changes to hearing and mental wellbeing

The connection between hearing loss and mental health issues is well documented. According to the RNID and National Library of Medicine, individuals with hearing loss are more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Constantly straining to understand conversations can lead to social withdrawal and feelings of isolation, further exacerbating mental health struggles.

People with hearing difficulties frequently experience social withdrawal, leading to loneliness and a diminished quality of life. Addressing hearing care as early as possible can positively impact mental health and wellbeing, as well as overall health.

A journal published in The Lancet found the presence of untreated hearing loss is also a factor related to later life illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the effects of which could be mitigated through earlier detection.

Older people working longer

With employees now working longer as the retirement age increases, we’re more likely to find health conditions arising within the working population. Hearing typically changes as we get older due to wear and tear of our hearing organ (the cochlea), and hearing issues are only expected to become more common within the workplace. This could mean we need to adapt our working environment and home life to help us hear better.

Whilst hearing loss is often associated with older people, younger employees are also affected by the current lack of awareness surrounding ear care. So many of us – no matter our age – are using personal audio devices such as Airpods and earphones. These can be used for business or personal use, and whilst we don’t consciously have the volume excessively loud, different ears will have different sensitivity levels. Prolonged exposure to loud music or sounds can cause permanent damage to the delicate structures within the ear, leading to irreversible hearing loss. 

Regular hearing checks can allow us to ensure we are not causing irreversible damage to our hearing. Implementing ear care initiatives can help educate younger employees about safe listening practices and encourage preventive measures to protect their hearing health for years to come.

Hearing and the construction sector

The construction industry poses significant risks to ear health due to high noise levels from machinery and power tools. Employers in this sector have a responsibility to implement effective hearing conservation programs, including noise monitoring, engineering controls, and by providing appropriate personal protective equipment.

Focus in this industry shouldn’t however just be aimed at the employees who work in noisy environments, but targeted at all employees to benefit from an improved level of health monitoring.

Workplace Ear Care hearing assessment benefits

Investing in and implementing an ear care service into current employee wellbeing packages offers numerous benefits for both employers and employees alike:

Improved communication and productivity

With healthy hearing, employees can better understand instructions, participate in meetings, and collaborate effectively, leading to increased productivity.

Reduced stress and absenteeism

Struggling to hear can be incredibly stressful. By addressing hearing issues, you can help create a more relaxed and productive work environment, and avoid missed workdays as a result.

Improved employee wellbeing

Regular ear health assessments and hearing tests allow for early detection of potential problems, enabling employees to seek treatment and management strategies.

Cost savings

Early detection of hearing loss can prevent the need for more expensive interventions down the line, benefiting both the employee and the company.

Boosted employee morale

Showing that you care about your employees’ overall health and well-being fosters loyalty, job satisfaction and morale.

Incorporating ear care into an employee wellness program is a cost-effective investment that demonstrably improves employee wellbeing, communication, and productivity. By prioritising your employees’ hearing health, you’re creating a healthier, happier, and more successful workforce, which benefits both the employer and employees.

Author’s profile and mission

I’m Nicola. I’ve been an Audiologist for well over a decade now. I was diagnosed with a severe hearing loss at age 2, and have therefore always worn hearing aids. I studied Audiology at the University of Southampton, and have since worked both in NHS and private practices.  

I founded Workplace Ear Care to help raise awareness of the importance of ear and hearing care. Through my experience I’ve seen how often people are so unsure what to do about any changes to their hearing, and how they will put off a hearing assessment due to not understanding the procedure or what happens. The reality of a hearing test is it’s not invasive, and the more we get used to the process the better our health monitoring becomes, meaning action can be taken as and when necessary. It’s even more convenient when all these checks can be provided on-site during the working day.

I would love for ear care to become as important as eye care and dental care. I want to remove the stigma around checking your ears and hearing, and to allow anybody who needs help with their ears or hearing to receive the assistance they need, and to feel understood and included in both their work and personal lives.

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Have you heard about Ear Care and Hearing Tests at work?

Award-winning national construction and civil engineering company GRAHAM, which has a network of regional offices throughout the UK and Ireland and employs over 2000 people, has launched a new wellbeing streaming service to support its employees and suppliers using technology from Frog Systems.

With bespoke branding and incorporating GRAHAM’s internally generated content, the company’s employees, their families, and supply chain partners will have access to a digital safe space featuring 16 channels of preventative wellbeing support and information developed and built by the team at Frog.

Embedding support through all levels of the business

Launching what it is calling its Well-zone is another significant milestone in GRAHAM’s wellbeing journey. The company is the first organisation in the UK to be awarded and maintain Investor In People’s highest accreditation – the Platinum standard – for embedding support for its people through all levels of its business.

Davy Daly, Wellbeing Manager at GRAHAM, said “The GRAHAM Well-zone app offers the best available wellbeing resources, and is a platform we will continue to develop in partnership with Frog Systems to complement the needs of our people.”

Frog’s platform is an on-demand content library covering a broad range of wellbeing topics presented in video, podcast and article formats. It is regularly updated to reflect key awareness moments and includes a rail of wellbeing-related offers and discounts. 

Phil Worms, CEO of Frog Systems, said: “We are delighted that GRAHAM has chosen our streaming service and are very proud to be working with such a forward-looking company which places the wellbeing of its people at its heart.”

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GRAHAM introduces Frog’s bespoke wellbeing streaming service for employees and suppliers

Employers must focus on younger workers, managers and families to shift the mental health needle from languishing to flourishing.

AXA Health last week brought health and wellbeing experts and academics together to debate the findings of their 2024 UK mind health workplace report. Claire Farrow, global director of content for Make a Difference, facilitated the live webinar, as health and wellbeing experts from AXA Health, Accenture, Clifford Chance, Edinburgh University and Nomura shared their best practice advice and reflected on the report’s findings.

Opening the discussion, Heather Smith, CEO for AXA Health, revealed that, “Half of workers in the UK are not in a positive place with their mind health. 37% are living with a mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression and less than half of those are being supported professionally, so people are struggling to access help.”

Other key takeaways from the UK mind health workplace report include  the extent to which managers and young people are struggling. 41% of people are also affected by issues outside of work.

The resulting dynamic discussion focused on addressing these challenges – giving rise to three ways employers can cultivate a culture of care to nurture the mind health of all generations.

1. Support younger workers: by increasing connectedness to reduce isolation

“It’s really striking to see that young people feel isolated and lonely a lot of the time according to AXA Health’s UK mind health workplace report,” said Dr Jasmin Wertz, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Edinburgh.

“The public often thinks of loneliness as being an issue in old people, but we know from research and this report that it’s a really big issue in young people. There’s been a trade-off in terms of having the flexibility of working from home, but also having that connection and the social benefits that come from being in an office environment.”

“We’re seeing the same thing in the workplace so we’re shifting back to in-person training for new joiners, so they get that sense of community,” said Paul Duggan, global health and wellbeing lead, EMEA for Accenture. “We also have dedicated communities for junior staff, sponsored by senior people and peer groups for people who’ve been with us for 18 months to answer questions in a safe forum from new joiners. Our younger employee groups are also launching a financial wellbeing community.”

Young people are coming into the workplace, with a greater mental health vocabulary, seeking that sense of connection, said Catherine Ritchie, employee wellbeing and experience leader for global law firm Clifford Chance. “That focus on connectivity is something to really focus on as it’s in their vocabulary. We’ve set up an affinity network and reverse mentoring, mental health champions and a buddy scheme. It’s also important to onboard people properly so they know about all the tools and resources available.”

There was consensus that ease of access to the wide range of preventative and holistic support, such as those services available via AXA Health, sends a clear message to younger workers that they are joining an organisation that cares about their wellbeing and is equipping them with the tools to thrive.

2. Reduce the strain on managers: with people skills training and psychological safety

Another striking finding from the UK mind health workplace report is that as well as being twice as likely to take sick leave, managers were found to report higher rates of stress, depression and anxiety than non-managers. “Managers are suffering and they of course look after our people,” said Heather. “Meaning the education and programmes we put in place for them to support themselves and others is really important.”

It’s important managers don’t feel like it’s all up to them when people come to them with their problems said Kirsty McLean, head of wellbeing at investment bank Nomura UK. “We don’t expect them to be therapists. Occupational health, HR and line managers must work together. Everybody needs to understand what the processes are, for things like reasonable adjustments, and how to get people the right support.”

Although the panel agreed it is important that managers lead by example and have the right skills. “The best line managers are the ones that will open up and say, I’m leaving early today because I’ve got this appointment to go to or this commitment or thing going on,” said Kirsty. “It gives that psychological safety that allows team members to open up as well.”

Paul cited the importance of helping managers to close skills gaps when it comes to supporting others, to reduce the strain on them. “They might be twenty years into the firm but there are some common skills we wanted everyone with people responsibility to have. Part of that is about using AI for people to practice having a difficult conversation. It’s taking some of the fear out of it and reinforcing that they’re not there to solve people’s problems.”

Accenture is also demystifying the idea that just because you go into leadership you have to become a flawless person that’s got everything under control. “Senior leaders talk to people close to being promoted about their own vulnerabilities and what they do to take care of themselves. It emphasises the importance of self-care for a sustainable career. We need to do our bit in terms of working culture, but having the right supports from AXA Health to be on the front foot is also helping us to create a culture of care,” says Paul.

3. Extend support to families: from parental leave to neurodiversity and menopause

By offering a range of wellbeing support that reflects varying needs at different life stages, progressive employers are helping their people to take care of both their wellbeing and their loved ones.

“Forty percent of people said the issue was with their personal lives,” said Heather, “But we don’t just bring half ourselves to work. We bring our whole selves to work. It’s when people flourish both at work and in their personal lives that we see productivity and happiness.”

Describing what Accenture is doing to support families Paul explained the importance of not just caring for the employee, but also the people around them. “We’ve opened our AXA Health EAP and men and women’s health offerings, including fertility and menopause, to partners,” he explained. “Dependents can also be added to our health insurance and our mindfulness, sleep and financial wellbeing benefits can be shared with up to five people.”

Echoing the importance of supporting families, Catherine said, “Extending our AXA Health neurodiversity cover to families has been incredibly valuable. Children who had been on waiting lists for a while can now can get seen really quickly with AXA Health for both diagnosis and support. You can see the relief. Employees are no longer worrying and waiting.”

“It’s about supporting those life moments,” added Paul. “We’ve been first out of the blocks to offer things like menopause and neurodiversity with AXA Health and financial wellbeing support . That’s had a cultural effect by telling our employees it’s okay to talk about those things. We also recognise that returning from maternity or paternity leave can be a particularly challenging time, so now signpost all returning parents into our healthy minds coaching, supported by AXA Health. That means people are getting help with that transition back to work.”

Kirsty described making their onsite GP available for partners as well, “It’s important to have both upfront support and ongoing support. If the GP refers a family member for specialist support and then requires further testing, be it a mammogram or any other need, that’s when the extended cover comes in.”

Priorities are shifting towards holistic care

A poll conducted during the webinar found that 95% of those attending thought it was very important to provide holistic health and wellbeing support. A view the panel agreed with. “It’s recognising the person as a whole person and offering a number of benefits to support people in the moments that matter,” said Catherine.

Results of the opening webinar polls

A final poll conducted showed that prioritising the needs of younger employees had shifted from just 6% of delegates at the start of the webinar to one in four (25%) by the end. Eight out of ten delegates (79%) said supporting people across all life stages was a focus. Four out of ten said they want to focus on protecting managers’ mind health.

Results of the closing webinar poll

“How we support young people is equally important to how we support managers,” concluded Heather. “It’s about creating a culture where people are naturally supportive towards each other and providing them with the tools to manage life’s complexity and challenges. Employers can help by creating a caring culture where people are naturally supportive towards each other. I’ve been really heartened to see the way people doing emotionally difficult work in our cancer care team reach out to each other.”

The panel summed up the event with one thing they thought would help to create a caring workplace:

Paul Duggan encouraged us all to keep talking about the importance of wellbeing
Catherine Ritchie said organisations should integrate their wellbeing offer and ensure it supports across generations
Kirsty McLean believed listening to all employees was the most important factor
Dr Jasmin Wertz said employees should be able to bring their whole selves to work
Heather Smith reminded us that that empathy and care, whilst it sounds simple, can go a long way.

You can download your copy of AXA Health’s 2024 mind health workplace report here and view the recording of the full roundtable webinar here.

About the author

Kathryn Jellis is a corporate journalist who writes about the employee wellbeing and mental health issues facing employers today. She has written ground-breaking research reports, that have helped to provoke changes in legislation when it comes to occupational health and flexible working. She reports on thinking from workplace wellbeing events for the HR and national press. Her articles have been featured in titles ranging from Make a Difference Media to the Evening Standard. She also writes for the CEOs of employee benefits providers and is founder of the workplace PR agency Benicate Ltd.

AXA Health UK Mind Health webinar takeaways: Three key ways to create a culture of care

‘Nothing about us without us’

At 16 I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, something that would shape my life significantly over the next decade and I feel fortunate to have received support from NHS mental health services. But at times, although well intentioned I would often feel that this support felt like mismatch and that it wasn’t right for me. This continued until I met a team who asked me what I thought and what support I felt might be helpful. Suddenly my ideas were genuinely valued and I felt power was shared. Any decisions made were made together and it was at this point things started to change for me and I started to move forward. 

As a Clinical Psychologist, it is incredibly encouraging that mental health and wellbeing is increasingly being prioritised within the workplace. However, only one in three employees believe their company wellbeing strategy is effective (WTW, 2022) and only 39% of HR decision-makers believe their current wellbeing strategy adequately meets the needs of their workforce (PIB Employee Benefits, 2024). 

It is evident that there is more to be done to engage staff and I believe by harnessing the power of coproduction and peer support, we can create compassionate, more effective and sustainable wellbeing strategies.

An introduction to coproduction

Coproduction is a participatory and deliberative practice that is often juxtaposed against more top-down practices (Fung, 2015) and commonly begins because something is not working, missing or people don’t feel at the heart of initiatives. It is built on the principle that those who access a service are best placed to help design it and means people working together as equal partners and co-creators. Asking people what needs to change and what wellbeing outcomes do we want to achieve. 

‘Coproduction is not just a word, it’s not just a concept, it is a meeting of minds coming together to find a shared solution. In practice, it involves people who use services being consulted, included and working together from the start to the end of any project that affects them’ (Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2023).

There are varying degrees of stakeholder involvement and the ladder of coproduction describes a series of stages where an organisation may find itself (Figure 1). From educating people to co-designing strategies in partnership, implementing this way of working will present challenges and real change may be difficult. However, in my career, I have witnessed how meeting those challenges can result in a transformational approach to the way wellbeing services are organised and the positive impact this can bring in engagement and outcomes. 


Figure 1: The Ladder of Coproduction (Think Local Act Personal, 2021)

What is peer support?

One specific area of coproduction that benefits workplace mental health and wellbeing is peer support. Although definitions vary, peer support is typically defined as ‘offering and receiving help, based on shared understanding, respect and mutual empowerment between people in similar situations’ (Mead et al., 2001). 

‘They know I’m not the expert… I said to her, ‘I’ve got my own experience’ and with that she sort of jumped up and gave me this huge hug’ (IMROC Theory & Practice, 2013).

Peer support is a safe space to speak with someone who is trained in providing support and who may have experienced a similar issue related to mental health. It provides a space for people to connect authentically through shared experience and aims to offer emotional and practical non-directive, strengths-based support which helps both move forward. Put simply, peer support aims to bring people together with shared experiences to help support each other.

Benefits of peer support 

Successful across voluntary and statutory services, peer support is now gaining international traction and increasingly being adopted within corporate sectors. This is due largely to the evidence base for workplace peer support for mental health showing benefits across a number of perspectives.

Benefits to the person supported

Research indicates a number of benefits to the person supported including feeling more able to speak openly about their experiences alongside improvements to mental well-being, improved confidence and ability to cope with everyday workplace stressors (Agarwal et al., 2020). 

Benefits to the peer supporter 

Although there can be challenges to the role, evidence suggests that with effective training and support the benefits to the peer supporter themselves may include personal growth, greater confidence (Gillard., 2022) and empowerment in their own wellness or recovery journey (Bailie & Tickle, 2015).

Benefits to the organisation

Organisational culture may also be positively impacted by peer support through facilitating trusting and supportive colleague relationships, contributing to cultural change by reducing stigma (Agarwal et al., 2020), and reducing absenteeism (Cameroon et al., 2012; Odeen et al, 2013).

Embedding peer support in the workplace

For organisations considering embedding workplace peer supporters there are a number of key steps;

Preparing the organisation

Ensure there is leadership buy-in by demonstrating the value peer support brings, then build awareness, understanding and engagement across all levels as an important first step. 

Developing the peer supporter role

Define what a voluntary peer supporter role entails including job descriptions, time commitments, modes of support (e.g. face-to-face or online, 1:1 or group), and how to communicate to employees about the opportunity to become a peer supporter. Be clear about the level of flexibility and the amount of time available to offer peer support during work hours. This is the time to clarify policies around peer support and identify a project coordinator to support roles. 

Peer recruitment and selection

Determine how the organisation will recruit peer supporters, the selection process and how many roles are required. The peer supporters themselves are the most important resource for the success of the programme and the role won’t be right for everyone. Give consideration additionally to the orgainsation hierarchy as it isn’t advisable for example for an immediate manager or supervisor to be in an active peer support role for employees that report directly to them.

Peer training and support

Training (e.g. how to share lived experience safely, boundaries and self-care) and on-going support are vital for the success, impact and sustainability of any peer support programme. Support may include regular contact with the project coordinator and reflective spaces with other peer supporters to provide mutual support.

Ongoing evaluation & development

Finally, gathering data and evaluating your peer support programme’s impact will guide its continuous improvement ensuring it meets your workforce needs effectively. Set targets and measure success to understand help the value of peer support. 

Summary

From my own personal and professional experience, I believe that those who access a service are central in shaping and building any wellbeing initiative. Shared problem solving and recognising power in others does not diminish power elsewhere and in fact organisations can become much stronger as a result of coproduction.

We see that peer support enhances engagement with wellbeing strategies and this can help deliver fundamental change for people and their organisations. Such wellbeing initiatives not only feel more genuine, and encourage people to bring their authentic selves to work but additionally can deliver a better return on investment and a more sustainable impact. 

Peer support offers another option for people to choose the support that is right for them and I hope that by reading this it has inspired you to explore the power of peers within your workforce. 

About the author:

Dr. Jessica Woolley is a Principal Clinical Psychologist with 20-years experience working in NHS mental health services and founder of workplace mental health training and consultancy, www.risementalhealth.co.uk

Jessica works as an innovation lead for developing peer support within NHS services and supports organisations to create co-produced mental health and wellbeing strategies. 

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The power of coproduction and peer support

In today’s diverse and inclusive workplaces, it is crucial to support and uplift colleagues from all backgrounds. As June is Pride Month, we wanted to hone in on best practice approaches to supporting LGBTQIA+ colleagues at work. By fostering an environment of acceptance and understanding, companies can ensure that all employees feel valued and respected.

LGBTQIA+ individuals constitute between 2-5% of the UK population and, unfortunately, still face significant discrimination in the workplace and notable health disparities, particularly in mental health and wellbeing1.

Workplaces have the potential to be powerful positive influences, creating supportive environments that enhance the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ employees and mitigate some negative societal impacts. However, they can also be harmful when individuals encounter homophobia, biphobia, or transphobia from colleagues, customers, or contractors.

Responsible businesses should strive to create workplaces where individuals can achieve their professional and personal potential and express their true selves without fear of discrimination or harm2.

The role of companies in promoting equality

Companies must spearhead the ongoing fight for equality by creating environments where employees feel free to be their authentic selves and give their best efforts3.

To empower LGBTQIA+ individuals in the workplace, it is essential to cultivate an inclusive atmosphere that promotes respect, value, and support for everyone. This can also ultimately lead to increased job satisfaction, productivity, and retention3

The growing importance of inclusion in business

With more of the population coming out as LGBTQIA+ — a study by the Human Rights Campaign predicts that one in seven adults will identify as LGBTQIA+ by 2030 — prioritising inclusion is increasingly recognised as a smart business decision4.

Greg Sottolano, chief people officer at US-based Folx Health, which specialises in health care for the LGBTQIA+ community, emphasises the importance of this by suggesting, “The queer workforce itself is growing. So, the future of your workforce and the future of your productivity depends on supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Seeking support and recognition

Support is what LGBTQIA+ candidates and employees seek. According to an Indeed report from last year, 79% of LGBTQIA+ job applicants prefer to work for companies that publicly support and protect their community. Without this support, employers may face challenges in recruitment, retention, and engagement, notes Charlotte Hughes, founder and CEO of Inclusive Leaders Group, a talent development and DEI consulting firm.

Understanding allyship and its impact

Over the past decade, the workplace has seen a significant increase in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Consequently, the term “allyship” has become more prevalent, particularly in relation to the LGBTQIA+ community.

According to the Collins Dictionary, an ally is “someone who supports people who are in a minority group or who are discriminated against, even though they do not belong to that group themselves.” The concept of allyship is rooted in the idea of “strength in numbers”: amplifying the voices of marginalised groups, highlighting the issues they face, and uniting to advocate for meaningful change can significantly contribute to creating a fairer and more equitable society5.

Lewis McIntosh (they/them), Communications, Membership and Marketing Executive, Mental Health First Aid England states in an article on www.makeadifference.media, “The average person in the UK spends around 20% of their life working. That figure rises when we consider our commute, or how long it takes us to switch off after each day. To spend such a large portion of life working, we must do so comfortably and safely.”

Practical steps for effective allyship

As part of their LGBTQIA+ mental health guide, Mind highlight the do’s and don’ts for supporting someone who is LGBTQIA+:

  • Accept Them for Who They Are: Accept and respect the person, recognizing their identity is not a phase. Show acceptance by discussing LGBTQIA+ topics positively and involving them in social activities. Use their preferred terms, understanding that language can evolve over time.
  • Recognise Your Bias: Acknowledge personal biases shaped by social traditions that might exclude marginalized groups. Understand that different life choices are valid. Avoid assumptions about LGBTQIA+ identities, such as thinking all trans people want surgery.
  • Stories About LGBTQIA+ People Being a Threat: Recognize that negative stereotypes about LGBTQIA+ people are unfounded and harmful. Seek accurate information from reliable LGBTQIA+ organizations.
  • Don’t Ask Intrusive Questions: Be curious respectfully, avoiding personal questions about someone’s sex life or body. Seek information from credible LGBTQIA+ sources.
  • Challenge Discrimination, Misconceptions, and Stigma: Actively challenge both major and minor instances of discrimination. Correct others when they misuse terms related to LGBTQIA+ identities.
  • Don’t Make Assumptions: Avoid making assumptions about someone’s experiences. Be open to being corrected without defensiveness.
  • Listen to Their Experiences: Provide space for them to share their experiences and listen empathetically. Suggest trusted helplines if they aren’t ready to talk.
  • Show Them You Care: Demonstrate care through supportive actions, ensuring they feel respected and safe. Engage in activities they enjoy in LGBTQIA+-friendly environments.
  • Support Them to Seek Help: Encourage seeking mental health support and help research LGBTQIA+-friendly services.
  • Learn About LGBTQIA+ Issues: Educate yourself on LGBTQIA+ issues to better support your loved one. Use external resources for information rather than relying solely on the LGBTQIA+ person.
  • Learn About Their Mental Health: Familiarize yourself with their specific mental health needs through reputable sources. Use resources like the A-Z of mental health for guidance.
  • Take Care of Yourself: Remember to care for your own mental health while supporting others. Utilize support groups like FFLAG for friends and family of LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Empowering LGBTQIA+ individuals through education

Pepi Sappal, Head of PR and Communications at myGwork and Director of Fair Play Talks states, “Being a genuine and active LGBTQIA+ ally isn’t just about showing up for the good times, like Pride celebrations. It’s about standing up for LGBTQ+ rights in all areas of life, all year round. To do this effectively, it’s crucial to continually educate yourself about the community’s history, challenges, and current issues.”

Pepi offers a few tips on how to empower your LGBTQIA+ employees and best practive when it comes to being an ally:

  1. Make an effort to understand pronouns and use inclusive language: Stay informed about current events in the LGBTQIA+ community and make an effort to understand pronouns and use inclusive language. Honest mistakes, such as using the wrong pronoun, are inevitable. The key is to apologize sincerely and see it as a learning opportunity rather than something to shy away from.
  2. Recognise LGBTQ+ individuals facing multiple layers of discrimination: It’s also crucial to recognize that LGBTQIA+ individuals may encounter multiple layers of discrimination, particularly if they belong to additional marginalized groups (e.g., race, disability, age). Stay mindful of these intersecting and overlapping issues.
  3. Educate yourself: Numerous free resources are accessible to educate yourself on LGBTQIA+ issues and become an authentic ally. Follow LGBTQIA+ activists, writers, and creators on social media. Engage with movies, literature, and media produced by and for the LGBTQIA+ community, such as myGwork, Diva, Attitude, Pink News, Gay Times, and News Is Out. Many companies offer LGBTQIA+ resource or network groups you can join, and there are abundant free online resources available. Noteworthy websites include the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, The Trevor Project, and myGwork.

With Pride Month in full swing, it’s great to see so much attention, advocacy, and allyship directed to supporting LGBTQIA+ colleagues. We need to remember, though, that these initiatives must remain front of mind 365 days a year. Sustained commitment and continuous efforts are essential in fostering an inclusive and equitable environment for everyone, regardless of the month.

  1. https://www.bitc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/bitc-wellbeing-report-workingwithpride-feb2019.pdf
  2. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1aNITz9ZTy4rOgKSKr6863J45DBtkp84C32QAqfIwV0k/edit
  3. https://hrsea.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/workplace/pride-2024-empowering-lgbtqia-employees-at-workplace/110702085?utm_source=copy&utm_medium=pshare
  4. https://hrexecutive.com/in-an-intense-climate-for-dei-4-ways-hr-can-avoid-pride-month-conflict/?oly_enc_id=9463B8076434A4D
  5. https://www.hays.co.uk/market-insights/article/workplace-inclusion-are-you-as-much-of-an-lgbtq-ally-as-you-think

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Empowering LGBTQIA+ employees in the workplace

As England’s mental health crisis shows little sign of declining, Mental Health First Aid England, the national authority on mental health first aid, has unveiled yesterday a groundbreaking initiative poised to ignite a new era of action in mental health. The Association of Mental Health First Aiders is England’s first and only membership body for MHFAiders.

Ongoing support for MHFAiders

MHFA England is the only organisation that offers ongoing support to MHFAiders as part of their training. Through the Association of Mental Health First Aiders, members will be empowered to transform how we talk about and support mental health in the workplace and beyond.

The urgent need for mental health intervention

Recent statistics paint a stark picture of the mental health challenges facing the country, underscoring the urgent need for effective intervention and support. Suicide rates are rising and there are 1.9 million people waiting to access mental health services. The cost of poor mental health to individuals, business and state is enormous, with the Centre for Mental Health estimating it cost £110 million in 2022.

Transforming workplace mental health support

The Association will redefine the landscape of workplace mental health support. By creating the largest dedicated community of Mental Health First Aiders, we can support members long after they have completed their course. For the first time, members will have exclusive access to a wide range of resources, from ongoing training and qualifications to events and research, supporting them to fulfil their roles effectively.

Launch of the association

Speaking about the launch of the Association of Mental Health First Aiders, Sarah McIntosh, Managing Director of the Association of Mental Health First Aiders said, “Every day our MHFAiders are having life changing and lifesaving conversations. We need to support them to keep doing so. After many months of work and many conversations with our Instructor Members, MHFAiders, clients and staff, I am proud to launch the Association of Mental Health First Aiders today.

“Building mental health literacy has always been central to our training. The Association is the next stage of empowering a growing community of Mental Health First Aiders to tackle stigma and lead transformative change in our workplaces and beyond.

“The Association of Mental Health First Aiders offers a pioneering, human response to the pressing mental health issues we face as a society. Its launch represents a huge step forward in mental health support, one that prioritises prevention, early intervention, and support.”

Empowering MHFAiders

Hannah Creech, Member Experience Lead at the Association of Mental Health First Aiders said, “We know from our 16 years of experience of delivering mental health first training at MHFA England, support and connection empowers our Mental Health First Aiders to fulfil their roles with confidence, skill, and care. 92% of our MHFAiders say that the support and benefits provided by MHFA England help them to do this. The Association of Mental Health First Aiders strengthens this further.

“Launching the Association of Mental Health First Aiders represents a bold step in our collective journey towards a mentally healthier nation. The Association is a diverse, equitable, and inclusive space for all. Our members and their impact are at the heart of everything we do.”

Research carried out by MHFA England highlights the profound impact of MHFAiders across England. An overwhelming 94% of MHFAiders believe they are challenging stigma around mental health. 91% feel they are transforming the way society talks about and supports mental health. Moreover, 91% believe that MHFAiders save lives, affirming the critical importance of their interventions.

54% of MHFAiders say they use the skills they have learnt more than once a week. A further 29% use their skills at least once a month. With over 300,000 MHFA England trained MHFAiders trained in England over the last three years, this equates to thousands of supportive mental health conversations taking place each day.

Personal experiences of MHFAiders

Sophie Bradfield, a trained MHFAider and policy officer for her local council, shared her experience of using her MHFA skills, “I use my MHFA training both in and out of work. With the training that my colleagues and I have had, we know how to spot the signs of poor mental health, provide support, listen without judgement and signpost to professional help.

“I’ve used my training to support many people including someone who we now know was experiencing a psychotic episode. One of the things that stuck in my mind from the MHFA training was not to challenge someone’s delusions or go along with them but acknowledge their feelings showing empathy and kindness. A person experiencing a psychotic episode can behave in ways totally out of character which can be distressing particularly to those that know them. It’s important to remember that they’re not experiencing the same reality as you and what they are going through is very scary for them too. Kindness, calmness, and empathy are so important.

“We managed to de-escalate the situation and I’m pleased to say the person was given the professional help that they needed. They were in a very volatile state, and I fear had I not been there as a MHFAider, the situation would have gotten out of control. Not because the other people present were unkind or unfeeling, but because they didn’t know the signs that someone might be mentally unwell or how to speak to someone experiencing what I recognised as psychosis. 

“After the incident, I was also able to offer support to colleagues who witnessed the event. They were understandably upset and scared, so to be able to explain calmly what that person might have been going through was very helpful to them. 

“We talk all the time about breaking down the stigma around mental health. I think we’ve come on leaps and bounds since the pandemic, but I think there’s still a way to go. Having training and people sharing their experiences of mental health conditions is paramount to improving our collective understanding.”

More MHFAider testimonials

Lexie Newlands, a trained MHFAider and Pet Nutrition Data and Analytics Project Manager at Mars, shared her experience of using her MHFA skills, “I was scrolling social media when I saw some alarming posts from someone who was displaying signs of crisis. I messaged them and offered to talk and suggested that they go to A&E if they were worried about their safety. I used my training to show that I was there to support them and show them where they could get professional help.

“In the end, I kept them talking, found out where they were and managed to get the emergency services to them. We talked through their options for help, and though it felt like hours it was only an hour from my first message to help arriving. Had this happened just four months sooner, I’d have had little idea how best to help. I really do think, had I not had the MHFA training, I wouldn’t have known the best way to support, and signpost them. It doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened to them. I’m so pleased I could help.”

Supporting vulnerable populations

Samantha Stapley, Chief Operating and People Officer at the Trussell Trust, said, “We know that 52% of people referred to a foodbank in the Trussell Trust network with a disability have a mental health condition and that one in four people has not had contact with any friends or family members in the last month. This means that every day, staff, and volunteers across the Trussell Trust network are meeting people who are isolated and facing crisis.

“It is vital that the people who come to us for help can be supported by people who are able to provide them with the mental health first aid that they may need. This is why the training of staff at the Trussell Trust and in food banks across the UK has been crucial for our work. It allows us to provide an enhanced service to the people who need to access a food bank.

“The training received has equipped staff and volunteers within the Trussell Trust network with the tools to have the life changing conversations needed to ensure that people visiting food banks don’t feel alone in their struggles. We look forward to increasing our Mental Health First Aider capacity in the coming years.”

John Fielding, Staff Manager at First Bus shared his experience of using is MHFA skills, In the workplace, one experience really sticks with me. It was quite soon after I finished my training and a driver came into the depot one day and out of the blue and asked if he could have a chat.  Of course, I said yes, and he explained that he was struggling.  So, we chatted about how he felt and what he was struggling with.  I helped him to understand the support services that were available to him and off he went, and I didn’t really think much more about it.  

“He was signed off work for a little while but when he came back to work, he came straight to see me. He told me that I had been his last hope and as he put it, he was ready to drive his car of a cliff. He said I had saved his life that day by giving him hope and showing him where he could go for support.  I really didn’t feel like I did that much, but it just shows, a kind, listening ear really can make all the difference.”

Redevelopment of the MHFA refresher course

Over the coming months, MHFAiders who have completed the MHFA course, or the MHFA Refresher, in the last three years will be invited to join the Association via a welcome email.

As part of the launch of the Association of Mental Health First Aiders, MHFA England has also redeveloped its MHFA Refresher course which launched yesterday. The new course has been updated with the latest mental health statistics and guidance.

MHFA England recommend that MHFAiders take the MHFA Refresher course every three years to ensure their mental health knowledge, awareness, and skills are up to date. MHFAiders will now need to take the MHFA Refresher course, or repeat the MHFA course, every three years to renew their membership of the Association of Mental Health First Aiders and continue to access their benefits.  

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A beacon of hope amidst England’s mental health crisis

CCLA’s investor-backed benchmark ranks over 100 large UK businesses on workplace mental health measures. It reveals that the economic cost of poor mental health is estimated at £110 billion in England alone.

Key findings

  • 20 (of 101) large UK companies rank in top two performance tiers in 2024, up from 10 companies in 2022, suggesting close to 1.5 million employees now work for businesses with a mature approach to mental health.
  • 24 UK companies improved tier performance on mental health in 2024. Six firms made the top tier: BT Group, Centrica, Entain, Experian, J Sainsbury and Serco Group.
  • Around half of UK firms (51 companies) however rate in bottom two tiers, suggesting they are still in the early days of formalising their mental health management approach and disclosure.
  • Only 44% of companies disclose that they provide training for line managers to support employees with mental health issues (down from 50% in 2023), and only 42% of CEOs publicly promote workplace mental health.
  • This year’s benchmark demonstrates that the most progressive companies are making concerted efforts to get ahead on mental health. The results show a revealing and widening gap between the leaders and the slow-moving majority.” Amy Browne, Stewardship Lead, CCLA

The publication of the 2024 CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark- UK 100shows just over one in four (24) of the UK’s largest listed employers have improved their tier performance on workplace mental health in the past year – to the implied benefit of a combined one million employees.  

Six firms (BT Group, Centrica, Entain, Experian, J Sainsbury, Serco Group) lead the way on workplace mental health by ranking in the top tier of the benchmark. For example, all six leaders provide access to multiple mental health support services, provide mental health training to line managers and publish a CEO commitment on workplace mental health.

Economic impact

Investors and policymakers are increasingly concerned about the cost of mental health issues to the UK economy.  An NHS-commissioned study this year estimated annual economic losses due to poor mental health come to around £110 billion in England alone, while latest Office for National Statistics figures show a 31% rise in the number of  UK workers economically inactive due to mental health illnesses since 2019. In total 54 investorswith a combined $9.4 trillion in assets under management, are supporting engagement efforts on workplace mental health.

Now in its third year the award-winning CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark – UK 100, led by CCLA Investment Management, ranks 101 UK-listed companies, covering 4.9 million workers, on how they manage and report on workplace mental health. 

Expert commentary

Amy BROWNE, Stewardship Lead, CCLA and co-author of the benchmark report said, “The significant increase in engagement on this topic since 2023 suggests a growing awareness by companies of poor mental health as a business risk, with many informally citing talent acquisition and retention as a key driver.

“Importantly, this year’s benchmark demonstrates that the most progressive companies are making concerted efforts to get ahead on mental health. The results show a revealing and widening gap between the leaders and the slow-moving majority. Seven companies made it into tiers 1 and 2 for the first time in 2024, with one in five now ranked in the top two performance tiers. This should be celebrated.

“However, there remains concern about the lack of progress in companies at the bottom of the tier rankings. Employees deserve better from their employers.”

Sarah HUGHES, Chief Executive Officer at Mind, said, “With many of us spending so much of our time at work, mentally healthy workplaces are a crucial component to creating a mentally healthy nation. I’m heartened to see workplace mental health remains on the business agenda.  

“That’s why the CCLA Mental Health benchmark is such a valuable resource which helps us understand the performance of companies on workplace mental health, and most importantly, allows employers to evaluate their current practices and identify areas for improvement. 

The 2024 benchmark’s findings this year show both encouraging progress and areas of poor performance among the 101 UK companies analysed:

Areas of encouragement

  • Mental health as a business issue: 93% of UK companies acknowledge mental health as important business issue. 96% invest in some level of mental health support services for employees.
  • Growing number of leaders: 20 UK companies rank in the top two performance tiers, suggesting 1.5 million employees work for businesses with a mature strategic approach to mental health. This is a rise from 8 companies in 2022.  Six companies qualify for the top tier, up from four in 2023.
  • Overall progress: 24 companies improved performance on mental health this year to increase their tier ranking.
  • Multi-year improvement: ‘Trend’ companies (those 89 companies that have been consistently assessed by the benchmark since 2022) have seen their combined overall average score increase from 35% in 2022 to 42% in 2024. Just over one in four ‘trend’ companies (24 of 89 companies) have improved by 10% points or more since 2022”
  • Biggest movers: 24 companies moved up a tier this year with Glencore, Entain, Imperial Brands and BT Group being the top improvers, increasing their individual company scores by over 15 percentage points.
  • Financial wellness: 49% of companies published a formal policy explicitly acknowledging the link between financial wellbeing and mental health, up from 26% in 2022. This 23 percentage points increase is the most marked increase across the benchmark’s 27 performance indicators since 2022.

Areas of attention

  • Worst performers: 19 companies (19%) are in the bottom ‘Tier 5’ ranking. This means they are at the start of the journey to adopt a formal approach to workplace mental health management and disclosure.
  • Line manager training: Just 44% of companies report on the provision of mental health training to line managers – manager training was identified by the World Health Organization as a key intervention for companies to support worker mental wellbeing. This figure is down from 50% in 2023. More encouragingly, 60% of companies provide training to mental health first aiders or other individuals with dedicated responsibilities for mental health.
  • Objectives & targets: Only 35% of companies publish clear mental health-related objectives and targets. Good practice examples include J Sainsbury which publishes a timebound goal to train all line managers in mental health awareness, and Glencore which has a target for all offices to have an employee assistance programme in place to support emotional and psychological wellbeing.

Sector by sector results

  • Of the five largest sectors in the UK 100 benchmark, the Financial sector performs the strongest. This sector achieved an overall average score of 53% compared with the benchmark average of 41%.
  • The Consumer Discretionary sector (i.e. firms selling products/services that consumers want but, don’t necessarily need) is the worst performing sector.
  • The average score for firms in the ‘Materials’ (38%), ‘Industrials’ (37%) and ‘Consumer Discretionary’ (32%) sectors are all below the benchmark average (41%).

Remi FERNANDEZ, Manager, Human Rights, Social and Governance Issues, UN Principles for Responsible Investment and member of the expert advisory panel for the CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark UK100 said, “Poor mental health is thought to cost the economy over £100 billion a year in England alone. This benchmark helps investors to see what emerging best practice in workplace mental health looks like, and to see which companies are performing well or require improvements. It’s particularly encouraging to see the benchmark itself driving improvements, with a third of companies increasing their scores by 10% or more over 2 years”

Peter HUGH SMITH, CCLA’s Chief Executive said, “Enlightened investors can increasingly see the value of robust support for workplace mental health, whether that be decreased absenteeism or increased staff retention. The doubling of the number of firms in the top tiers of mental health performance over the last three years is not only good news for workers at those companies but it also clearly shows the power of the investment community to push companies to improve and drive positive change. As we align with the new era of sustainable disclosure regulations, CCLA’s Corporate Mental Health Benchmark demonstrates that persistent and consistent investor engagement really can deliver a better world.”

Full results table 2024

You can read the full CCLA Corporate Mental Health Benchmark – UK 100 here.

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Louise Boston, Strategic Health & Wellbeing manager at E.ON is in a unique position because she’s living and working with cancer, and is working in a Wellbeing role. This gives her a valuable insight for other Wellbeing leads about how best to support those employees working with cancer or another chronic condition.

Given the number of employees working with chronic conditions is due to increase significantly, due to improvements in treatment as well as an ageing workforce, this is an issue employers must find ways to address. We caught up with Louise to ask her for her recommendations based on her lived experience, as well as experience in the industry.

What do you think is your biggest learning about relating to employees working with cancer?

Being able to speak openly in the workplace is really important, as is realising that everyone is an individual; what might support me is going to be very different to what might support somebody else. 

We require different adjustments to support us. Some of us will find being in work really helpful, as I do, because it almost becomes a distraction from the treatment, whereas others will need time away from work to deal with it.

How do you feel about doing a Wellbeing role and having a chronic disease?

Sometimes I think it helps, on the basis I can relate to other people, and others can relate to me because I don’t hide anything.

When I send out emails to my Wellbeing Warriors I’ll tell them how I’m doing and I’m honest about saying ‘look, you’re here to support me, I can’t do this all myself, I’m not in the same position I was five years ago, so you support me, and I’ll support you’.

I’ve definitely had to change my role and recognise I can’t do everything that I once perhaps wanted to do.

How important has your line manager been?

Really important. I’ve found having a manager that I can speak to and is not afraid to have those bigger conversations is really helpful.

Whenever I have an  appointment with my oncologist, I notify my line manager of exactly what’s been said, so nothing is hidden. I’m not afraid of talking about it and I find that’s important because it means line managers can be honest back.

We speak honestly all the time about how they can help me, what adjustments I need to allow me to work from home due to treatment side effects, etc. 

When I got my last oncologist update, we were talking about end of life and palliative care and the fact that I don’t have much longer and it could be months rather than years. To have the company support me was huge.

Do you want colleagues generally to talk to you about it, or do you just want to get on with it?

I’d much rather they talk to me than didn’t. If they don’t talk to me, I know they’re thinking about it and would like to.

I find the more relaxed I can be having this conversation with colleagues, the more they will ask questions. I think I’ve probably got that from my background in Occupational Health.

Do you think employers should treat those employees with Primary and Secondary Cancer differently?

There’s a very big difference between Primary diagnosis and Secondary. Trying to deal with a Primary diagnosis is hard enough, but with Secondary there’s a recognition that there is limited light at the end of the tunnel… so you’re going to go through all that treatment and the likelihood is that you’re not going to recover and treatment will last a lifetime. And that’s something that, emotionally, is tough and has to be dealt with in a different way.

So for me, I have chemotherapy every three weeks. I have scans every 12 weeks. I have blood tests every three weeks. And that’s for life. That’s not going to get better. And when the treatments stop working, I’ll have to get my head around a new or different line of treatment. So yes, I think there needs to be a different approach but not sure what.

What has helped you most dealing with the tough emotional aspect of a Secondary diagnosis?

Having a manager that said to me that they were going to support me. That was a huge positive because, obviously, the first thing that you start thinking about is the financial aspect of it – or at least, that was the case with me. ‘If I’m not at work, then what happens to my life insurance, which I get through work?’ was one of my first thoughts.

Work has also been really supportive of my family as well, which has become really important. They know my husband’s name, they know where he works, they ask how he is feeling. That makes all the difference.

How important are employer support services, like EAPs?

They can be key because not everyone wants to access things like MacMillan, or some of the specialist cancer services, and some hospitals provide better services than others. My husband can also access the EAP, which is helpful.

I’ve never found the need to access any of their services around emotional health.

Why do you think that is, that you didn’t require the mental health support around your diagnosis or experience? Did you not feel the need for this even when talking about end of life care?

No, I guess because of my background. I worked in Occupational Health for 30 years and spent a long time supporting other people through similar situations . That’s not to say I haven’t been through some of those difficult emotions – because I absolutely have – but I think because I’ve supported other people through it I can probably guide myself through those emotions in a different way.

That’s also not to say I won’t need support in future and if I do, then I’ll access it.

Probably the biggest shock was when the doctor asked me a couple of weeks ago where I wanted to die. That probably struck me harder than anything else has, but once I got my head around it I started thinking practically. Asking – what do I want? What does my husband want? What do my family want?

What do you think of the language around cancer – like we’ve just had Cancer Survivor Day, for example?

I don’t like words like ‘fighter’ because I’m not fighting anything. I have no choice.

‘Survivor’ is interesting because I’m also not a survivor; I’m going to die, probably not too far in the future, as I have now reached the palliative stage of my treatment. Language is important and the words I’d choose would probably not be the same as somebody else.

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Burnout, characterised by chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, is an escalating issue in today’s fast-paced business environment. Symptoms include emotional exhaustion, reduced performance, and a feeling of detachment from one’s job. As businesses seek sustainable solutions to this problem, the integration of biophilic design offers a promising avenue.

The science behind biophilic design

Biophilic design is more than just an aesthetic choice; it is grounded in substantial research that highlights the benefits of connecting people with nature. Studies such as 2023’s ‘Reap What You Sow’ have shown that environments enriched with natural elements such as plants, natural materials, and access to daylight can significantly reduce stress, enhance cognitive function, and improve overall well-being.

How plants reduce burnout

  1. Improved air quality: Plants are natural air purifiers, absorbing toxins and releasing oxygen. This improvement in air quality can lead to better concentration, reduced headaches, and fewer respiratory problems, all of which contribute to a more comfortable and less stressful working environment.
  2. Enhanced aesthetics: The presence of greenery can make a workspace more visually appealing and inviting. This aesthetic enhancement can boost mood and create a sense of calm, making the workplace a more pleasant and inspiring place to be.
  3. Stress reduction: The presence of plants has been shown to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. This biological response helps employees feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed by their workloads.
  4. Boosted productivity: Environments that incorporate natural elements have been linked to increased productivity. The calming effect of nature can help employees maintain focus and work more efficiently, reducing the likelihood of burnout.

Success stories:

Brodies LLP, Edinburgh: With a total of 257 live plant displays installed, there is a tangible feeling of nature throughout this modern working space. The building benefits from a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and EPC ‘A’ rating, meaning that it is highly sustainable and environmentally sound. Kay Quillan, Marketing Manager, commented “Promoting well-being at work was key to the success of our new, flexible workspace. Creative planting promotes that well-being, whilst complementing and enhancing the variety of workspaces.”Healthcare Provider: To create a more soothing atmosphere for both patients and staff, integrating biophilic elements into the facility’s design, including a preserved moss wall and numerous potted plants resulted in a significant decrease in reported burnout among staff and a more welcoming space for patients.

Implementing biophilic design in your workplace

For business owners looking to combat burnout and enhance their work environment, incorporating biophilic design can be a game-changer. Here are some steps to get started:

  1. Assess your space: Evaluate your current office layout and identify areas where natural elements can be integrated. Consider factors such as natural light, space for plants, and areas that could benefit from a touch of greenery.
  2. Consult with experts: Engage with specialists who can provide tailored solutions based on your specific needs and workspace constraints.
  3. Start small: Begin with easy-to-maintain plants and gradually expand. Even a few plants can make a significant difference.
  4. Encourage employee participation: Get your team involved in the process. Allowing employees to choose and care for plants can foster a sense of ownership and enhance the overall impact.

The power of plants in reducing burnout and enhancing workplace well-being is clear. Through biophilic design, business owners have a valuable ally in creating healthier, more productive work environments. By embracing the principles of biophilic design, you can transform your office into a haven of calm and productivity, ensuring that your employees remain engaged, happy, and far from the brink of burnout.

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Combating burnout with biophilic design