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 – Investing in a future where diversity, equity and inclusion are the cornerstone of a thriving workforce: 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

Jen Fisher was one of the first Chief Wellbeing Officers of a professional services organisation (Deloitte US), after she put a business case together for the role in 2015. This was on the back of her own experience of burnout.

She’s now moved into the role of ‘Human Sustainability Leader’ at Deloitte US, which she describes as an ‘evolution’ of the Wellbeing role. We caught up with her to find out more….

So, you were there right at the beginning in 2015… How do you think Wellbeing as a profession has changed in that time?

When I started back in 2015, a lot of the focus, especially in the workplace, was really around creating a language and permission to talk about wellbeing from a work perspective. It was about creating cultural permissions because it wasn’t really something that had been previously discussed on a regular basis. The focus was on the core foundation components of wellbeing like movement, exercise, nutrition and sleep.

Fast forward to today – what do you think is the biggest change in Wellbeing?

What has significantly changed is the recognition of the impact that work itself, and the ways in which we are working, has on our Wellbeing. Perhaps that’s because of the pandemic, but I think it was there before the pandemic too. But the pandemic made us see that our ways of working weren’t working. And showed us that flexible work is absolutely possible.

Where we are today is trying to reconcile the need for true in-person human connection with the workforce’s desire for a lot more flexibility.

What resistance are we seeing to a new way of working?

There’s a big group of people saying we need to go back to the way that it was, which is understandable because as humans we tend to fall back on the familiar. But we’ve also got a newer segment of the workforce saying ‘no, I don’t want to work that way’.

What I think is unfortunate is there’s a lot of finger pointing going on, and certain rigid messaging around why employees need to be back in the office setting located together. Their messaging is all around productivity, which is unfortunate, because it doesn’t resonate with the workforces (because they know they can be productive outside an office). I think it would resonate more around the office being a place for human connection.

You now do a role which is head of ‘Human Sustainability’ – is that an evolution of your Wellbeing lead role?

Yes, it is an evolution. It’s really about taking appropriate action towards creating more sustainable work for humans. 

So, the wellbeing conversation started 10 years ago teaching people better habits around things like movement and nutrition. Now we’ve evolved to this place where work just isn’t working for people. There’s a recognition that burnout is so prevalent and is, in many ways, being caused by systemic workplace issues, which are outside of the control of the individual.

In other words, you can’t self-care your way out of a bad or toxic work environment. Right? 

So, while self-care is very important and organizations need to teach and support that, there’s also a need for leaders to get real about the ways in which we’re working, the expectations around work and the workloads that we’re asking people to take on – looking at these factors is what human sustainability is all about.  It’s asking organizations to take a long term view of the human impact of work.

Is the idea of Human Sustainability a new kind of capitalism?

You’re never going to get an organisational leader say that we don’t care about profits – we obviously do – but it can’t be profits at all costs. People should not be harmed in order for the organisation to succeed, and when the people are healthy, the orgnisation thrives too.

And does it go beyond just Human Sustainability into other facets of sustainability?

Yes, we need to have a much more collective view on the role and responsibility of an organization, and the impact that it is having on humans and on the planet.

You were behind the introduction of ‘Wellbeing Wizards’ at Deloitte US. Can you tell me how valuable you think these types of champion networks are, as some doubt their effectiveness?

There’s no way we would have been able to do what we’ve done without our ambassador network.

To the naysayers, I would say that many people in the workforce are passionate about Wellbeing. They care about it in their personal lives and giving them a way to bring it to work with them that is seen, and that is recognized, is a very very powerful engagement tool. And it brings meaning and purpose into the workplace for them.

But after 23 years, we understand you are leaving Deloitte US – what are you going to do next?

Yes! After 23 years! I plan to take a sabbatical first because 23 years is a long time…. and rest is essential to your well-being. Then I’m going to focus on elevating the conversation about wellbeing and human sustainability and helping companies around the world create more human-centered workplaces that drive better wellbeing outcomes and business success.

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“Sick note” Britain is in the news and will be a key issue in the election and for any new Government. I would like any new Government to focus on good jobs – rewarding and worthwhile jobs that enhance our life, social interaction, appreciation from others, a feeling of achievement, and enhanced self-esteem.

Mind shift

Government needs to put in measures to support health at work and return to work. Should we aim for a similar shift that occurred when doctors previously advised bed rest for a bad back to now gentle activity – moving to doctors advising return to work and engaging with work instead of time off for stress and anxiety?

A key culture war has also emerged on mental health and work. There needs to be Government investment in good mental health services if you have mental health issues. But. if I am feeling anxious and stressed or low that does not mean I am mentally ill.

Indeed, research shows that staying at work could well be good for me. We need to be clearer on this distinction between mental illness and mental health (1). When does feeling sad and a low mood become depression? Is there an arbitrary cut off point? As New Scientist said recently, are many of us just languishing (2)?

I would like to see the new Government encouraging employers to be good employers and more supportive – as Quaker employers did at the start of the industrial revolution. A good workplace is one where there is a team of people who appreciate each other, have a manager who looks after them and they respect.

SOM’s Manifesto 2024 ask

SOM’s Manifesto 2024 ask is Universal Access to Occupational Health. This will boost the UK’s economy as it will reduce the number of people who are not in work due to ill health (this level has spiked by over 400k to over 2.8M since the pandemic) (1).

A national Occupational Health strategy would cover:

  • Investment to support people stay and return to work, linking primary care with community assets, and work and pensions staff and occupational health in a tiered framework.
  • A local work and health strategy to strategically support people living with ill health return to work and stay in work.
  • Reform of the fit note to support people quickly back to work through case note reviews and rapid access.
  • A workforce plan that builds a multidisciplinary occupational health workforce that can deliver occupational health advice across all workplaces.
  • A National Director for Work and Health
  • Investment in NHS occupational health to enable health and social care professionals to access the support they need to avoid sickness absence and work-related mental ill health.
  • There should be a requirement for larger organisations to invest in workplace health, including occupational health and Investment in research with a National Centre for Work and Health for evidence generation to inform employers.

There should be a requirement for larger organisations to invest in workplace health, including occupational health and investment in research with a National Centre for Work and Health for evidence generation to inform employers.

Leveraging the opportunity

There are a few ways we can use the opportunity of the General Election:

  1. Raise awareness of these issues among candidates through social media
  2. Let SOM know if you can help facilitate a workplace visit (this could be for candidates during the election campaign or sitting MPs in the run-up). Visits can be a high impact and memorable way to communicate what occupational health is for and its importance.
  3. Contact candidates in your local constituency and raise with them the importance of occupational health for keeping people with health conditions in work and the need for universal access. They may be keen to engage, and it may establish a relationship which you can build on after the Election. You can contact candidates via social media, their personal websites, or at local hustings events.
  4. Tell SOM about any engagement you do in relation to the Election. SOM may be able to help amplify your messages or follow up with any new contacts made after the Election.

References:

1 https://www.som.org.uk/sites/som.org.uk/files/SOM_Deep_Dive_Research-
compressed.pdf

1 https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg25934573-900-why-being-more-open-about-mental-health-
could-be-making-us-feel-worse/
2 https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg26234863-400-are-you-languishing-in-life-heres-how-to-find-
your-purpose-again/

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Nick Pahl, CEO of SOM: Manifesto for sick note Britain ahead of the General Election

50.5% who had a period of sick leave starting in 2023, returned to work by the end of 2023 following support from group risk insurers.

Cancer: Main cause of claim across all group risk products.

Industry data compiled by Group Risk Development (GRiD) shows that, once again, employers highly utilised group risk protection (employer-funded life assurance, income protection and critical illness benefits) to provide financial support to employees and their families in 2023. A total of £2.49bn was paid out by the group risk industry during 2023, an increase of £278.4m compared to 2022.

Return to work

In addition to a financial payment, one of the most valuable benefits of group risk is the support it can provide in helping employees stay in or return to work, and this hit record numbers in 2023. 50.5% of employees who had a period of prolonged sick leave starting in 2023 had returned to work by the end of the year following support from group risk, which includes active early interventions (such as fast-track access to counselling, physiotherapy and other treatment provided by the insurer) access to specialists in serious illness, vocational rehabilitation, mediation and more.  

Interventions and Support

During 2023, 6,299 people who had a period of sick leave starting in 2023, were helped to return to work by the end of 2023. Of these:

  • 4,691 employees were able to go back to work before a claim was made following interventions provided by the insurer.
  • 1,608 employees went on to claim a group income protection (GIP) benefit during 2023 but had returned to work by the end of that year.
  • 7,305 interventions were made within six months of someone’s first absence by group risk insurers during 2023.  Of these, 47% had help to overcome mental illness and 10% had support overcoming a musculoskeletal condition.
  • Over 8,000 people in total were helped by interventions made by group risk insurers during 2023.

In addition, 885 employees who became a new GIP claimant during 2022 had returned to work by the end of 2023.

Embedded Support and Utilisation

The huge amount of embedded support within group risk products means all employees can benefit, whether or not a claim is made. Such support is continually enhanced to respond to changing needs, such as providing access to virtual GPs. This year, GRiD has gathered more comprehensive data on usage rates.  In total, during 2023 employees had over 440,000 interactions with this extra support, provided by group risk insurers, demonstrating that employees are increasingly utilising group risk’s embedded support and deriving value from their employer’s purchase on a daily basis.

Addressing the Long-Term Sick Issue

Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “The record numbers of long-term sick is an issue for the UK, and these figures show how group risk  contributes to a solution: employers who offer group risk benefits to their workforce have real and practical help in keeping their employees in work, and helping those who are absent to return. Recent figures from Swiss Re’s Group Watch show that group risk benefits are increasing in popularity, and our results show why: the more employers who offer group risk, the more help UK plc has to tackle this issue.”

Total benefits paid across group risk products:

  • Group life assurance policies paid out total benefits to the value of £1.69bn:an increase of £160.9m over 2022.
  • Group income protection (GIP) policies paid out a total of £633.6m:an increase of £85.7m over 2022.
  • Group critical illness policies paid out benefits totalling £160.3m:an increase of £31.8m over 2022.

The average new claim amounts (£137,448 for group life; £27,206 p.a. for group income protection; £77,743 for group critical illness) demonstrate that these benefits are not perks for the higher paid but throw a vital financial lifeline to people of every salary, age, and position.

Breakdown of Benefits and Claims

BenefitNo. of claimsValue of claims paidAverage new claim amount% of new claims paid for 2023
Group Life Assurance          12,324            £1,693,915,080           £137,44899.9%
Group Income Protection*          17,634               £633,596,686         £27,206pa**74.5%
Group Critical Illness            2,062               £160,306,990             £77,74379.4%
Total          32,020            £2,487,818,756  

Main Causes of Claim

Cancer was the main cause of claim across all three products during 2023. Covid-19 only accounted for 0.5% of group life assurance claims.

BenefitMain cause of new claims%Second main cause of new claims%
Group Life AssuranceCancer39%Ischaemic Heart Disease15%
Group Income ProtectionCancer24%Mental illness21%
Group Critical IllnessCancer68%Heart Attack9%

Financial Resilience and Group Risk Benefits

Moxham continued: “It’s no secret that financial resilience in the UK is poor and the death, serious illness or long-term incapacity of a breadwinner can have a devastating effect on a household’s finances, often tipping people into poverty. In real terms, State provision for the sick and disabled has been becoming harder to get and dwindling for some time: it’s not enough to live on, and those who have to rely on it are the ones who can least afford to. Some employers boost the payments by self-funding, which is expensive. Those employers who make use of group risk benefits have the most affordable way of supporting staff and their families when the worst happens.”

* Total number of claims paid (new and existing) during 2023 and value of claims in payment as of 31 December 2023, including any claims paid for part of 2023. Group income protection claims are often paid for several or many years so the ultimate value of these benefits will be much higher.

** During 2023 there were 7,780 new group income protection claims, totalling £211.66m pa and averaging £27,206 pa.

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£6.82m a day paid out in claims in 2023 by the UK Group Risk industry

In the midst of rising costs, evolving employee needs and an NHS stretched to the max, it’s more important than ever that wellbeing strategies are successful and effective. Yet many employers are uncertain how to ensure their investment really makes a difference.

Walking the wellbeing walk

If you believe that you could be getting better value on your investment (VOI) in health and wellbeing, join us from 11.30am – 12.30pm on Wednesday 26th June for this interactive Make A Difference webinar, together with YuLife to understand:

  • Approaches to deciding when and where to invest in employee health and wellbeing support
  • How to engage colleagues with preventative initiatives
  • Where purpose and sustainability fit into the equation
  • Ways to seamlessly integrate DE&I with employee health and wellbeing to deliver real impact

Including insights from:

  • Karen Seth, Group HR Director, Canal Trust
  • Michael Spiers, Chief People Officer, London City Airport
  • Rebecca Ormond, Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing Lead, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation
  • Kate Whitelock, Head of Wellbeing, YuLife

Who should attend:

  • C-Suite, HR, DE&I, Wellbeing, Benefits & Rewards Leaders
  • Talent, Engagement, Communication Leaders
  • Culture & Transformation Leaders
  • Managers, Team Leaders, ERG Chairs & Wellbeing Champions
  • Anyone who cares about their people and their business

If you can’t make the date/time, go ahead and register anyway and we’ll send you the recording a few days after the session.

Find full details and register FREE here

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While the Wellbeing industry has come on leaps and bounds in recent years in terms of credibility and working towards rigorous, respected measurement methods, there is still a sense that it needs to do more to be treated like a ‘proper’ profession.

For Maria Anderson, Global Head of Health, Safety and Wellbeing, Cambridge University Press – who spoke on our panel about ‘The Future of the employee wellbeing profession’ at The Watercooler Event – it’s vital that we as an industry “study and never stop learning because we need to bring that knowledge into the workplace to change the image of the wellbeing professional”. 

Wellbeing needs to be seen as strategic

She believes that with more emphasis on the training and knowledge needed to do Wellbeing jobs, the function would be seen as more strategic: “When I joined CUP seven years ago, the Wellbeing team was seen more as our events organiser, and there to give ergonomic and adjustment advice. But I’ve been championing the change that the Wellbeing professional is a strategic thinker and influencer”.

Nick Pahl, Chief Executive of the Society of Occupational Medicine, has also got this issue very much on his radar and urges people working in Wellbeing “see themselves as professionals, and act like professionals”. But he has concerns with the status quo:

“There isn’t a professional regulator, as such, and there is a potential backlash of people thinking [of wellbeing professionals] where’s the evidence base for what you’re doing?”

Speaking the language of business

Naturally, he’s an advocate for talent with an Occupational Health background to lead on Wellbeing, arguing they are best placed with their clinical evidence-based backgrounds. While this is certainly a strong case, others also note that a training challenge with these individuals is that they have to learn to speak the corporate language. 

Jen Fisher, Human Sustainability Leader, Deloitte US, picks up on this point, saying that those with clinical backgrounds without commercial experience often have to learn to pivot their knowledge to answer questions like “what is the business narrative?” and “how do I communicate that to business leaders and not to academics or psychologists?”

Across the pond, in the States, Fisher believes that the profession also needs “elevated”. In her experience “all too often these roles are being buried somewhere in benefits; but Wellbeing isn’t a benefit… Wellbeing is supported by benefits programmes, but it’s not a benefit, it’s an outcome.” She agrees with Anderson that “more rigour around the training that’s needed” could elevate the way the profession is seen.

What qualifications?

But what qualifications are currently out there to help build your career in employee health and wellbeing? Beyond the MSc in Workplace Health & Wellbeing, offered by the University of Nottingham, and the Working with Wellbeing qualification that NEBOSH runs, what other credible qualifications are available to help professionals who want to advance their career in employee health and wellbeing?

We posed these questions on LinkedIn, quickly finding that this is a zeitgeist topic that people are currently grappling with.

Stuart Mace, Occupational Health and Wellbeing Lead, Skanska, for example, says that “there is a real need for comprehensive qualifications in the industry”, echoing again fears around the perception of the profession, as well as hinting at the lack of ‘gold standards’ regarding qualification as yet:

“There is a real danger with organisations being satisfied with those who are charged with the health and wellbeing of employees, simply having workplace health and wellbeing bolted on to their existing job because they have a ‘passion for it’, or lived experience, or the department they happen to work in.”

The need for continuous learning

A quick look at Mace’s CV shows how committed he is to continuous learning – as well as completing both the University of Nottingham’s Master of Science, Workplace Health and Wellbeing and NEBOSH’s Wellbeing in Work certificate, he’s also done some ISO 45003 training in psychological health and safety with FlourishDx.

But while he encourages health and wellbeing leaders to accumulate as much knowledge as possible, he also stresses the need to take the learning and adapt it rather than applying it in a blanket way:

“I’m all for workplace health and wellbeing leaders to have as much knowledge as possible and being able to appropriate apply to THEIR organisation. 45003 is not for everyone, however, and doesn’t ultimately eliminate psychosocial risks, it identifies them and then there is an expectancy that organisations act on the risks. Knowing the content would certainly be valuable, however, the maturity of an organisation’s health and wellbeing is a factor. The resource, value and commitment from the organisation are also considerations.”

Skill yourself up

Marcus Hunt, Head of Employee Health and Wellbeing, APAC & EMEA, Johnson & Johnson, is similarly committed to continuous study, with his CV also including the NEBOSH qualification, as well as an MSc in Organisational and Occupational Psychology from Birbeck, University of London. His advice to “all aspiring Wellbeing influencers” is to skill yourself up in a way that helps you “establish the root cause of disharmony, dysfunction, underperformance, etc”. He also believes that “having peers and mentors is super critical” because these help to “consolidate and embed formal learning, and to prepare and undertake calculated risks”.

Perhaps it will be Jo Yarker, Professor in Occupational Psychology at Birbeck, University of London, and her colleagues, who will come up with the “comprehensive qualification” that Mace hopes for…. She reveals that she is “in the middle of scoping out a programme to address this gap”.

No qualification yet for all backgrounds

“We often find our research partners, University students and clients have many pieces of the jigsaw but, as everyone comes with different experience, backgrounds and priorities, it can be difficult to put it all together,” she says, adding that there will be more news on this development “soon” (as well as saying she is “very open” to hearing ideas people may have, should they wish to contact her).

Regardless of which qualification you choose (see below for summary of courses suggested), the Wellbeing sector is evolving at such a rapid pace that qualifications will not be enough to stay at the top of (or ahead of) the game.

As another of our Watercooler Panellists, Professor Liza Jachens, Deputy Course Director, MSc in Workplace Health & Wellbeing at University of Nottingham says, “it’s super important we all embrace continuous learning because the work environment is always changing”.

And that has never been more true than in the last few years. Even with a CV to bursting of qualifications, who would have ever predicted, after all, a global pandemic to kickstart a new learning revolution in hybrid and remote learning? 

A good reminder, perhaps, of the huge value of learning on the job, alongside any studies.

Recommended Qualifications for Workplace Health and Wellbeing

Course name: Workplace Health and Wellbeing (Distance Learning)

Organisation: University of Nottingham

How long it lasts: Part time up to 36 months (no full time available)

Qualification at end: MSc/PGDip

Entry requirements: 2:2

Cost: MSc: £11,850, PGDip: £7,900

Course name: Organizational Psychology

Organisation: Birbeck University of London

How long it lasts: Options from 1 year full time flexible/online learning to 2 years part time flexible/online learning

Qualification at end: MSc

Cost: From £6075 per year for part time home students, to £19,830 for full time international students

Entry requirements: 2:2 or above

Course name: Working with Wellbeing

Organisation: NEBOSH

How long it lasts: this one-day qualification has a minimum of 6 hours study with a recommendation of 1 hour for the assessment

Entry requirements: none

Cost: varies depending on learning partner

Note there are also a host of courses offered by respected health and wellbeing consultants in this space

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Neurodiversity is one of the hottest topics of 2024, with nearly 1000 people registering for our most recent webinar on this topic, which honed in specifically on what employers can do to support parents of neurodiverse children at work. 

Here, Emma Owen, Neurodiversity Consultant with Thriiver, who sponsored the webinar, elaborates on some of the far-ranging questions that were raised by the highly-engaged webinar audience. From what do you prioritise first to create a neuroinclusive culture, to how do you introduce an Individual Passport Plan.

You can access the recording of the webinar and hints and tips shared in the chat here

Please note that the webinar and this article both include reference to suicide and self-harm. If you are affected by this information, please contact an organisation that can give you advice and support such as Samaritans on 116 123 any day, any time.

Q: Has a link also been seen between ADHD and suicide or self-harm?

    Research studies have shown a link between ADHD and instances of self-harm and ideation in both children and adults. However, this is a developing area that is working to understand causality. This correlation highlights the importance of understanding the complexities, nuances, and social perspectives surrounding ADHD and its link to mental health and well-being across different age groups.

    Q: When children turn 18, do you still view staff as ‘parents of ND children’?

    The concept of childhood/ adulthood should be viewed through a lens that considers the fluidity of neurological differences and emotional maturity. Studies have demonstrated that the human brain continues to develop until the age of 25. When taking into account neurodiversity, this becomes even more complex. It is essential to acknowledge that individuals may require ongoing support beyond arbitrary chronological benchmarks, as societal expectations often dictate a cutoff point for when people are assumed to no longer need support due to a predefined definition of adulthood. It’s important to consider that staff may still require support and accommodations to effectively assist their young person or adult.

    Q: We are currently looking to introduce an Individual Passport Plan. It would be great to hear how you manage that in practice.

    The process involves the employee and their line manager working together to document the employee’s specific diagnoses, as well as considering broader aspects related to their neurodiversity. This may include discussions about the employee’s unique strengths, challenges, and any accommodations or adjustments that may be needed to support their success in the workplace. Once these considerations are thoroughly discussed and agreed upon, they are formalized, signed off, and implemented. In addition, it’s crucial to carefully identify and determine who within the organisation should have access to this information, taking into account privacy and confidentiality considerations. Regular reviews and updates are essential to ensure that the accommodations remain effective and relevant as the employee’s needs, role expectations, and team dynamics evolve over time.

    Q: What adaptations can be requested for an ND parent in the workplace?

    The organisation could provide flexible work arrangements, the option to work from home, mental health and wellbeing support programs, guidance on company processes, and dedicated leave options for parents and carers.

    Q: Should parents of ND children be considered under social mobility policies?

    Neurodivergent children are protected under the Equality Act and may encounter substantial obstacles in education, which can have a long-term impact on their life path. Therefore, it is crucial to take into account the needs of parents and families within social mobility policies to ensure that these children have the support and resources necessary to thrive.

    Q: Has anyone had any success working/collaborating with schools?

    In my previous position, our team worked on the development of a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) program focusing on neurodiversity. This program attracted substantial funding from access and participation initiatives, enabling us to provide the training to teachers without any cost. I have a keen interest in delving deeper into this area and exploring potential outreach and collaborations.

    Q: What are the risks of using diagnostics tools?

    It’s crucial to understand that screening tools are not diagnostic assessments; they are designed to identify potential neurodivergent traits. It’s essential to emphasise that these tools should not and cannot be used as a replacement for a comprehensive assessment conducted by a qualified professional. Moreover, the results of screening tools can be influenced by various factors, including the individual’s understanding of the questions and their mood at the time of assessment. While screening tools can potentially provide helpful insights and give individuals self-knowledge and strategies, it’s important for users to understand their scope and limitations.

    Q: Are there any ‘one-stop shops’ where I can go for advice and support for him (an undiagnosed 16-year-old boy) and our family?

    About Autism provides a variety of support services for families, including counseling, educational resources, and community events.

    Q: Do you see this support as something that ERGs should be responsible for, or do you think this should be left to HR?

    I think it’s a combination of working with ERGs because these are the people with lived experience who understand what works, what can be improved, and involves a collaborative relationship for informed policy and practice in the organisation.

    Q: What are the biggest topics/policies/areas that you prioritise first in creating a neuroinclusive culture?

    Exploring neurodiversity involves delving into its origins, concepts, strengths, and challenges, while also acknowledging the widespread evidence of disparities in health, education, and the workplace. It’s crucial to recognize that individuals experience neurodiversity uniquely and have varying needs. Embracing these differences and experiences can contribute to deeper understanding and the development of a more inclusive society.

    Q: How do you convince senior leaders to properly invest in neurodiversity and neuroinclusion instead of relying too heavily on ERGs?

    Understanding the value that individuals bring to the workplace is crucial for fostering increased productivity and innovation. However, it’s also important to recognise the potential risks of not being inclusive. Making reasonable adjustments is essential to ensure compliance with the Equality Act (2010), as failure to do so can lead to expensive tribunals, significant damage to the organisation’s reputation, and a decrease in staff morale.

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    How to support parents of neurodivergent children at work – your burning questions answered

    Remote working is an overwhelmingly positive experience for many of those with a disability and/or neurodivergence, according to a Coventry University academic who appeared before MPs this month.

    Dr Christine Grant, an Associate Professor at the university’s Research Centre for Healthcare and Communities, has conducted extensive research into the impact of remote working on disabled and/or neurodivergent people and appeared before the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

    Investigating Disability Employment Support

    The aim of the committee is to investigate how disabled people can be better supported to start and stay in work, while assessing how effective the Government’s recent efforts have been in narrowing the disability employment gap.

    The Remote4All project, launched by Dr Grant, involved a number of organisations including the NHS, Vodafone and neurobox, and invited employees with disabilities and/or neurodivergence to share their experiences of remote working.

    Caption: Dr Chris Grant at Westminster where she addressed the Work and Pensions Select Committee

    The project concluded there is the need for an overarching government policy on remote working to help level the playing field for disabled and/or neurodivergent workers.

    Amplifying Benefits for Disabled Workers

    Addressing the committee, Dr Grant explained that remote working amplifies the benefits for many disabled and/or neurodivergent workers, allowing them to be more comfortable, less tired, more productive and being better able to control their environment.

    However, such working arrangements needed to be thought through carefully to avoid risks such as people working when poorly, becoming socially isolated or losing motivation.

    Importance of Technology and Manager Support

    Dr Grant explained that technology had played a huge role in the expansion of remote working, but stressed the importance of discussions with line managers to ensure that appropriate and supportive arrangements were in place for individuals.

    Speaking before the committee, Dr Grant said: “Remote working was found overwhelmingly to be a very positive accommodation for many in this group who said it improved their quality of life. Some of the practical things, saving time and money, the long commute, for some people was eliminated or reduced and this improvement in quality of life overall was found to be very important to this group.”

    She added: “There’s not a one size fits all approach, there needs to be manager support, there needs to be that conversation, professionals such as occupational health need to be involved so you can help work through issues on an individual level.”

    Advocating for Government Policy

    Dr Grant believes introducing a Government policy relating to remote working was important as it would help provide guidance and set the direction of travel for organisations.

    Speaking after the hearing, Dr Grant added: “It was a really interesting experience speaking before the committee. I think it’s really important to destigmatise remote working for this group of people because we’ve found it to be an incredibly positive experience for them in gaining and sustaining work. My hope is that the Committee will take on board the idea of developing a Line Manager Toolkit for disabled and/or neurodiverse remote workers, which is the focus of my next funded project.”

    To find out more about Dr Grant’s Remote4All project visit https://www.coventry.ac.uk/news/2022/remote4all/ 

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    Helen Tomlinson, the Government’s Menopause Employment Champion, called on employers to get behind the conversation about Women’s Health. She was speaking on a panel on this topic at The Watercooler Event.

    She emphasised that, while it’s great getting employee resource groups (ERGs) and forums involved in the conversation, “it can only drive the conversation so far”.

    What really makes the crucial difference is leadership involvement

    “Getting leadership involved makes a real significant change in organisations in any of the topics that we’re talking about [relating to Women’s Health from endometriosis to the menopause].”

    Tomlinson gave an example from her ‘day job’ where she is Head of Talent (UK & Ireland) at The Adecco Group. 

    To mark the launch of Adecco’s menopause policy, Tomlinson took part in a podcast with two other senior leaders talking really honestly about their menopause symptoms. Between the three of them, they managed to cover a large percentage of possible symptoms spanning cognitive like brain fog, psychological like anxiety and physical like the more famous flushes.

    Not an easy conversation to have

    “It wasn’t a conversation I found easy to start with,” she said. “One of my symptoms was heavy and erratic menstrual periods. 44% of women suffer with this. So even me, just putting my experience out there, allowed other people to come forward and share their lived experience and that they’re struggling.”

    While she recognises that being this open and honest might not be for all leaders, it can be extremely effective in raising the profile of a topic and kickstarting the conversation, as well as adding gravitas to it. 

    For her, allyship is crucial when it comes to raising awareness of topics like menopause and other women’s health conditions: “Encouraging people to open up and have that conversation and share their lived experience creates culture in an organisation”.

    Leadership must listen

    Fellow panellist Cathy Earnshaw-Balding, Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, GXO, agreed that real cultural change “starts with the leadership team and getting them on board and making them listen”.

    She also stresses that – just because it’s Women’s Health that is being talked about – the leaders coming forward to speak about it shouldn’t all be female. In fact, it’s extremely powerful to have men talking about their perspective and learnings from their partners’, or sisters’, or daughters’ or mums’ experiences.

    “So it’s in mens’ interests, whether they like it or not, to get on board with this,” said Earnshaw-Balding. “And they also have colleagues and direct reports that they need to bring on board on this journey with them. They can’t bury their heads in the sand anymore.”

    Don’t over-rely on policy

    Another thing that leaders can’t afford to do when it comes to women’s health is fall back on just trotting out the policy line. As Earnshaw-Balding said “policy can only go so far” and can sometimes be “a little bit black and white”.

    Leaders in particular need to realise that policy won’t “give you all the answers”, in Earnshaw-Balding’s words. With this area of health, women’s experiences are so individual and have to be treated as such; there is no ‘one size fits all’ that falls neatly into a policy or presentation. For instance, there is no uniformity around how much time people may need off for the same condition or operation.

    Another aspect of good leadership when it comes to handling Women’s Health at work is understanding that “it’s not all down to HR”. The best leaders in this space are those who are committed to understanding and helping the individual through their experience, with compassion and empathy. 

    Leaders need the human touch

    As Earnshaw-Balding says, HR is obviously there to “support and actively contribute and ensure rules and processes are followed”, but the human touch – which can make all the difference – is really down to the line manager.

    In addition to calling on employers to get the conversation going, Tomlinson is also keen for leaders to share what they’ve learnt in terms of best practice, guidance and education to contribute to the free-to-access Menopause in the Workplace Resources Hub

    “This is all about large organisations coming together and taking away that competitive element and doing the right thing for women everywhere,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of great practices going on in large organisations but it’s important that we make sure we overlay that into smaller organisations too.”

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    A survey of 8,000 UK adults has highlighted an increase in mental health transparency in the workplace.

    This year, 32 percent of UK employees said they called in sick due to poor mental health but gave another reason*. While this is still over a quarter, it’s lower than the findings from Nuffield Health’s 2023 report, with the percentage last year being 35 percent.

    Nuffield Health’s 2024 Healthier Nation Index, which draws on research undertaken between 14 February and 1 March 2024, also revealed that 56 percent went to work despite poor mental health – down seven percent from last year (63%).

    Step forwards

    While it’s clear that stigma still acts as a barrier to open discussions between employees and employers about their mental health at work, the improvement indicates a positive step towards better communication, with people getting more comfortable admitting they need rest, emotional support and time away from their desks.

    But, in line with this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, Movement, where people are being encouraged to move more for their mental health, Nuffield Health’s 2024 Nation Index revealed that while mental health transparency is on the up, there’s a lack of support in regards to time to undertake physical activity. Nearly half (45.70%) of respondents said that lack of time due to work acted as a barrier, with 42.91 percent stating more time should be put aside for it.

    With low physical activity and poor mental health undoubtedly linked, employers must listen to their needs to foster a positive and more transparent culture.

    In our article “How can employers use physical health as a portal to good overall wellbeing?”, Ruth Pott, from BAM UK&I explains that she has found physical health to be a great gateway to general wellbeing, recently launching ‘Get BAM Moving’ with the sole purpose of inspiring and engaging its employees to take ownership of physical health.

    Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead at Nuffield Health, commented: “We call on workplaces to encourage their employees to look after their bodies and minds”, explaining how spending just five extra minutes on personal wellbeing a day can significantly boost mental and physical health.

    Three ways to help employees get moving

    Here, Lisa offers advice on how employers can approach the situation at hand:

    1.    Take a holistic approach to fitness

    In the past year, 46.20 percent said work had negatively impacted ** their physical/mental health, so companies recognise the connection between physical and mental wellbeing.

    While the benefits of regular exercise are well documented, there is less awareness and understanding of this inextricable link.

    It’s well known, for example, that physical exercise releases ‘feel good’ chemicals such as endorphins and dopamine, which make us feel positive and relieve stress. The benefits of ’emotional fitness’ on physical health are less widely known.  

    There is an inseparable link between physical and mental health, and, as such, a holistic approach is much more likely to result in healthier outcomes than by making artificial distinctions between mind and body. Focus on one above the other can lead to unhelpful behaviours and negative cycles, which can be difficult to break.   

    Spending five minutes talking to employees struggling with their mental health and discussing their preferred methods of coping can have a positive impact. This may allow them to reflect on their needs for increased physical activity and allow you to accommodate those needs where necessary.

    2.    Consider flexible working solutions

    It’s encouraging that more employees feel comfortable admitting they need time off work due to mental health. However, it’s no coincidence that those with flexible working admitted to better physical fitness (43.60%) and better physical (42.58%) and mental health (38.77%).

    Our study shows that most working individuals agree that employers should make work patterns more flexible to allow more time for exercise (46.81%).

    While flexible working patterns have been a contentious subject post-COVID, with many employees forced to return to the office, they give people more freedom to fit in time to move their bodies.

    Workplaces should recognise that not everyone has free time to exercise in their average day, particularly those with additional responsibilities, such as working parents or part-time carers.

    Not only that, offering flexibility can enhance employee-employer relationships, as employees granted flexibility are more likely to feel like their needs are being heard, which has not only proven to increase productivity but can also help to increase transparency in future situations.

    3.    Promote movement

    According to the World Health Organisation, individuals of all age groups are advised to target a minimum of 150 active minutes per week. For added health benefits, this duration can be increased to 300 minutes weekly.

    While some employees are actively asking for more time for physical activity, our study revealed that 39 percent say they want employers to do more to support them to exercise.

    This can be as simple as promoting regular exercise in morning meetings, sharing information about local gyms or fitness classes to be distributed around the office or over email, or even organising company socials that involve physical activity.

    In just five minutes, managers can also arrange, or raise awareness of, employee wellbeing offerings. This may include subsidised gym memberships that encourage regular exercise or full health MOTs in the office where health professionals can identify individuals’ physical risk factors. Similarly, access to CBT and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) allows employees to speak with mental health experts to understand and combat negative thinking patterns. 

    You can see the full findings of Nuffield Health’s latest Healthier Nation Index here.

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