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Are you ready for a new era of workplace mental health and wellbeing?

The immediate threat of the pandemic may have eased, but the need to prioritise workplace mental health and wellbeing has never been more important. McKinsey reports that almost 50% of employees are burnt out and The World Economic Forum highlights that one in three employees are considering leaving their work because of their mental health,

Perhaps no surprise when you consider that in just two years, we’ve experienced a decade of change in the world of work.

Whilst this undoubtedly presents challenges, it also opens up opportunities for employers to scale up workplace mental health and wellbeing support, embed wellbeing as a strategic priority and set a new benchmark for best practice.

At the 5th annual MAD World Summit we’ll be helping employers to step up their cultures of care by showcasing what’s working now and what’s needed next to really Make A Difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Wherever you are on your workplace wellbeing journey, join us on 11th October for a day packed with insight, inspiration, networking and practical takeaways including:

  • Agenda-setting keynotes from business, thought and health leaders
  • Cross-sector case studies and panel discussions
  • Roundtables for real-time knowledge exchange and networking
  • Interactive workshops to dive deeper into topics that matter
  • 40 suppliers of work culture, mental health and wellbeing solutions under one roof
  • New for 2022: The Make A Difference Awards @ MAD World

Mad World Summit

Key topics we’ll be addressing include:

  • The mental health and wellbeing challenges employers need to be prepared for post-pandemic
  • What works in wellbeing: beyond rhetoric to practical, evidence-based measurement
  • How to keep mental health and wellbeing at the top of the Board’s agenda
  • Scaling up with a joined-up approach to mental, physical, financial, social and environmental wellbeing
  • Moving the dial when it comes to work related stress, depression and anxiety
  • What toxic workplace cultures look like and how to tackle them
  • Approaches to Inclusively supporting the wellbeing of neurodiverse colleagues
  • The four-day week as the next frontier in workplace wellbeing
  • Best practice approaches to creating psychological safety and safe spaces at work
  • Equipping leaders and managers with the skills to support their own and colleagues’ wellbeing in the new world of work
  • What next for the Chief Wellbeing Officer? Your career in workplace wellbeing
  • Seamlessly integrating wellbeing with diversity and inclusion
  • The power of community: making the most of peer-to-peer networks
  • The benefits of taking wellbeing to the wider community

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.

Gold Sponsors

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Latest Make A Difference News

Make A Difference News

According to a new report, 93% of staff in the UK say that tackling climate in their job role is important for their motivation and wellbeing.

However, while companies increasingly recognise their responsibility towards sustainability and climate change, businesses have not necessarily made the link between the opportunity to mobilise staff to tackle these issues, stem the great resignation and support wellbeing.

The survey of more than 7,000 workers across 15 major industries worldwide was launched during London Climate Action Week by Kite Insights, who also provide climate training.

Employees represent huge untapped potential in the push for decarbonisation. According to the report, 78% say they are ready and willing to tackle the climate crisis in their work and 52% of employees are interested in undertaking training related to climate action in the context of their work.

The report’s authors go so far as to say that more than half of workers want climate training – with 1 in 10 ready to leave their jobs without it.

Responding to the findings, Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research commented:

“Businesses, and therefore all employees, are in the midst of the climate crisis, and what happens over the coming few years, will determine the outcome both for the planet and for the competitive edge of companies.”

Make a difference

For us at www.makeadifference.media, this report indicates a growing synergy between the mental health and wellbeing and wider sustainability agendas. It also reflects growing awareness that the business community has immense power to drive positive change and impact.

What do you think? Do your wellbeing and Corporate Social Responsibility colleagues already work closely together? Or is there room for improvement? I’d love to know your thoughts. You can email me at claire@makeadifference.media.

Future of Work: Climate Action Key to Mental Wellbeing According to New Report

The 5th annual MAD World Summit is back – in-person – on 11th October 2022 in Central London – the day after World Mental Health Day.

MAD stands for Make A Difference. The Summit is the sister event of www.makeadifference.media and The Watercooler.

Since its launch in 2018 the Summit has become firmly established as the go-to solutions-focused conference and exhibition dedicated to turning talk into action, creating cultures of care and embedding mental health and wellbeing as a strategic business priority.

The pandemic propelled employee mental health and wellbeing to the top of business agendas. Now it’s crucial that it stays there. Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace are more critical than ever before. In just two years, we’ve experienced a decade of change in the world of work. Burnout is ubiquitous, uncertainty persists and now the cost-of-living crisis is biting.

Whilst adapting to meet fast-evolving employee needs and expectations undoubtedly presents challenges, it also opens opportunities for employers to scale-up workplace mental health and wellbeing support, embed preventative and inclusive approaches to wellbeing and set a new benchmark for workplace culture.

At the 5th annual MAD World Summit, we’ll be helping employers to step-up by showcasing what’s working now and exploring what’s needed next to weave mental health and wellbeing into your organisations’ DNA, achieve maximum engagement with initiatives, optimise investment in workplace wellbeing and really Make A Difference.

Business imperatives

The Summit is a great meeting of minds which always features fantastic speakers and attracts employers from a wide range of sectors. There were 700+ attendees at the last event.

Already confirmed speakers for the 2022 event include;

  • Sir Ian Cheshire, Chair, Channel 4
  • Sarah Newton, Chair, Health & Safety Executive
  • Josh Krichefski, COO Global and CEO EMEA, MediaCom
  • Jon Slade, Chief Commercial Officer, Financial Times
  • Daisy Reeves, Global Inclusion & Diversity Partner, BCLP LLP
  • Fiona Adshead, Chair, Sustainable Healthcare Coalition
  • Charles Alberts, Global Head of Wellbeing & Employee Experience, Clifford Chance
  • Lauren Appleby, Mental Health Programme Manager, Meta
  • Theodora Chatzisarros, Fashion, Business Development & Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy Leader, Amazon
  • Hannah Pearsall, Head of Wellbeing, Hays
  • Yulia O’Mahony, Global Head of Health and Resilience, Philip Morris International
  • Ryan Hopkins, Global Workplace of the Future Lead, Finastra
  • Geoff McDonald, Global Advocate, Campaigner and Consultant for Mental Health @ Work and former Global VP HR, Unilever
  • Amanda Owen MBE, Wellbeing, Health & Safety Director, Heathrow
  • Naeema Choudry, Partner, Eversheds Sutherland and member of Business in the Community’s “Better Work” Advisory Board
  • Paul Caudwell, Heath Wellbeing Manager, Co-op
  • Paul Hendry, Global Vice President for Health, Safety & Environment, Jacobs
  • Katherine O’Hara, Therapy Area Specialist and Wellbeing Ambassador, Pfizer
  • Somayeh Rahimi, Wellbeing Manager, Computacenter
  • Vashti Holland, National Wellbeing Lead, Guide Dogs

With plenty more in the pipeline.

The MAD World experience

As Mark Pigou, Co-founder, Make a Difference Media & Events, MAD World Summit and The Watercooler says: “The 5th annual MAD World Summit is the next step in our drive to accelerate the shift from stigma to solutions. With agenda-setting keynotes, themed content tracks, roundtables, workshops, a Think Tank, announcement of the Make A Difference Award winners and a host of exhibitors, there is no Summit like MAD World”.

Early bird rates are available until 1st July and you can view details on the event website here.

About the author

Claire Farrow is the Global Head of Content and Programming for www.makeadifference.media, the MAD World Summit and The Watercooler. She’s on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times.

First 20 Speakers Announced for the 5th Annual MAD World Summit

The world of work continues to evolve at speed. The UK’s mental health is getting worse (1) and work is a significant factor with 36% of employees experiencing work-related poor mental health in the past year. (2) The leading causes are excessive pressure, workload and not taking annual leave. Poor mental health has been cited as the reason for 61% of employees leaving their jobs. (3) 

There has been a shift in power between employers and employees. Employees have re-evaluated what’s important to them based on whole-life horizons, with 65% of people seeking a better work-life balance. (4) With more job vacancies than candidates, job seekers are more discerning and demanding about what they want from a ‘good’ job, which is now reflected in the new expression, ‘employer on probation.’ 

With the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional models of working have imploded. This is causing unprecedented challenges, requiring urgent action from business leaders to not just change, but to revolutionise ways of working. 

We now have the opportunity to action a post-pandemic reset of ways of working that promote wellbeing.

A tailored, personalised approach to flexible ways of working

Business in the Community (BITC)’s new Your Job Can Be Good For You report makes the compelling business, social and economic case for taking an individualised approach to enabling all employees to co-create ways of working that benefit both individuals and businesses. 

BITC’s 2022 YouGov research identified that just over half of the UK workforce are able to co-create their version of a ‘good job’ which is a promising start.(5)

However, with co-creating ways of working comes the risk of creating a two-tier system with those having board level roles (72%) and higher salaries (57% of those earning more than £20k per year), being more likely to achieve flexibility. Research shows that those who would most benefit from individualised ways of working are least likely to be able to action them.(6)

The opportunity to take a tailored approach to personalising ways of working will differ across sectors and roles. However, job co-creation in some form can be applied to nearly every role, at every level. For example, an estates and facilities manager might not be able to regularly complete their work from home but might benefit from having the choice of flexible shift patterns. An entry-level office worker might have less autonomy over their tasks than the company CEO, but both would gain wellbeing benefits from a culture that supports them to be physically active during the working day.

Actions that underpin the co-creation of ways of working

Long gone are the days when people only look at salaries. They now look at the culture, purpose and social value of the organisation too. Everything that BITC campaigns for is reflected in our Responsible Business Map, which is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

The report looks at ways of working through multiple intersectional lenses from across the responsible business agenda. This includes health and wellbeing, equity and inclusion, employment and skills and the environment.

The report outlines six immediate actions, aligned to the acronym, THRIVE, that business leaders should take to begin their post-pandemic reset of their employee wellbeing agenda:

  • Tackle inequalities to achieve an inclusive and equitable wellbeing strategy
  • Harness organisational purpose and values to attract and retain the best talent
  • Recognise and balance business and employee needs by providing flexibility in how, where and when people work  
  • Innovate, integrate and pilot new approaches  
  • Value the wellbeing benefits of the natural environment as a key strand of your wellbeing strategy
  • Enable employees to switch off outside their agreed working hours

Your job must be good for you

Otherwise, employees will leave and find another job. It is critical that businesses take a clear leadership role and back their narrative with measurable, tangible, well-evidenced action to put thriving people, thriving businesses, thriving communities and a healthier planet at the core of all we do.

References:

  1. 2010 to 2015 government policy: long term health conditions: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/2010-to-2015-government-policy-long-term-health-conditions/2010-to-2015-government-policy-long-term-health-conditions 
  2. BITC’s YouGov Survey 2022
  3. Deloitte. 2022. Mental health and employers: the case for investment – pandemic and beyond. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/consultancy/deloitte-uk-mental-health-report-2022.pdf
  4. BITC’s YouGov Survey 2022
  5. BITC’s YouGov Survey 2022
  6. BITC’s YouGov Survey 2022

About the author

Louise Aston is Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community, the Prince’s Responsible Business Network

She is a multi-award-winning workplace health and wellbeing campaigner recognised by the Institute of Directors, the Society of Occupational Medicine and the Reward and Employee Benefits Association. 

Her background is creative and she started her career as a fashion buyer at Marks & Spencer before transitioning into campaigning by taking health into fashion. She was creative director at the government’s communications agency and led campaigns including World Mental Health Day, Five A Day and FRANK (drug education).

At Business in the Community, Louise has campaigned to establish employee mental health as a strategic boardroom issue, on a parity with physical health. 

Your Job Can Be Good For You – Backing Business to Revolutionise Ways of Working in the UK

The explosion of mental health needs among children and young people in the UK has been well documented. In 2021, almost seven in ten school absences were due to mental health difficulties[i] and mental health referrals for children have surged by more than 50%[ii] since the start of the pandemic. Less visible is the amount of strain this puts on the family as a whole.

There’s a saying that a parent is only ever as happy as their unhappiest child and progressive employers understand that the health of an employee’s family often has as much of an impact on their staff as their own health. It is this insight that has spurred digital mental health solution provider SilverCloud Health to create a  new Family Bundle offering.

Dr Carolyn Lorian, Head of Clinical Transformation, SilverCloud Health explained:

“Employees are a company’s biggest asset and also their biggest investment. It goes without saying that companies must look after their wellbeing.”

Ken Cahill, CEO, SilverCloud Health added:

“The pandemic, coupled with global times of uncertainty, has put an immense amount of pressure on almost all families.”

Offering this type of personalised mental wellbeing support could be a welcome addition to the standard private health insurance offered by many.

Accessed online, the new Family Bundle has been designed by the digital scientists at SilverCloud Health and combines clinically proven programmes, content, interactive tools, and videos aimed at addressing family mental health.

Focus on the family

Leveraging SilverCloud Health’s internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT), the programmes are able to deliver mental health care and support at scale. The bundle comprises 6 programmes which are available for Health Plans and Insurers:

  • Space for Perinatal Wellbeing: focuses on those who are at risk of experiencing symptoms of depression and / or anxiety during pregnancy and up to a year post-partum.
  • Supporting an Anxious Child and Supporting an Anxious Teen: designed for caregivers of children (ages 5 -11) and teenagers (ages 12-18), looking to support their child in dealing with worry and anxiety, while learning helpful strategies to tackle their own anxiety.
  • Space from Anxiety for Teens: aims to help teens aged 15-18 learn to better understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours; has been proven effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.
  • Space from Low Mood for Teens: helps teens aged 15-18 relieve the symptoms of low mood and depression by encouraging users to develop more flexible ways of thinking.
  • Space from Low Mood & Anxiety for Teens: designed to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression for teens, ages 15-18.

SilverCloud Health aren’t the only supplier offering family support. Kooth is also seeing family bundles becoming a popular option with employers and it could be a trend set to grow.

What do you think? Should more employers be extending their mental health support to the families of their people?

I’d love to know your opinion. You can email me at claire@makeadifference.events.

Should Employers Provide Mental Health Support For Individuals AND Their Families?

The pandemic, coupled with the great resignation, have made organisations aware that they need to deepen their understanding of how critical wellbeing measures are to the effectiveness and resilience of the workforce. Organisations are now recognising that wellbeing is essential when it comes to to retaining top talent, reducing absenteeism and improving engagement. 

They also find that improved employee resilience can improve performance in difficult times. I believe that this is why we are now seeing a rise in hiring positions like Chief Wellbeing Officer (CWO) to address wellbeing and performance considerations. 

The first big drive for CWO positions came out of the health care systems to combat high levels of burnout among health care staff. It is now becoming an established position across health care systems of the United States and the UK; the private health care company BUPA has their own CWO position.  

Jonathan Ripp MD, MPH, CWO at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said “I would not be surprised if, 10 years from now, it’s commonplace for most large organisations to have a Chief Wellness Officer or equivalent, taking this challenge on, and doing so in a way that is effective.”

It may be faster than 10 years, as  Deloitte, EY and Kirkland & Ellis LLP are a few of the growing number of leading firms that are appointing CWOs. 

The Benefits of Chief Wellness Officers

CWOs have strong connections to leadership teams, so they can positively impact the organisation in the following ways:

Information Flow To Leadership

They will be able to inform the leadership team about which support services are available and which may require development to address the wellbeing needs of the workforce. Practical assessment of support services will also aid in maximising the utilisation of wellbeing resources. In addition, a CWO can advocate for drawing on resources to meet the wellness needs of the organisation’s workforce. 

They are ensuring clear communication between the workforce and leadership. An adequate information flow between employees, managers and leaders is vital during unprecedented times. Difficult times have shown how important it is for leaders to receive accurate feedback on how their workforce is faring. Employees feel connected to leadership, which can be difficult with remote work.  

A CWO listens to and understands the needs and concerns of the workforce and can provide invaluable information and feedback to leadership about the challenges and stresses they are facing.

A CWO can also form strong partnerships with an organisation’s communications team and help enhance the accuracy and authenticity of the messaging of leaders. This helps to build a meaningful connection between the workforce and its leaders. 

Clear & Accurate Communication

Since wellbeing can be intensely emotional, how messages are worded, and their context can significantly impact how well they are received and how effectively they reassure or frustrate staff. 

A CWO is positioned to keep its ear close to the ground and help moderate the sensitivity, tone, and volume of communications around specific wellbeing topics. This is especially important if an organisation tries to make a significant cultural shift or navigate particular stakeholders.    

One of the most prominent frustrations employees face is taking on and integrating the overwhelming number of communications they receive, which can change daily and become confusing. A dedicated CWO can help contextualise messages, help reduce communication overwhelm, and ensure messaging is inclusive and receptive to a diverse workforce. 

Swift & Authentic Response

Ensuring employees get immediate support and advice as needed. A CWO is positioned to understand the likely emotional health and wellbeing concerns that may arise in their workforce and ensure that support is actioned fast to prevent escalation. In addition, they help ensure that support services meet the diverse needs of the workforce as well as monitor the utilisation and satisfaction of support services. 

A CWO can work with others to develop a robust and accessible peer support network supported with proper training. Peer support networks can also serve as a communication channel for leadership by sharing their observations. One of the most effective resilience tools for a workforce is having access to a peer support network. 

Breaking Down Silos

Coordinate and amplify wellness resources across an organisation. Many wellness resources are traditionally separated or siloed. Examples include occupational health, HR, employee assistance programs, pay and benefits and other entities. Each performs essential functions, but when action needs to be taken, coordination between various external and internal resources is required to achieve desired outcomes. That is the benefit of having a CWO. 

The CWO being dedicated to wellness can drive existing services, open the door to other services by spurring innovation, and measure and evaluate effectiveness so that evidence-based approaches are implemented to meet wellbeing needs. 

To sum up

Organisations are awakening to the need to deepen their understanding of how critical wellbeing measures are to the retention and resilience of their workforce. By establishing CWO positions, organisations can implement effective wellbeing measures; leaders can communicate authentically and create a positive work environment that supports employee productivity and engagement. Additionally, organisations need to continue to assess and reassess workplace wellbeing to address any potential issues and ensure employees can thrive in the workplace. A CWO position is just right for this, which is why we should see a growing number of organisations establish this position. 

About the author:

Charlène Gisèle is a former Big Law litigator and legal tech manager, who transformed her career to become a High Performance Coach. As a prior London Litigator, Charlène understands the stressors successful professionals can face. Charlène now works with industry-leading businesses and professionals with the mission to maximise their performance sustainably. Her clients include CEOs, partners, financiers as well as law firms, FinTech, PE funds and Universities. Charlène is also an Award winning Keynote speaker and thought leader on the subject of Burnout Prevention and Sustainable Success.

 

Are Chief Wellbeing Officers The Solution To Talent Retention And Performance?

Sending and receiving emails outside of work hours has been an issue in workplaces for many years. With an increased number of people working remotely, this issue has only intensified.

One study conducted by Fasthosts in 2022 revealed that almost half of British office workers were receiving 5–10 work emails outside of their contracted hours every day. Most respondents also said that they tend to reply to them. Meanwhile, another study concluded that the increase in emails both during and after work has meant that the average workday is now almost 50 minutes longer.

This, coupled with hybrid working, has created an environment in workplaces where employees increasingly feel like they never leave work and need to be available 24/7. This can have a hugely negative impact on their wellbeing, with many struggling to cope with the pressure of always needing to be ‘online’.

Our own research has found that 51% of workers have said they’re less than a month away from burnout. After-work emails are contributing to the erosion of work/life balance. It is a growing problem that needs to be urgently addressed.

With this mind, how can businesses look after employee wellbeing, helping staff cope with the pressure of always needing to be ‘online’?

What employers can do to help

Workplace culture is more important than ever. Building lasting habits is key to improving your employees’ wellbeing and making your business more appealing to potential recruits.

In the case of out-of-hours emails, all employers and team leaders need to play their part in discouraging this practice from continuing and introduce policies that help re-establish the lost boundaries between work and home.

Whilst many recognise this, according to one poll by Wellbeing Partners, only 20% of HR Managers reported that their organisation had policies in place to stop or discourage after-work emails.

An example of an easy to implement policy is the introduction of screen time limits. Push notifications on mobile devices can also be turned off to help employees to truly ‘switch off’ after work.

Employers need to take a proactive approach to create a consistent and health-focused culture that benefits their employees.

Focusing on workplace wellbeing also requires a flexible approach, with varied health and wellbeing policies that can fit around the individual needs of both office and home workers.

As working habits continue to shift and evolve, prioritising wellbeing will benefit your people, support their mental health, and build a team who are happier and more engaged.

You can download Westfield Health’s 2022 Wellbeing Trends Report here.

 

Hybrid Working: the Impact of the Rise of Out-of-Hours Email on Wellbeing

Octopus MoneyCoach’s most recent research identified that employers think they need to do much more to improve employee financial health.

  • Less than 20% think they are offering benefits that are personalised and impactful enough.
  • 91% ranked their engagement with financial wellbeing benefits as average or poor.

Despite the challenges, employers told us they are ready to enter a new and more powerful phase of financial wellbeing. They want to do better and recognise that it needs to be done ASAP.

But old habits may die hard.

Roadmap for success

To help employers overcome the challenges they are facing when it comes to meeting the financial wellbeing needs of their people, Octopus MoneyCoach is sponsoring a Make A Difference Lunch & Learn webinar, which will take place from 12.00pm – 1.00pm on Wednesday 20th July.

During this webinar speakers will discuss the ideas and experiences that helped their organisations overcome some of these challenges, and how to:

  • Move from ambition to ‘getting it done’ when it comes to new financial wellbeing initiatives.
  • Approach engaging leadership and wider business stakeholders to get buy-in for financial wellbeing.
  • Set ambitious targets and measure impact.
  • Become employee financial health advocates and create champions across the business.

Featuring insights from experts including:

  • Maria James, Wellbeing & Engagement Specialist
  • Adam Price, CEO, Octopus MoneyCoach

The content is designed for:

  • C-Suite, HR Leaders, Benefits & Rewards Leaders
  • Talent, Engagement and Communication Leaders
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Leaders
  • Wellbeing Leaders and Champions.

In other words, anyone who is responsible for the wellbeing of colleagues and wants to ensure they are providing the right support both now and in the future.

Register here to reserve your place on this free to attend webinar.

 

Lunch & Learn Webinar: How Employers Can Accelerate Their Financial Wellbeing Initiatives

“I’ve noticed that more women have started online gambling – any suggestions?” This was a question raised during a recent Make A Difference webinar. We decided to investigate further.

UK Charity Betknowmore, which helps people take back control of their life from gambling, reports that it received more referrals in the month of May 2022 than it had in the previous six months combined. Not just from women though. Gambling can affect anyone.

In order to effectively deal with addictions at work, it’s crucial that employers have empathy and make an effort to understand what the experience is like for employees.

We spoke to Matt Smith, head of external affairs at Betknowmore, for a frank conversation about what it’s like to be suffering from this debilitating illness while also trying to (and often successfully) holding down a high-pressure job.

Matt is on a mission to destigmatise addiction, particularly gambling, by talking openly about his experience of “hitting rock bottom” when working in his dream job in radio as outside broadcast manager, jetting around the globe to cover high-profile football matches, at TalkSPORT.

When you look back at your time at TalkSPORT and hit rock bottom, what do you think were the root causes of your particular addiction, which was to gambling predominantly but also alcohol?

The breakdown in relationship with my with my boss at the time. We were really struggling to connect. We had a personality clash, didn’t get on at all and I felt that he was trying to change things around me, which I didn’t like. I didn’t feel, either, that I had the emotional capacity to deal with that properly. So, rather than have that one-to-one, proper, adult conversation with somebody, I buried my head in the sand and thought it would eventually go away. With my previous boss, who retired, I had someone who I considered to be a leader and a listener who I respected, so such a change in management style threw me.

So that relationship with your boss had a direct impact on your addictive behaviours?

Yes, definitely. Without a shadow of a doubt. I felt hard done by. I felt that I was putting in a lot of work, I was putting in a lot of effort. I felt like I was being pushed and pulled and didn’t have the support from him that I needed.

In an ideal situation, what do you think could have happened with your boss?

We could have had a conversation to see where we could find some common ground. We both wanted the best for TalkSPORT. I was fully invested in my job, there was no doubt about that. There could have been space and time made for these conversations and more honesty.

What do you think is the learning here, from your situation, for line managers and colleagues reading this profile now?

Brush up on your soft skills. The most important thing now is self-awareness. If you want to get the best out of your workforce you need awareness, empathy, kindness and compassion. Where I’m working now, Betknowmore is full of those qualities. Literally full to the brim. That starts from the top with our CEO Frankie Graham – he treats us as human beings first and foremost.

These qualities are particularly important when you’re dealing with addiction because that person is a human being, that person has been an integral part of your workforce for quite a long time, no doubt. And addiction can come at any time because our vulnerabilities can change at the click of a finger. It can happen to any of us.

Do you think feeling vulnerable drove your addiction too?

Yes. Definitely. Because I felt that my job, the place I loved to work, was being threatened. I didn’t feel I had anywhere to go. I felt very lonely and isolated. But I want to stress that none of this was my colleagues’ fault; if I’d started a conversation with them, they would have listened. But I didn’t, back then I don’t think people were having those types of conversations.

I worried ‘if I start to show this vulnerability, what are they going to think about me?’ I was gripped by self-obsession, obsessed with how I appeared to other people and what they might think.

So did you just get deeper into the addiction?

Yes. I’d gamble more and be borrowing money. I’d get to a point where I didn’t even have enough money to get to work or buy myself food. I’d have to hustle my way through. My mind was so tired. I was waking up every morning with intense anxiety, my nervous system going into overdrive. I don’t know how, but I was doing my job pretty well. Work helped me at times to escape but I felt stuck in a vicious circle.

Do you find that addictions feed off each other? You mention gambling and alcoholism.

Yes, I would say so. There are 20 of us in the gambling support group that I go to myself, for my own personal recovery, and I would say half of them are also in recovery for alcohol as well.

Did people notice your decline? I imagine you maybe didn’t look your normal self?

Not really… I wasn’t in the office that often. I travelled a lot. One colleague did talk to me about gambling, as he could see my behaviours due to being in recovery himself. That conversation stuck with me.

You’ve talked about this really high pressure media culture, coupled with big egos and lots of stress, which also fed addictive behaviour. Do you think employers have a responsibility to change a culture if it’s like that, or is that just the culture?

No, I think they’ve got a responsibility to change that culture. It’s their workforce, and they have a duty of care. Back then it was very different. We weren’t having these types of conversations. I hope in a way what happened to me has spurred people on to make those culture changes.

Obviously everyone’s story is different. But you’ve mentioned feeling a lack connection, and you’ve mentioned vulnerability. Do you think these feelings are common in addictions?

100%. When I was at TalkSPORT, I went to a lot of football matches for my job. I remember specifically being at Old Trafford, Manchester United’s ground, and I was surrounded by my colleagues. We were sitting in the press box where they were commentating on the game. And I was in the middle of about five of my colleagues with 70,000 people in the stadium. Lots of noise, and all this going on around me, but I felt completely alone and isolated. I shared that with an ex footballer the other day and he said he completely identifies with that feeling too. So yeah, you can be somewhere with your colleagues or your friends in an environment where there’s 1000s of people, but still feel disconnected.

You’ve talked about how TalkSPORT was great and tried hard to support you and keep you in your job. But, in the end, you felt you had to leave in order to overcome your addiction, is that right?

Yes, they didn’t want me to leave. They were brilliant. They sent me to counselling, which I went to for 10 weeks. And despite all the carnage that I caused through my gambling, they offered me another opportunity, said there was still a way back here if I could stop gambling. But I couldn’t. I had to go in the end because my addiction was so bad.

So I left in June 2012 but they actually paid me for six months until December. Then I had a meeting with the CEO and head of HR and they asked me if I’d stopped gambling. I hadn’t. And that’s when they said ‘Matt, we just can’t carry on like this’.

Do you think there was any other option for them?

No, I don’t see what more they could have done because I didn’t want it [help/recovery].

So, if an employer has an employee that doesn’t appear to be able to be helped, does that mean they can’t help them?

It’s a difficult one. It depends who you’ve got there who in terms of relationships around the person. Have you got somebody who’s already in your organisation who has been through the same things as that person? If you have, then there might be a way. If you haven’t, then, with people struggling with addiction, they really have to want to recover.

My experience of this is, you can’t do it for your family. You can’t do it for your work colleagues. You can’t do it because you absolutely love your job, like I did. You can’t do it because you might lose your job. You have to want to do it for yourself. Thousands of people do overcome addiction, though, and end up in long term recovery so there is always hope.

If you, or someone you know, needs help with addiction and dependency, here are some useful contacts compiled by mental health charity in England and Wales, Mind. 

 

You might also be interested in these articles:

Work Addiction Can Be Harmful To Mental Health

Dance Company Celebrates 10 Years On The Road To Recovery From Addiction

 

Profile: Matt Smith Whose Life Was Affected by Gambling and Alcohol

Kirstin Furber, is working with Exeter University and Channel 4 – where she is People Director – to understand and help cure Sunday night blues.

The Sunday Night Blues can blight the working lives of individuals and impact the performance of organisations.  Kirstin has made it a key aim to research this, unlocking potential and helping people be human at work. But she needs your help to do so.

The next step is to ask people like you to help.  Kirstin is asking for volunteers to complete a survey.

This will take no longer than about 30 minutes over two weekends. She’d be delighted if you, or members of your network, would sign up here.

As a ‘thank you’ all participants will be invited to a webinar (towards the end of 2022) to make sure you are amongst the first to hear the results and discuss the findings.

 

Be Part of Something Special: Do You Want to Cure the Sunday Night Blues?