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

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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New webinar: Maximising your VOI in employee health and wellbeing

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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Professionalising the Wellbeing role through qualifications

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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    The impact of remote working on those with a disability and/or neurodivergence

    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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    The vital role of (male) leadership in promoting Women’s Health from endometriosis to the menopause

    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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    “As the world changes, individuals at all levels must embrace the reality that the skills and competencies that brought them success in the past may not suffice in the future” – Asad Husain. 

    With technological advancements, shifting political and economic terrains, and evolving societal norms, the world of work as we know it is changing, which is why we also need to change with it. This Learning at Work Week Career and HR expert Asad Husain emphasises the importance of reskilling and upskilling throughout one’s career to remain relevant and involved at work. 

    Learning at Work Week takes place 13th-19th May 2024 and its purpose is to spotlight the importance and benefits of continual learning and development. The theme for 2024 is “Learning power” which explores how lifelong and continual learning can give people the power to change, grow and achieve their individual, team and organisational goals. 

    Asad Husain, author of “Careers Unleashed” and a four-time Chief HR officer, with over 30 years of experience working for blue chip companies such as Procter & Gamble and Dun & Bradstreet understands the importance of continual learning and development, and how it can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful career. 

    “Continually enhancing your skills and knowledge as a key component of both personal and professional development. This includes keeping up with industry trends, unlearning skills no longer required and upskilling in emerging areas. This ensures you can clearly articulate your value to an organisation and increase your ability to drive change”.

    Drawing on his extensive experience, Asad has identified four key elements individuals need to embrace to continuously learn and develop throughout their career:

    1. Embracing transformation

    The dawn of automation, artificial intelligence, and digital transformation necessitates a fundamental reevaluation of one’s skills and competencies. Those who are stuck to outdated tools and methodologies risk being left behind in an era characterised by agility and adaptability. We must embrace a continuous transformation approach in the face of constant disruptions. 

    Embracing a growth mindset and actively seeking out opportunities for professional development is an essential part of adapting to these changes. Whether mastering new technologies, staying abreast of industry trends, or acquiring advanced certifications, the journey of upskilling is a lifelong commitment that will separate dedicated workers from the rest.

    2. Unlearning

    Unlearning is an important step to increasing our capacity to learn new things. Despite how dynamic today’s work environment is, many seasoned individuals are still entrenched in strategies and approaches that used to bring success. Reliance on familiar tactics can offer security, but it also risks stagnation in a landscape that is constantly changing and innovating. Failure to adapt can lead to missed opportunities and waning relevance. Therefore, unlearning – the discarding of obsolete knowledge, practices, and assumptions – is essential for individual and organisational success.

    Unlearning challenges traditional notions of learning, which focuses on acquiring new knowledge or skills and a mindset of openness, curiosity, and continuous growth. Instead, unlearning involves consciously discarding outdated beliefs, behaviours, and perspectives to make room for new insights and approaches. 

    This is a crucial foundation for effective upskilling and reskilling. Unlearning empowers you to challenge the status quo and ensures you’re ready to navigate future challenges and opportunities with confidence and resilience.

    3. Where should you upskill?

    It is essential to upskill in areas where individuals already have some proficiency but need to enhance their capabilities further to keep up with evolving trends and technologies. In today’s context, technology is advancing rapidly, therefore upskilling areas might include digital literacy, a skill everyone must continually enhance if they wish to be able to understand and leverage emerging tools and platforms effectively.

    Data analytics is also an important area to upskill in as this is becoming increasingly critical for decision-making. Upskilling in data analytics would allow leaders to derive actionable insights and drive informed strategies.

    Thanks to technology today’s world is interconnected, and cross-functional collaboration is almost unavoidable. Most people collaborate across diverse teams and disciplines, therefore upskilling in areas like cross-cultural communication, team dynamics, and conflict resolution will be extremely beneficial. Enhancing collaboration and driving better outcomes.

    Finally, developing soft skills such as emotional intelligence is also important, focusing on aspects such as self-awareness, empathy, and relationship management. Individuals should upskill in emotional intelligence to build trust, encourage others, and navigate complex interpersonal dynamics.

    4. Reskilling

    Reskilling involves acquiring entirely new skills or competencies to adapt to changing roles or industry demands. In today’s fast-paced environment, individuals may need to re-skill in areas such as digital transformation. This may involve learning about emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, or blockchain, and understanding their implications for your role, your business and operations. 

    In an increasingly diverse and multicultural world, individuals should also re-skill in inclusivity to enable environments where all employees feel respected, valued, and empowered to contribute their best work.

    Finallyas environmental and social issues continue to gain prominence, individuals must re-skill in corporate social responsibility and sustainability practices to influence positive social impact and long-term sustainability within their company. A skill essential to ensuring a business’ future. 

    “Overall the imperative for individuals to unlearn, re-skill and upskill goes way beyond individual professional development. This is a strategic imperative for organisational resilience and competitive advantage. By embracing transformation, unlearning outdated practices, upskilling existing skills,  and reskilling to acquire new skills, individuals can position themselves and their organisations for sustained success in an era of change. Practices that should be embraced both inside and outside of Learning at Work Week”. 

    About Asad Husain

    Asad Husain is a four-time Chief HR Officer and future-focused HR leader who is passionate about inspiring and influencing people worldwide to achieve their career aspirations. He has lived and worked in the USA, UK, UAE, Russia and Pakistan during his career, and has held global HR responsibilities at times, contributing to both organisational growth and the individual success of his companies’ employees. His varied experience, guidance from many good leaders, and his continuous desire to learn and grow have enabled him to learn the art of building a successful career.

    Holding over thirty-one years of experience, working for companies such as Gillette Company, Procter & Gamble, Dun & Bradstreet, and Del Monte, Asad is keen to share his global learnings to inspire success and help others reach their full career potential. 

    Asad’s new book Careers Unleashed is the answer for those who feel like they are sleepwalking through their careers, who are feeling purposeless and unmotivated in what they do. Throughout, Asad guides readers into not only finding success at work but also fulfilment, exploring how people can better understand themselves so that they can align their goals and passions to find their north star and unlock purpose in their career. You can find the press release here.

    As Learning at Work Week ends, we celebrate the insights and skills gained. Let’s continue fostering a culture of growth and innovation, applying what we’ve learned to drive our collective success.

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    NHS Charities Together launched this week a £16m Workforce Wellbeing Programme to support NHS staff across the UK. The ambitious programme, which is being announced at the charity’s annual member conference for over 230 NHS charities, aims to improve NHS staff health and wellbeing, in turn making sure patients are provided with the care they need.

    Initial funding and future aspirations

    NHS Charities Together will commit an initial £6.0152m to support healthcare staff across the UK, with the fund being shared proportionately across the four nations, along with aspirations to fund a further £5 million over the duration of the programme.

    In England the independent charity’s contribution will be match-funded by NHS England who will contribute £5 million to the programme as part of its Long Term Workforce Planto support staff wellbeing.

    The Workforce Wellbeing Programme will run for three years with initiatives co-designed and co-led by NHS staff. Support will be tailored to the individual needs of the NHS organisations and their workforces, supplementing existing support provided to staff.

    After a period of co-design with NHS staff, NHS England and others throughout the summer, the charity will invite NHS charities in partnership with their associated NHS Trusts or Health Boards to apply for grants from the Autumn. The impact of projects will be monitored and evaluated so that learnings can be shared and scaled across the UK.

    Proven track record

    NHS charities, which provide extra support in every NHS trust and health board across the UK, have a successful track record in making a difference to staff and patients, with over 90% of the thousands of projects NHS Charities Together funded during the pandemic through the network of NHS charities continuing to have a lasting impact.

    Leadership statements

    Ellie Orton OBE, CEO of NHS Charities Together, said: “NHS staff work under immense pressure with unprecedented staff shortages and vacancies and the extra help we provide to support their wellbeing and mental health is now more important than ever. The NHS needs to be able to attract and retain the caring workforce to look after the ageing population and meet the growing needs of the public, who face more complex and long-term conditions than ever before.

    “There’s lot of work going on across Trusts to support the wellbeing and mental health of NHS staff but more needs to be done. We’re delighted that NHS England has matched our £5m investment in support across England, and we are also putting proportionate investment across the devolved nations. We have ambitions for this programme to grow so that we can make sure we continue to deliver this important and much-needed support for as long as it’s needed.”

    Amanda Pritchard, Chief Executive of NHS England said: “Our hardworking NHS staff are busier than ever but go the extra mile for patients every day, so it’s right that we look to do everything we can as employers to support their health and wellbeing.

    “As part of our NHS Long Term Workforce Plan every local employer should have a comprehensive offer for their staff to help them stay well and stay within the health service, but this new programme will support those small, extra improvements which staff tell us will make a big difference to their working lives.

    “Charities have played an important role alongside the NHS throughout our 76-year history, and it’s great to take that relationship to the next level with this first-of-its-kind national partnership, with thanks to NHS Charities Together and all those who have donated or raised funds.”

    One example of where previous rounds of funding are having a lasting impact on staff wellbeing is expanding and renovating the faith facilities at Royal Bolton Hospital in recognition of the role spiritual wellbeing plays in staff experience and satisfaction.

    Success stories

    Revd. Neville Markham, Head Chaplain at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The original prayer rooms were no longer adequately serving the needs of hospital staff and patients, so the new facilities have been transformational. Everyone is just so pleased to have the space they always wanted. Colleagues consistently tell us the quality of the faith facilities conveys a powerful message about how the Trust values and cares for them, and that positivity ripples back into the care and services they provide to patients, families and communities.”

    Tahira Hussain, Volunteer Chaplain at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We live in a fast-paced world. The things you see and experience through the day can take their toll, so having this space gives people chance to take some time out. Visiting for the first time, I actually felt special. The fact that someone had made the effort to provide a facility for me to reflect, to prayer, to connect, makes a massive difference.”

    Another example is the Oasis Health and Wellbeing Centre and Garden in Berkshire – a central, vital wellbeing hub for NHS staff. Jointly funded by the Royal Berks Charity and the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, and supported by a grant from NHS Charities Together, it offers a range of activities and services aimed at promoting staff health and wellbeing.

    Don Fairley, Chief People Officer at Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Oasis Health and Wellbeing Centre and Garden includes a free gym, wellbeing classes and a vibrant green space where staff can relax and unwind. The centre is also used for events to reward and recognise staff and promote inclusivity, recently commemorating International Day of the Midwife and hosting our cultural diversity celebration event.

    “The Oasis campus also provides staff health checks and counselling services, which can be a lifeline. One member of staff was able to access invaluable help and understanding and face to face counselling which prevented them from self-harming and potentially going on to take their own life. We’ve seen a 40% increase in positive responses to staff surveys regarding our support for health and wellbeing since the campus opened, with RBFT now proudly one of the top-performing acute NHS Trusts in this area. With over 3,400 staff accessing the centre and garden over 36,000 times in 2023 alone, its role in boosting staff wellbeing, and consequently enhancing patient care, is clear.”

    About NHS Charities Together:

    • NHS Charities Together is the national, independent charity caring for the NHS, working with a network of NHS charities to provide extra support in every hospital, health board, ambulance, community, and mental health trust around the UK to help the health service go further for NHS staff, patients and communities.  
    • To date, NHS Charities Together has allocated over £153 million to fund thousands of projects supporting NHS staff, patients and volunteers. These include counselling services, helplines, and other mental health support for NHS staff, plus training for emergency responders, research into long COVID, and specialist services and equipment. The charity has also funded over 325 community organisations to tackle health inequalities and prevent ill health in the community, helping to reduce the pressure on overstretched NHS services. Together we can help achieve better health and care for us all.  
    • NHS charities have been there since the inception of the NHS, and with the current pressures on the health service being greater than ever before, the extra support we provide is even more crucial. NHS Charities Together will continue to help NHS charities go further, to increase their support for NHS staff, volunteers, patients, carers and families, so that everyone has access to the best health and care possible, no matter what.  
    • To find out more about our ongoing work and how you can support us, visit nhscharitiestogether.co.uk

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