Get your ticket for the leading Employee Health, Wellbeing, Benefits & Workplace Culture Event

Explore The Watercooler and unite with over 6000+ workplace experts spanning Wellbeing, HR, Culture, Employee Benefits, Learning & Development, DE&I, Mental Health, Occupational Health, Facilities Management, Health & Safety, Training, and Workspace Design.

2 DAYS of cutting-edge employee health, wellbeing, workplace culture, networking and product discovery. Co-located with The Office for the full 360 workplace experience.

Reward Gateway
HealthClinic2You
Bodyline
Nook
Heat Scheme
Love2shop
Homework
Koplus
Adora Health
HelloFresh
Mercer Mental Health Awareness for All
Vitality40plus
Endometriosis UK
Living Works
Corporate 5s Cup
Re-balance by Sally
Cyclesaver
Loch Associates
Costa Coffee Professional
Fertifa
Heka
Hertility
FLUID
Hussle
World Cancer Research Fund
Working Well
Fifty50 Coaching
Wellbeing Partners
Future of the Office
Deliveroo for Work
Silen Rent
Managing the Menopause
Ammonite Wealth
Kara Connect
2468 Group
Mental Health at Work
Juniper
Menstrual Cycle Awareness for the Workplace
TechnoGym
eMed
Humanscale
SMRS
Enable
Gympass
FluClinic2You
NL
Doctor Care Anywhere
Randox
Octopus Electric Vehicles
Benenden Health
Karehero
Anabas
At Work Wellbeing
FAMN
BHN extras
Tommy’s
Lyra Wellbeing UK & Ireland
Thriiver
Toothfairy
Cardinus Risk Management
Peldon Rose
Maven
Peloton
utc.travel
Octopus Money
The Electric Car Scheme
ESSTA
Interaction
One Wellbeing
Epassi
Domestic Abuse Education
Re;mind
mycoocoon
Art Health Solutions
Bupa
Hawq
MoQuo J7 Enterprise Ltd
Thrive
Caldeira Consulting
Fairer Consulting
Entelechy
Green Cross Global
Bubble
Benholm Group
Audiem
Oktra
Ventriject
Thriveologie
The Positive Planner
WellFi
Sara Davison Divorce Coach
Myla Health
Salary Finance
That Day
DocHQ
Happi Workers
Curious Vitae
Ben
The IVF Network
Hargreaves Lansdown
AMBA People
Mindset and Body Therapy
Inuvi
Eye Med UK
R;pple
Over the Bloody Moon
Mintago
The Sleep Charity
Total Active Hub
Be Well Support
Sophie Trotman Nutrition
Hospice UK Compassionate Employers
SuperWellness
HCML
Scentered
MumPod
Smart About Health
Added Health
Kogan Page
Nespresso Professional
onHand
PIB Employee Benefits
Changing Minds
Help to Save
Wellness Cloud
Love Water
Frog Systems
Reward Gateway
HealthClinic2You
Bodyline
Nook
Heat Scheme
Love2shop
Homework
Koplus
Adora Health
HelloFresh
Mercer Mental Health Awareness for All
Vitality40plus
Endometriosis UK
Living Works
Corporate 5s Cup
Re-balance by Sally
Cyclesaver
Loch Associates
Costa Coffee Professional
Fertifa
Heka
Hertility
FLUID
Hussle
World Cancer Research Fund
Working Well
Fifty50 Coaching
Wellbeing Partners
Future of the Office
Deliveroo for Work
Silen Rent
Managing the Menopause
Ammonite Wealth
Kara Connect
2468 Group
Mental Health at Work
Juniper
Menstrual Cycle Awareness for the Workplace
TechnoGym
eMed
Humanscale
SMRS
Enable
Gympass
FluClinic2You
NL
Doctor Care Anywhere
Randox
Octopus Electric Vehicles
Benenden Health
Karehero
Anabas
At Work Wellbeing
FAMN
BHN extras
Tommy’s
Lyra Wellbeing UK & Ireland
Thriiver
Toothfairy
Cardinus Risk Management
Peldon Rose
Maven
Peloton
utc.travel
Octopus Money
The Electric Car Scheme
ESSTA
Interaction
One Wellbeing
Epassi
Domestic Abuse Education
Re;mind
mycoocoon
Art Health Solutions
Bupa
Hawq
MoQuo J7 Enterprise Ltd
Thrive
Caldeira Consulting
Fairer Consulting
Entelechy
Green Cross Global
Bubble
Benholm Group
Audiem
Oktra
Ventriject
Thriveologie
The Positive Planner
WellFi
Sara Davison Divorce Coach
Myla Health
Salary Finance
That Day
DocHQ
Happi Workers
Curious Vitae
Ben
The IVF Network
Hargreaves Lansdown
AMBA People
Mindset and Body Therapy
Inuvi
Eye Med UK
R;pple
Over the Bloody Moon
Mintago
The Sleep Charity
Total Active Hub
Be Well Support
Sophie Trotman Nutrition
Hospice UK Compassionate Employers
SuperWellness
HCML
Scentered
MumPod
Smart About Health
Added Health
Kogan Page
Nespresso Professional
onHand
PIB Employee Benefits
Changing Minds
Help to Save
Wellness Cloud
Love Water
Frog Systems
Reward Gateway
HealthClinic2You
Bodyline
Nook
Heat Scheme
Love2shop
Homework
Koplus
Adora Health
HelloFresh
Mercer Mental Health Awareness for All
Vitality40plus
Endometriosis UK
Living Works
Corporate 5s Cup
Re-balance by Sally
Cyclesaver
Loch Associates
Costa Coffee Professional
Fertifa
Heka
Hertility
FLUID
Hussle
World Cancer Research Fund
Working Well
Fifty50 Coaching
Wellbeing Partners
Future of the Office
Deliveroo for Work
Silen Rent
Managing the Menopause
Ammonite Wealth
Kara Connect
2468 Group
Mental Health at Work
Juniper
Menstrual Cycle Awareness for the Workplace
TechnoGym
eMed
Humanscale
SMRS
Enable
Gympass
FluClinic2You
NL
Doctor Care Anywhere
Randox
Octopus Electric Vehicles
Benenden Health
Karehero
Anabas
At Work Wellbeing
FAMN
BHN extras
Tommy’s
Lyra Wellbeing UK & Ireland
Thriiver
Toothfairy
Cardinus Risk Management
Peldon Rose
Maven
Peloton
utc.travel
Octopus Money
The Electric Car Scheme
ESSTA
Interaction
One Wellbeing
Epassi
Domestic Abuse Education
Re;mind
mycoocoon
Art Health Solutions
Bupa
Hawq
MoQuo J7 Enterprise Ltd
Thrive
Caldeira Consulting
Fairer Consulting
Entelechy
Green Cross Global
Bubble
Benholm Group
Audiem
Oktra
Ventriject
Thriveologie
The Positive Planner
WellFi
Sara Davison Divorce Coach
Myla Health
Salary Finance
That Day
DocHQ
Happi Workers
Curious Vitae
Ben
The IVF Network
Hargreaves Lansdown
AMBA People
Mindset and Body Therapy
Inuvi
Eye Med UK
R;pple
Over the Bloody Moon
Mintago
The Sleep Charity
Total Active Hub
Be Well Support
Sophie Trotman Nutrition
Hospice UK Compassionate Employers
SuperWellness
HCML
Scentered
MumPod
Smart About Health
Added Health
Kogan Page
Nespresso Professional
onHand
PIB Employee Benefits
Changing Minds
Help to Save
Wellness Cloud
Love Water
Frog Systems
Leaders

Workplace Wellbeing & Employee Culture Leaders

As a critical issue on board agendas, The Watercooler is the hub for wellbeing and mental health leaders to gain immersive content and learn about new tools and solutions you won’t find anywhere else to shape your strategy and deliver results.

Wellbeing Leaders

HR, DE&I, Leadership, Engagement, Diversity Specialists

Step into The Watercooler to join your peers to for 2-days of intensive knowledge learning and fast-track review of the latest tech to elevate your own workplace programmes. Take a seat at one of our main stages or check-in to our workshops around the show.

C Level

C-Level, Finance, Operations and Business Founders

Get your own insight on what is new in the workplace culture and employee wellbeing arena. Hear what other companies are doing at the conference and get a first-hand look at the newest and most popular tech that is driving successful wellbeing strategy in other organisations.

Solution Partners

Solution and Technology Providers

If you have an innovative solution that’s helping businesses perform and execute better wellbeing strategy and workplace culture, it’s time to showcase them to your audience. The Watercooler provides the platform to build your brand and gain traction with the right decision makers.

Content Partners

BHN

Workshop & Insight Partners

Offical Wellbeing Design Partner

obo new

Offical Wellbeing Meeting Partner

Nook

What’s On

The Watercooler Conference and exhibition content focuses on the key pillars of wellbeing to enable you to build a comprehensive, holistic approach. As well as a series of focused workshops, the 2024 event will feature three parallel tracks running across both days of the event: Engage, Embed, Evolve. Now in its third year, the conference will run across both days of the event.

Conference

Conference

Three track conferences running side-by-side featuring thought-leading speakers and influencers, it’s held as a ‘silent disco’ format for focused and uninterrupted discussion.

Workshop

Workshops

Interactive workshop sessions held within the main exhibition hall, featuring deep-dive insight and solution partner case-studies and showcases.

Keynote

Keynote Sessions

Tune into our keynote presentations and fireside chats with Clarke & Carrie Carlisle, Dr. Nicola Millard @ BT Business, Chas Howes, former CFO Superdry and Isaac Harvey.

Exhibition

The Watercooler exhibition is filled with leading solution partners who are at the forefront of helping businesses deliver workplace culture and wellbeing programmes.

1 2 1 Meetings

1-2-1 Meetings

Fast-track your supplier and technology partner search via our 1-2-1 meetings programme. Just indicate your interest on the registration form and we’ll do the rest!

The Office

The Office

Get the full 360 Workspace and Workplace Experience at the gathering of workplace experts; Workspace Design, FM, Corporate Real Estate, Workplace Strategy and Property.

The Office Expo

Speakers

Exhibitors

Latest Make A Difference News

PPL PRS are the UK licensing company for recorded music (and are also sponsors of The Office section of www.makeadifference.media). Representing over 140,000 performers and recording rightsholders, its new workplace in the heart of Soho, designed and built by Peldon Rose spans 10,000 sq ft of creative office interior design.

With a focus on providing a welcome workspace to inspire, with agile and collaborative spaces for employees – alongside musical design details that nod to the music industry – the workplace is both functional and charming and the perfect place to continue to drive PPL’s success. Build time was 18 weeks.

Agile spaces and acoustic considerations  

Floors three and four make up PPL’s working floors, where employees will spend the majority of their working day. To accommodate the diverse needs and preferences of individuals, the floors are characterised by different areas for private, focused, or collaborative work. Carefully selected fabrics and the use of furniture such as focus booths and high touch down tables operate as permeable dividers to harmonise energy levels and optimise acoustics between different zones. This was an important part of the brief. 

Breakout areas have comfortable sofas facing large white-boards inset into acoustic glass dividers, allowing ad-hoc creativity to flow. A “collaboration spine” runs through the centre of the floorplate – a linear collection of agile and cooperative working spaces for open meetings.

The area is given character with punchy modulus flooring and mint-green painted joinery ceilings and partitions. Soft upholstery and special acoustic dividers which absorb sound five times more than standard sheer curtain fabric all help integrate this higher-energy zone into an office that still proves productive and functional. 

Circling the collaboration spine is a belt of oak vinyl and fixed open-plan desking, placed perpendicular to windows to maximise exposure to natural light. Visual cues that resonate with PPL’s identity are visible, with soundbars printed on walls, and other musical motifs featured throughout the space.  

Adaptable office interior design  

A large canteen area on the fifth floor enables the company to come together to socialise, rest, collaborate, and soak up the benefits of the many windows that line the floor’s periphery, flooding the space with natural light.

The use of biophilia, raw materials, and a neutral colour scheme accented with pops of colour from canteen chairs, feeds into a playful yet relaxed atmosphere. PPL’s office is inclusive and accessible throughout, including in the kitchen with a new ramp and sinks installed with space for a wheelchair to pull up underneath.  

Adjacent to the canteen area is the company boardroom. Notable for its leaf-printed wallpaper and its glass folding walls, the room has the ability to open into the canteen area to create one large space for all-company meetings, seminars or events. Foldable and moveable furniture means the space can flex day to day to fit the needs of the company.  

Sustainability accomplishments  

Peldon Rose were tasked to reuse existing features and furnishings where possible in line with an environmentally conscious design approach. To this end, the internal doors have been vinyl wrapped in a sophisticated black, much of the existing furniture has been reupholstered, and the old desking kept. This is a cost-effect design approach. Material procurement followed a similar mindset, with products carefully selected, starting from the way their raw materials are extracted, to manufacturing, transportation, and end of life.  

PPL now enjoy a working space that is welcoming to employees and optimised to accommodate different styles of working and work tasks. 

About the author   

Alice Bamber is Marketing and Communications Executive with Peldon Rose – a leading London provider of office design and build expertise. Its team of workplace strategists and specialists create workplaces that deliver business value, while providing exceptional everyday experiences for the people who use them.  Through a bespoke end-to-end service, Peldon Rose rapidly gains an understanding of business needs, and then designs and delivers industry-leading solutions. Throughout the process, the team provide a consistently uplifting experience for clients and their people.  They achieve this by sparking joy, enabling purpose, inspiring belief and building connections through the spaces and relationships created every day.     

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Case study: A workplace tuned in to diverse needs and individual preferences

Building on the success of last year’s DE&I Symposium, which demonstrated the powerful connection between DE&I and wellbeing, at this year’s MAD World we’re bringing together leaders to foster the collaboration that’s needed to create inclusive workplaces where all employees can thrive.

Estelle Jackson Photo

One of the most hotly anticipated sessions of this DE&I stream this year is the ‘fireside chat’ with ebay’s Senior Manager, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Estelle Jackson, about creating and celebrating neuroinclusion. With approximately 15% of the UK population being neurodivergent, not enough employers are embracing neurodiversity and therefore not reaping the rewards from doing so.

This chat will be faciliated by the Bipolar Businessman, Thomas Duncan Bell, and cover themes such as challenges neurodiverse individuals face and fostering strategies which embrace neuroinclusion.

We caught up with Estelle ahead of her appearance at MAD World about all things DE&I.

What is your remit?

If I wrote my job description, it would be very long, but in a nutshell, my job at ebay is to make sure that everyone has a voice that is heard and valued. That can mean many things, including education on all things Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), creating action plans to track progress on DEI topics, working with our Communities of Inclusion (COIs) (which other companies might call Employee Resource Groups) and helping drive measurable impact.

My role is global, so I’m lucky enough to work with lots of different countries. As you can imagine, no two days are the same! It’s the best part of my job. I love hearing about what’s happening around the world and see how diverse our cultures are in all of our sites.  I work in a team of six, spread across the globe.

Can you give me an example of a global task you might do?

My job is to pick up on biases, be mindful of cultural sensitivity and ensure that communications are understandable across our sites globally. This sometimes means I’ve had to rewrite scripts so they are more culturally aware. 

This morning, I was asked to consult on a video that the Learning & Development team has put together. I reviewed it from a cultural sensitivity lens to make sure that the words, tone, and body language would make sense around the world, which was a great start to my day.

Then I did some data review on one of our global sites to help them start to think about their DEI action planning, which involves setting goals to drive positive change in their organisations.

And then I wrote a workshop on the Impact of Allyship to deliver to employees across the globe around the 7 types of allies, how to show up in the spirit of allyship, and facts about what allyship is and is not.

In short, I work to make sure that we implement global awareness with a local lens.

How important is data and how do you use it?

Very important. A lot of the work I do is gathering data and using it to tell a story. 

We’ve just rolled out a project called Self-ID. It’s a voluntary disclosure program that allows employees to share their demographic information in a secure platform. Self-ID empowers employees to share their identity on their terms. Its aggregated data will help support the employee experience and identify gaps and opportunities to build a stronger sense of belonging.

What kinds of insights or feedback have you got from employees?

One of the first things I heard from employees in our United in PRIDE COI last year was our trans community saying they felt overlooked.

As a result of their input, I led the creation of our Gender Expression and Identity Standard, which is a global way of standardising support. It includes practical guidance for managers and colleagues who want to support people going through gender transition, shares how trans or gender-nonconforming employees can do things like update the gender on their ID, and includes benefits information. This has become a powerful way of demonstrating our commitment to inclusion. It’s not just about supporting events during Pride season but having systemic process and policy change to practically demonstrate our commitment to inclusion. It’s year-round, and it’s for all employees.

You’re talking about neurodivergence at MAD World. Can you tell me any insights you have had about your neurodivergent community?

In previous surveys, neurodivergent colleagues were saying things like ‘I don’t feel like I can talk to my manager about the fact I have ADHD. I mask and hide it.’ 

Or ‘I struggle to concentrate in a loud work environment, and now that we’re returning to the office in a post-Covid world, it’s affecting my work and mental health’. Or ‘I want to record meetings because I’ve got ADHD and want to be able to confirm I’ve got all the relevant information, but my manager doesn’t feel comfortable recording meetings.’

Then you’ve got people that disclose in the survey, but are masking their neurodivergence in front of colleagues. There are a lot of challenges neurodivergent employees can experience.

What have you done on the back of your insights to improve work/life for neurodivergent colleagues?

I’m currently creating a Global Neurodivergence Standard that should be in place by the end of the year to help people understand the different types of neurodivergence, how to best support or manage neurodivergent employees, and what employee benefits are relevant to them.

People are becoming more comfortable talking about neurodivergence; we’re seeing probably a 10% increase each month in the number of employees joining our ‘Minds of All Kinds’ Slack channel and asking more questions about how to support colleagues, friends and family who are part of the neurodivergent community.

One thing we’ve already improved is our benefits package for getting a neurodevelopmental assessment in the UK. Many companies don’t cover neurodivergent benefits at all, so we were doing better than that, but there was a long wait for care, you had to pay for the benefit and wait to be reimbursed, and it was just stressful. I know, because I had to take my 16-year-old daughter through the process.

As a result, I went to our benefits department and asked how I could help them improve this for our employees. We’ve now reviewed our policy, made sure people don’t need to pay anything themselves, included medication in the benefit, and made the process easier. 

Tell me more about neurodivergence and the office…

I was involved in the project team in the UK looking at site logistics. We have got a number of neurodivergent people who are very vocal about how they feel coming back to the office post COVID. 

They are on a busy office floor, where there’s loud music, people shouting and phones ringing and they tell us they can’t get any work done and, consequently, are burning out. Conversely, at home they are hyper focused and can be extremely productive. 

So, I’ve said that if we’re going to encourage our teammates back to the office, we need to think about how we set these offices up for different needs. For example, we may need to create ‘focus areas’ where people can go where there is no noise, no phones, no music – no distractions. Then we need creativity zones where there is music, people can collaborate and talk, use their phones, get energy out with a ping pong table. We’re trying to make this approach global.

But we also have to recognise that even that may not work for some of our neurodivergent employees. In those exceptional cases, we need policies and procedures around exemptions. Now, via our People teams globally, a person can be exempt from the return-to-office rule because they have a medical condition and need to be able to focus at home.

You sound passionate about neurodivergence. Where does that come from?

Both my daughters are neurodivergent, so is my partner, and my brother has epilepsy. I am surrounded by a world of neurodivergence, and I’m passionate about valuing uniqueness and individuality.

You mentioned working closely with your benefits department. To what extent do you think benefits can influence culture?

Massively. There are a couple of initiatives I’ve worked with the benefits team to roll out and I’m always asking them questions. Having a great partner in your HR, benefits, legal and facilities teams hugely benefits the work you can achieve and the changes you can achieve in an organisation.

What are the characteristics that you need to thrive in your job?

You have to be stubborn! Empathetic. Goal driven. Motivated. And have sensitive curiosity. 

I’m not afraid to ask difficult questions and I’m prepared for difficult answers, and I’m OK with being uncomfortable a lot of the time. In this job, you’re going to hear examples of where things are not going right. But you have the opportunity to fix things, which is amazing.

In the spirit of sensitive curiosity, I often ask questions like: ‘how could you have done that differently?’ I want to encourage that person to think about it so next time they’re in a situation they can respond differently.

That sounds like coaching. Would you say coaching is part of your job?

Yes. It’s not officially in my job description but, especially our senior leaders, will come to me and say ‘I’ve got this situation, can we talk it through?’ which is great! To be a true partner to the business and have people come to me for advice and coaching shows the impact DEI has in our business and the work leaders are willing to put in to getting out of their comfort zones.

Education is a huge part of my role and letting people know its ok to change your mind. We’re not always going to agree, but open your mind up to different perspectives, learn how to play devil’s advocate and encourage people to bring their authentically amazing selves to the workplace.


The DE&I Summit at MAD World is an event driving excellence in building equitable, inclusive, thriving workplaces. As well as Ebay’s Jackson, speakers include Pernille Hagild, Global Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, IKEA, Dr Patrick Ismon, Head of EDI, RSPCA and Sharlene John, Head of DEI, Recruitment & Onboarding, Selfridges.

MAD World is on 17th October 2024, and will bring together speakers and attendees from across sectors and with a range of job titles for five tracks of leading-edge content that showcase best practice and provide insights and inspiration for all those looking to achieve maximum engagement with initiatives, optimise investment, stay one step ahead and really make a difference.

The stellar lineup of speakers includes: Professor Dame Carol Black GBE FRCP FMed Sci; Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPDVanessa Harwood-Whitcher, Chief Executive, The Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH), Dhavani Bishop, Head of Group Colleague Health & Wellbeing, Tesco, Kirstin Furber, People Director, Channel 4, Dr Clare Fernandes, Chief Medical Officer, BBC, Christian van Stolk, Executive Vice President, RAND Europe, Andrew Gibbons, Group Head of Wellbeing, Recognition and Hybrid Working, HSBC, Karen Brookes, Chief People Officer, Sir Robert McAlpineJaimy Fairclough, Wellbeing Specialist – People Division, Sainsbury’s, Dr Femi Oduneye, Vice President Health, Shell International B.V. and many more. You can find out more and register to attend here.

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ebay: “we’re seeing a 10% monthly increase in employees joining our ‘Minds Of All Kinds’ neuroinclusion Slack channel”

In May this year, British Safety Council (BSC) commissioned YouGov to undertake two research projects. The goal of this research was to capture the views of employers and employees around technology and the future of work, with particular regard to people’s jobs and safety.

To capture attitudes towards artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) in the context of workplace safety, 2006 respondents in employers were surveyed and 2012 employee respondents.

AI, the future of work and its impact on workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing were hot topics at our sister event The Watercooler in April and it’s an issue we’ll be revisiting at the Leaders’ Summit at MAD World too.

Topline findings

  • 63% of 2000 employers and 41% of 2000 employees report optimism about the impacts of AI on their workforce and workplace respectively.
  • Over a quarter (26%) of employers and employees alike reported a belief  that AI would make the workplace less safe over the next decade. 
  • 26% of employers also believe that AI could make workplaces safer, a belief shared by only 13% of employees
  • 48% of employers feel optimism about the impacts of augmented reality (AR) on their workforce and 33% of workers report optimism about the impacts of AR on their workplace. 
  • When asked what proportion of workers would be replaced, by AI, over  the next decade, 20% of employers foresaw that less than 10% of their workforce would be replaced by 2034.
  • 6% of employers foresaw that over 50% of their workforce could be replaced by 2034 and 19% of employers foresaw no role replacement, at all, by 2034.

Differing opinions

Responses reflect differing degrees of uncertainty about what the future will hold and what role technology will play in shaping the safe workplaces of the future. Whilst the findings support a general optimism around the role that technology will play in improving workplace safety, clear concerns about role replacement and whether new and developing technologies will contribute to safer or less safe workplaces are clear throughout the dataset (and from both audiences).

Attitudes towards AI 

Both the employer and the employee panels report similar findings around the possible impacts of AI on the workplace/workforce respectively. 26% of both audiences report that AI could make workplaces less safe. 26% of employers  report that AI could make the workplace safer, and this is compared against 13% of employees reporting  optimism around AI and workplace safety.  

While the collected data is unable to explain the reason/s for this divergence, wider inferences can be  drawn around the impacts of role replacement and the prevalence of public and media discourse around  AI, which leans heavily towards extreme scenarios (e.g., mass job displacement due to AI) rather than a  more nuanced view of the future.  

Objectively speaking, employees are more likely to be impacted by role replacement and this may contribute to the greater presentation of negative views reported in the dataset. As employers are less likely to be replaced by new and developing technologies (certainly within the parameters of the question) employers may be able to take a more nuanced and balanced view that weighs risk alongside anticipated reward.  

Change 

Employers are more likely to be drivers of change, rather than passive actors and are more likely to display a greater awareness of the pace and impacts of change. Typically, employees are not involved in the strategic process of change and are likely to be unaware of the pace and/or possible impacts (on micro and macro level). This can fuel uncertainty and could be a contributing factor to responses in the dataset. 

Optimism/Pessimism around new and developing technologies 

Employers and employees report having less optimism about the safety impacts of AR and VR, than AI. This,  again, may be a result of the place of AI in public and media discourse. Divergence can again be found within the dataset, which shows net employer optimism 15% and 12% higher for AR and VR respectively.  

Both panels displayed some degree of optimism about the potential impacts of AI on the workplace. Net  optimism was greater with employers (at 63%) than for employees (at 41%), reflecting earlier commentary.  

Gaps in the data 

Questions to both our panels did not ask whether respondents had experience with the introduction of  new and developing technologies into their business/es. Employers may have experience (both positive and  negative) of introducing new and developing technologies into their workplaces, particularly with AR and  VR, which have a longer history of use in the workplace than AI.

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British Safety Council survey: Employers and staff optimistic about impact of new technologies, despite uncertainty

Nuffield Health’s 2024 ‘Healthier Nation Index’ – a survey of 8,000 UK adults has highlighted how the young workforce is more social media obsessed than ever before.

The study revealed that social media use has increased for Gen-Z, with 16-24-year-olds spending over two hours a day on social media apps like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook per day (128.5 minutes), which is a 7 percent increase and nearly ten minutes more a day than they were last year (119.48 minutes).* This is four times the daily recommended amount for improved wellbeing.

Social media has many uses. It’s a great place for connecting with others and sharing information, but while it’s used by many for entertainment and interaction, research shows that 71 percent of young people use it to consume news.

The impact of doomscrolling

The term doomscrolling was coined during the pandemic to describe the action of constantly scrolling through and reading depressing news on a news site or social media, especially on phones.

And with the majority of Brits admitting to looking at their phone within an hour of going to bed, it’s hardly surprising many have struggled with sleep and their physical and mental health.

Nearly a quarter said screen time before bed is the third biggest barrier to sleep, while 44.44 percent of young people said social media has negatively impacted their physical and mental health in the last 12 months.

Declines in mental wellbeing coupled with lack of sleep can be a dangerous combination.

The relationship between mental health and sleep isn’t entirely understood, but according to neurochemistry studies, an adequate night’s sleep helps enhance mental health and emotional resilience equally.

Chronic sleep disruptions might generate negative thinking and emotional sensitivity, with research suggesting poor sleep makes us twice as responsive to stress.

In the workplace, this could mean that if faced with stressful situations, employees are more likely to overreact, and if this stress carries over into home life, it could exacerbate sleep issues – resulting in more serious mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, which can increase workplace absence and affect productivity.

How employers can tackle the issue in the workplace

Lisa Gunn, Mental Health Prevention Lead at Nuffield Health, offers advice on how employers can tackle the issue in the workplace…

#1 Recognise unhealthy habits

Social media might seem harmless, but it can be addictive. With instant information and gratification available in the palm of our hands, many have become dependent on it despite negative consequences, such as lack of sleep or poor mental health, as using it fulfils a need or gives them a hit of dopamine.

Modern employers should be aware of young employees who may be presenting an unhealthy relationship or addiction to social media.

Some signs can include someone who constantly uses their phone to procrastinate, checks notifications throughout the day, constantly monitors likes and shares, only communicates with others via social media and someone who regularly takes photos or sends voice notes at work.

#2 Establish workplace policies

Internet and social media policies help to establish boundaries with employees and tackle overuse during work hours.

While corporate policies are generally put in place to govern and protect the interests of the company and maintain brand reputation, they can also be used to monitor employee performance and productivity, particularly amongst vulnerable groups.

This can include guidelines surrounding social media use during work hours, such as when it is prohibited.

Such restrictions should be written into employment contracts, and employees should be made aware of them from the get-go and enforced throughout the workplace.

#3 Encourage lifestyle changes outside of work too

Responsible businesses should try to find ways to encourage lifestyle changes outside of work, to help boost the effects of internal employee benefits.

For example, the modern workplace often encourages employees to stay connected with clients, colleagues and the wider world via social media apps. But employers should consider whether that push for connectivity is resorting to an ‘always on’ approach that can often lead to doomscrolling and, ultimately, burnout.

Some ways to resolve this issue may be to provide employees with a set amount of time to make work-related connections during work hours to remove this desire. Alternatively, promoting activities encouraging them to put their phones away, such as physical activity or meditation workshops, will get employees off their phones, boost wellbeing and promote healthy sleep hormones.

Running internal talks and inviting health experts to discuss the impact of poor sleep and how to support those experiencing poor sleep can be beneficial. For example, you could run a session on sleep hygiene, which focuses on simple habits staff can adopt to improve the quality of their sleep, like establishing a non-negotiable bedtime routine and limiting their use of electronics or social media when the working day is over.

#4 Promote workplace support

Where signs of emotional difficulty are identified, employers should signpost individuals towards the relevant emotional wellbeing support available. It’s important to note that stress from outside the world of work – like negative news consumed via social media -can negatively impact sleep and overall wellbeing.

Businesses should provide wellbeing support through external services like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs). These offer direct, confidential contact with experts who can support individuals who feel their mental health is impacted by social media.

You can see more findings from Nuffield Health’s latest Healthier Nation Index here.

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Increased social media use and ‘doomscrolling’ could affect mental health and productivity in Gen-Z workers: what employers can do to help

Dame Carol Black proposed the opening keynote debate at this year’s MAD World, on 17th October in London, which will ask the big question we hear continually on the lips of wellbeing experts: “Individual interventions vs. institutional change – which is the key to a healthy, happy and productive workforce?”

Of course, it is both the individual and the organisation’s responsibility (and leaders’ responsibility too), but the purpose of this starting debate at the Leaders’ Summit is to showcase this, and to get everyone thinking and talking (for more information on the agenda, and to register see here).

Black will chair the debate, which will set the scene for the rest of the jam-packed day, with three esteemed leaders arguing each side of the debate – one of them being CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese.

He’ll be joined on his side of the discussion, arguing the case of institional change, by BBC Chief Medical Officer Dr Clare Fernandes and Vanessa Harwood-Whitcher, Chief Executive, The Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH). 

Christian van Stolk, EVP, RAND Europe will pitch for individual interventions, joined by Dhavani Bishop, Head of Group Colleague Health and Wellbeing at Tesco and Kirstin Furber, People Director, Channel 4.

We caught up with Peter Cheese ahead of his appearance to find out more.

The past five years have seen a surge in the supply of health and wellbeing interventions designed to help individual colleagues build and maintain their own mental and physical health. This has been followed by a hyper focus on workplace culture. But which do you think makes the most difference?

I’m looking forward to the debate about this. I’ll be arguing the case for institutional change because organisations can make such a profound difference through their working cultures, how they train their managers and how they understand the triggers of stress. 

That’s important before you think of a specific set of individual interventions that might help people. After all, it’s no good offering yoga classes if you’ve got a culture of bullying and harassment and employees are continually stressed out. Interventions won’t solve those problems. In fact, they could be counterproductive because people see it as a sticking plaster instead of addressing the fundamental issues. 

You can’t grow seeds on rocky ground. I’m all for interventions done in the right way, but we’ve got to make sure we’re not just throwing a whole tonne of stuff at the wall and trying to make something stick. We’ve got to have evidence interventions really work and, at the same time, and organisations have got to understand and manage their culture.

What do you think has been the effect of economic uncertainty and budgetary pressures on wellbeing?

There’s more pressure to prove that what you are doing makes a difference. Business and finance leaders are questioning interventions more and asking ‘can we really show the outcome of what we’ve done?’. It’s really important that we understand the wellbeing links to business outcomes. 

We have to remember we are not doing these things entirely to be altruistic or because they are the right things to do; they also have to be good for business. And we can measure it by looking at key data like absenteeism or retention rates.

What do you think of the various research studies – like those of Mind Gym – concluding, as written in the FT newspaper that ‘Your wellbeing plans don’t work’?

Yes, media likes a provocative headline. What we have to be incredibly careful about is that we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Wellbeing as a space has grown enormously and I sometimes describe it as a little bit like the ‘Wild West’ in recent years because there are so many people and companies diving into it. There’s so many interventions, from apps to other solutions, which don’t always bear a lot of scrutiny in the harsh light of day.

What’s important now is that we approach wellbeing in a methodical and structured way, and that we are analytical in our ability to provide the evidence which shows that an intervention is actually making a difference and also creating positive business outcomes. That justifies sustaining momentum behind it. 

But in this space, which has become very crowded, we need to be very clear what is working.

Is there anything that concerns you about the way wellbeing is currently talked about?

We need to make sure we are connecting into expertise like Occupational Health and how we see this as part of the wider space of wellbeing. Businesses need to know where they can refer to deeper sources of expertise in mental and physical health and wellbeing. We can’t expect our line managers all to become experts in these areas, but they need to be aware and understand where to go to support their people as needed.  

Line managers themselves are also under lots of pressures, so they need support too. From the top down, talking about wellbeing, helping to raise awareness and understanding, demystifying of destigmatising conversations around mental wellbeing are all important parts of driving supportive cultures. We need to start with some of this before talking about individual initiatives, and make sure we are realistically managing expectations of what individual managers can do.

How are you feeling about the impact of AI?

I think that, if we can really harness it, it could be the thing that allows us all to be more productive, to reduce the stress of many roles and many of the more routine tasks, and enable us to use our more human skills most effectively. But none of this will happen by accident and needs to be designed for – a human centred approach to job and organisational design enabled by AI and driven by clear principles that guide ethical and responsible application.  

We also have to be aware of other effects of changing patterns of work. With AI there is an imperative for us all that people don’t get left behind and that we ensure a ‘just transition’.

It is also concerning to see issues of mental health through the growing isolation of some workers who feel disconnected and we have to watch that very carefully in our workplaces for the future.

In general, since the pandemic, do you think workplaces have become more or less stressful?

We know from our own CIPD research that stress has been growing in the workplace. 

It’s depressing that, with all the progress in the world of work and with new technology over decades, that we still seem to be in a space where stress is growing. 

There’s a lot of evidence that certain sectors such in parts of financial services and professional services, and even in healthcare, that the ‘work super hard to get on’ mantra is alive and well. A sense of older generations still saying ‘that’s how I got to where I got, so that’s what you’ve got to do’. We have to move with the times and younger generations rightly won’t tolerate this, and nor should we have done in the past.

But I think a big stressor for many people is technology and the pressure to be ‘always on’. We definitely need to manage technology better. France has obviously gone down the regulatory route but in the UK we tend to try to take a broader perspective, not immediately jumping to regulation. 

I look forward to engaging with the new government on many of these issues and we can see there is interest. 

What in particular would you like to see from a government perspective?

When you look at all the surveys about wellbeing it’s clear that happiness is not all driven by earning more money and buying more toys. We need to understand how people feel about their lives and their sense of contentment in different parts of the country. That can absolutely be measured, and they are really important. And we need to bake these ideas more into public policy and, as a society, measure how we are progressing towards goals related to wellbeing and happiness. But this all takes time.

You’re an optimist, though, so can you finish up with some hopeful words about progress so far and thoughts for the future?

We’ve made progress in recent years by talking about business measures that are broader than just financial, and the move towards ‘responsible business’ that does well by doing good. We are talking much more about wellbeing as an outcome and taking a multi-stakeholder approach.

Of course businesses have to satisfy financial interests, but now they’re also looking at their impact on employees, customers, suppliers, the communities they operate in and the environment. All these issues have been much more on the table than they ever have been before, and they all work together in creating long term sustainable businesses that are also positively influencing our societies and communities. 

It’s a hard paradigm shift (from the sole purpose being profit) but it’s happening.


The Leaders’ Summit at MAD World is an event driving excellence in workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing

The Summmit on 17th October 2024, will bring together speakers and attendees from across sectors and with a range of job titles for two tracks of leading-edge content that showcase best practice and provide insights and inspiration for all those looking to achieve maximum engagement with initiatives, optimise investment, stay one step ahead and really make a difference.

The stellar lineup of speakers includes: Professor Dame Carol Black GBE FRCP FMed Sci; Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPDVanessa Harwood-Whitcher, Chief Executive, The Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH), Dhavani Bishop, Head of Group Colleague Health & Wellbeing, Tesco, Kirstin Furber, People Director, Channel 4, Dr Clare Fernandes, Chief Medical Officer, BBC, Christian van Stolk, Executive Vice President, RAND Europe, Andrew Gibbons, Group Head of Wellbeing, Recognition and Hybrid Working, HSBC, Karen Brookes, Chief People Officer, Sir Robert McAlpineJaimy Fairclough, Wellbeing Specialist – People Division, Sainsbury’s, Dr Femi Oduneye, Vice President Health, Shell International B.V. and many more. You can find out more and register to attend here.

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MAD World to kick off with the Wellbeing question on everyone’s lips

Our Movers and Shakers articles highlight who’s moving up, out or across in the rapidly evolving world of workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing. Here are a selection of “movers and shakers” that have grabbed my attention over the last few months.

True leader

Forward-thinking, purpose-led Jonny Jacobs, who was also the winner of the Make A Difference “True Leader” Award in 2023, has moved from his role as Finance Director EMEA, Starbucks to become Group Finance Director, Holland & Barrett.

Sharing the announcement on LinkedIn Jonny said: “There are some things in life you cannot say no to, and for me joining the Leadership of health & wellness brand Holland & Barrett is one of them. I’m driven by the opportunity to combine my passion for Wellness with the huge potential of this unique heritage brand.”

“Looking forward to working each day in partnership with our talented colleagues and associates to deliver on a promise of customer wellness and, of course financial wellbeing too”.

You can read more about the source of Jonny’s positive energy, his secret for engaging stakeholders and his tips on leading with empathy here.

Making things fly

In a little over two years, the dynamic Jane Lloyd, has been promoted from Talent & Development Director – to Human Resources Director – to Chief of Staff – Civil Business Line – with global automotive industry company GKN Aerospace.

Writing on LinkedIn, Jane says she’s looking forward to: “Leveraging my HR background to support driving strategic initiatives and aid our team’s success”. We’re looking forward to seeing how Jane takes this to the next level and where workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing fit into the mix.

Data-driven

As part of the wider DEI and People and Culture team at PMI, Jake Sanders’ role required him to develop PMI’s data-informed Wellbeing strategy alongside Yulia O’Mahony Global Head of health and resilience.

He worked with PMI’s 92 affiliate markets across the world to implement a global framework with a local lens. This required collaboration with PMI’s DEI, HR, L&D, benefits and employee listening teams to
understand the balance between their global and local wellbeing offerings.

Now, Jake is taking the skills he’s gleaned to his new role as Global Health and Wellbeing Manager at Diageo.

You can read more about award-winning approaches to supporting employee health and wellbeing globally here.

The power of communication

Vicki Sloan, like Jonny Jacobs, is a long-standing member of our Make A Difference Advisory Council. After 7 years and 5 months at Anglian Water, where her role evolved from Senior Internal Communications Business Partner to Head of Wellbeing, Vicki has started a new role as Head of Wellbeing with the Post Office.

Announcing her appointment on LinkedIn Vicki said: “Today marks the start of a new chapter for me supporting employee wellbeing at the Post Office. Really excited to get started!” We’re excited for you too Vicki and look forward to hearing all about it at the Leaders’ Summit at MAD World this year on 17th October where Vicki will be facilitating a roundtable.

Vision and value

Jack Wardingley, former Senior Benefits and People Experience Manager with luxury clothing and beauty products e-commerce company Farfetch, has taken on the new role of Global Benefits Lead with The Economist.

Jack’s core competencies include designing and delivering innovative and competitive benefits programmes, leveraging technology platforms and recognition tools, and developing talent and culture initiatives that enhance employee engagement and wellbeing.

On his LinkedIn profile Jack shares that he’s passionate about creating a positive and inclusive people experience that reflects the values and vision of The Economist.

It’s great to see talent with such diverse backgrounds dedicated to developing and embedding workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing as business as usual across these organisations. More to follow in our next Movers and Shakers focus.

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Movers and shakers in workplace culture, employee health and wellbeing

There has been much media coverage of the pressures of the legal profession following the tragic passing of Pinsent Masons Partner Vanessa Ford. In recognition of the industry’s unique challenges, our sister event MAD World is this year adding a Legal Summit to its agenda.

Pinsent Mason Senior Partner Andrew Masraf has confirmed he will be taking part in this Summit on 17th October in London, which will shine a light a light on the state of the mental health of the legal profession and why it’s so important that everyone comes together to decide the best way forwards to make the law a healthier profession.

Richard Martin (pictured) will be leading the Legal Summit. As CEO of the Mindful Business Charter (MBC), and, as an ex-lawyer, Martin is now one of the leading voices on mental health in the legal profession, as well as consultant at workplace wellbeing firm byrne∙dean.

His passion is personal; after 20 years working as a City employment lawyer he had a “big” mental breakdown resulting in hospitalisation and a two year recovery. This led to his interest in mental health, taking part in the This Is Me, London Lord Mayor’s mental health campaign, and training as a MHFA instructor, as well as working for the MBC. The charter is a practical framework that strives to “remove unnecessary sources of stress and promote better mental health and wellbeing in the workplace”.

We spoke to him to find out more about his perspective.

Can you tell us a bit more about your breakdown and what happened please?

Yes. I went on holiday in May of 2011 for a week and, at that point in my career, I was being lined up to be the next management partner at the law firm. I was on a big promotion track.

It was while we were away that I had my first ever panic attack and realised I was not very well at all. Things went downhill very quickly after that. I never actually went back to my law firm. 

I came back home. I tried to do a little bit of work from home, but quickly realised that was impossible . Then I spent a month in hospital. 

I felt completely broken and incapable of doing anything. I was very much starting again. Initially it was just about whether I could get dressed or make my own breakfast. It was a long time before I had any thoughts about work again.

What was it like for you going through that experience of being a senior lawyer, having a breakdown then going back and being really open about your experiences?

My employer kept a position open for me.

I was conscious that lots of friends, clients and colleagues were asking the  firm ‘where is he?’ And the firm was saying ‘he’s off sick’. 

I wasn’t on any mission at that time but I wanted to tell people the problem because I didn’t want them to think I was dying of cancer or something, although, obviously, a mental breakdown is a serious thing too.

The management was worried saying that would impact my ability to work again because people wouldn’t trust me. I’m not sure that’s true. But I didn’t care, I preferred that the truth was out there.

We agreed some fairly anodyne wording, but I never ended up going back to work there. 

Why didn’t you return to your law firm after recovering from your breakdown?

I couldn’t face going back to the law environment. So we agreed I’d leave and I joined byrne∙dean and started talking about mental health.

What realisations did you have about the workplace after your breakdown?

I was an employment lawyer and the general idea is that if there are problems in the workplace what you do is bring a load of law to it and sort it out that way. I realised after much therapy that the reason why people behave badly in the workplace is because of what’s going on in their heads.

So if we could understand more about why people did things, the conscious and unconscious thinking that was going on, and bring that perspective into the workplace, we’d probably be much better at resolving issues when they happen but also possibly stopping them happening in the first place. 

And that’s the idea around the Mindful Business Charter. Rather than just raising awareness and putting in place supports to help people who are ill, why don’t we stop making people ill in the first place? Why don’t we change the ways in which we work so that we remove the unnecessary stress?

My purpose when I first started out in 2014-15 was to stop people getting into the situation I got into. But it’s moved on a bit since then and is more about how do we create workplaces where people can thrive.

How has your attitude to work changed?

Severe mental illness changes you. 

When you think about physical illness, if you break your leg, then the focus is all about ‘how do we get back to where you were?’ But generally speaking with mental illness that’s probably not very helpful because where you were was probably contributing to your illness in the first place. 

What was unhelpful about your workplace that contributed to your illness?

My firm was a great place with great people – there was nothing particular about where I worked. Rather it was about me. I was doing an awful lot of work to please other people, rather than actually what I wanted myself. As I have reflected more I have realised there was a mismatch between what I personally valued, and what was valued in my workplace and in many law firms generally. 

I think this happens alot in law because people tend to be conscientious. They tend to have the characteristics described in the book ‘Depressive Illness – The Curse of the Strong’ which make them more susceptible, which are moral strength, reliability, diligence, a strong conscience and a strong sense of responsibility. 

How did the legal profession react when you first started talking about mental health?

We hired a room on the Strand in London and invited 50 or so clients and it was the first time I’d spoken publicly about my experience, and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. 

What did happen was that practically everyone in the room approached one of the team and told them about their story about mental illness, whether it be about themselves or someone close to them. Everyone had a tale to tell and we realised we needed to be talking about this more and allowing those stories, and the reasons behind them, to be told.

You also recently invited senior leaders of the legal profession together after the tragic passing of Vanessa Ford, a Partner at law firm Pinsent Masons. Can you tell us about that?

Yes, we invited leaders to talk about the response to Vanessa’s passing. The senior partner at the firm concerned spoke and I spoke about why we need to act and we tabled some proposals. 

What do you think needs to happen for wellbeing in law?

There needs to be a much greater focus on health and safety from a mental health perspective that has more awareness and accountability. 

When I was ill, I was the last person anybody thought would end up with mental health problems. But we’re all different and react differently. We can’t predict how long hours, lack of sleep, lack of connection with loved ones, etc, will affect people or cause them to be be suicidal or in crisis. But we do know that those factors are significant risk factors. Therefore, we have to take more care of everybody. 

Do you think wellbeing has got worse or better in law?

It is hard to say with great accuracy because we have a lot more awareness of the issue now than we did even ten years ago. But I would say that law has become more intense and wellbeing has probably got worse because of a whole range of factors. A big one is undoubtedly the impact of technology.

When I first started work, we barely had the internet and we didn’t have email. So, you had to send letters, which would arrive a couple of days later. Then they’d take at least another day to consider it, before replying, which would mean another few days. You had time to think and reflect and the turnaround time was probably about 10 days. 

Now, with email, reply time is 10 minutes. And I don’t think the quality of work is any better. It’s probably considerably worse because lawyers haven’t got time to reflect. I actually think lawyers don’t have enough self-respect and are too beholden to perceptions of what they think their clients expect and unrealistic concepts of what constitutes good client service.

What else negatively affects wellbeing?

The pandemic probably played a part because people got used to not doing anything but working, and many haven’t stopped. 

Because of the war for talent, too, salaries for junior lawyers have gone through the roof, with some starting at £160K per annum. Of course, if you’re paying them that, you expect to get a lot back from them. So you work them very hard and that’s driven, partly, by the influx of US law firms into London.

Do you think there’s enough recognition that things need to change?

On one hand, there’s recognition that there’s a real problem. On the other hand, there’s been an increase in intensity at the same time.

So the idea behind the Mindful Business Charter is to create a movement and suggest solutions to the problem. But it’s a slow burner because people don’t change quickly. There has been change but it’s been slow. And who knows how AI is going to affect law, whether it will help or hinder wellbeing. For that, excuse the pun, the jury is still out.


The Legal Summit at MAD World, on 17th October 2024, will bring together speakers and attendees from across the legal profession to discuss key issues and decide the best way forward to make the law a healthier profession. Chaired by Richard Martin, the stellar lineup of speakers includes: Andrew Masraf, Senior Partner, Pinsent Masons; James Pereira KC; Dr George Artley, Legal Manager, International Bar Association (IBA); Jude Cragg, Director of Human Resources, Capsticks Solicitors LLP; Sharon Blackman OBE, Managing Director, Head of Services Legal, Citi and Nick Manners, Head of the PHB Family Department, Payne Hicks Beach amongst others. The Legal Summit at MAD World is produced in partnership with MBC and LawCare. You can find out more and register to attend here.

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MAD World Exclusive: why it’s so important to bring the legal profession together to decide the best way forwards

Supporting your workforce includes managing the happiness and satisfaction of all ages, including those who have been with the company longer. With the current “silver exodus,” there’s a growing concern that older employees aren’t finding the same enjoyment in work as they used to.

As the workforce ages, and with the retirement age now rising to 71 years old, it’s essential to know how to successfully retain older staff members.

Gary Clark, Academy Director at ski course business SIA Austria, says: “Working is now becoming about a better work-life balance and businesses that aren’t recognising this run the risk of losing experienced staff members who might do better breaking out on their own. That is why finding ways to offer them some excitement and a break from the mundane corporate working is necessary, not just for younger staff, but for your ageing workforce too.”

Sabbaticals

It might sound counterintuitive, but spending time away from the desk can increase motivation and productivity.

Older workers have earned time off, so offering sabbaticals can be a great way to encourage them to enjoy themselves away from work. Whether they’re undergoing a ski course in Japan or jet-setting to a more relaxing destination, giving them the opportunity and time to spend time away from work is essential.

Gary says: “Enjoying something new that you wouldn’t have considered before can actually get you away from your desk and the worries of work so that you’re in a better place to come back to it. You don’t want your staff quitting so that they can travel, meaning you lose all their expertise; instead, offer them the time they desire as part of a long-term worker package so that they can get the best of both worlds.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive at Age UK, is a key advocate for the support that can be put in place for older workers. In this article, he mentions his dad who was still traveling solo in his 80s, and suggests that apprenticeships and internships should be available to older workers as well as younger people. This demonstrates that there is no age limit when it comes to wanting to learn, travel, and develop new skills. Offering such opportunities not only allows organisations to retain their staff but also helps to combat loneliness.

Freelance work

Gary continues: “Or if you’re looking for a more flexible arrangement, then freelance might be the best option for both employees and employers. You don’t want to risk losing their valuable insight and knowledge in your business, so giving them the ability to work freelance or remotely could be an option if they’re looking to move both professionally and personally.”

Fatigue at work can stem from a lack of freedom. Whether it’s spending time away from the desk, living somewhere new, or seeing new faces daily, the corporate 9 to 5 can become too much after decades in the same role. Allowing your staff the freedom to explore their personal choices and take the work with them can help retain experienced employees without limiting them.

Development

Autonomy is important for older workers, as well as younger ones. You don’t want to offer all your career development opportunities to your younger staff members while ignoring the wants and needs of your older professionals. Allowing your ageing workforce to create and implement their development plans is essential for a healthy working culture.

Interestingly, this article published on www.makeadifference.media discussed the need to not overlook training for the over-55 workforce. Over half of older employees admitted that training is an important factor when deciding whether to stay with an organisation. With one in three employees over the age of 50, organisations can’t afford to disregard the needs and wants of their older workforce.

Gary says: “Autonomy and development don’t need to always fall in line with traditional workplace training sessions. In fact, your workforce might benefit more from stepping out of their comfort zone now and again and developing transferable skills. By giving your employees of all ages the autonomy to learn and develop in their ways, you can retain a happier workforce.”

The increasing number of older workforce members quitting can be concerning for businesses that risk losing the accumulated experience, knowledge, and know-how of these employees. However, there are plenty of ways your business can avoid losing these valuable team members. Increasing autonomy, providing opportunities for development, and offering more flexible structures can ensure your workforce is in the position they want to be, no matter their age.

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Retaining your experienced workforce: strategies to keep employees over 50 engaged

A 2023 survey* asked 1000 UK workers in the professional services sector how they feel in their place of work and what helps them feel more confident in the workplace. Although the majority of UK workers are confident at work, they still get the wobbles sometimes. The survey revealed that around 49% of UK workers feel they suffer from low confidence during performance reviews, even though 71% of those respondents feel confident at other times.

When it comes to why employees may feel like they lack confidence in the working environment, it may be down to imposter syndrome. Wellness and leadership coach Deborah (Debbie) Green shares what imposter syndrome is and how to overcome it, drawing on her 18 years’ experience in helping people get a leg up on their workplace confidence. 

What is imposter syndrome?  

Imposter syndrome is a psychological condition where people undervalue, and feel that they are unworthy of, their successful attributes and achievements and harbour an innate fear of being “found out”. YouGov found that half of Brits find themselves experiencing imposter syndrome, making it a common phenomenen in workplaces around the nation.  

In treating workplace confidence issues, Debbie has found that imposter syndrome can affect anyone regardless of their seniority or level of experience.“When people say step into a coaching session,” she comments, “they are who they are in that moment, regardless of seniority. People have the same hang-ups about whether they’re good enough, or will they be caught out.” 

What is the impact of imposter syndrome? 

The impact of imposter syndrome changes from person to person, but those who have imposter syndrome tend to exhibit these behaviours

  1. You believe you’ve fooled others into thinking you’re more skilled or capable than you are. 
  2. You credit your success to external factors outside of your own abilities, such as luck. 
  3. New tasks trigger feelings of anxiety and doubt, which you respond to with intense over-preparation, and relief when the task is done. 

This cycle of behaviours can also lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression as a result of imposter syndrome, contributing to a person feel burned out at work. 

Employers may think imposter syndrome manifests in their staff as nervousness handing in work or a lack of confidence when talking about their work. However, in some cases, it has been seen that those with imposter syndrome overcompensate and provide a higher quality of work than they believe themselves capable.

The BBC spoke to Basima Tewfik, assistant professor of Work and Organization Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on the topic. Her study showed that those with imposter syndrome tend to excel even if internally they are suffering. 

How to overcome imposter syndrome? 

When it comes to imposter syndrome, it’s not something you get rid of with just a positive attitude; it’s a process. But there are steps you can take to redirect those feelings and boost your confidence in your work. 

This study* also found that 60% of people use music to help build up their self-confidence at work when faced with a stressful scenario, with their reasons for listening to it being that it makes them feel less anxious (45%), more relaxed (35%) and more confident (33%). 

Debbie has dealt with imposter syndrome and low confidence in her clients but finds the term problematic. “I just wish it [the term imposter syndrome] could be banned and we could change it, because one, we’re not imposters, and two, we don’t have a syndrome.  

“I think when people go, ‘maybe I’ve got imposter syndrome’, they search it, and then they go, ‘oh yeah, I’ve got that. I’m lacking in confidence. Yeah, I’ve got that. I’m not forthright. Yeah, that’s me. I don’t speak up in meetings. Oh yeah, that’s me.’ So, they self-diagnose as having this syndrome, and don’t consider the nuances of the underlying anxieties. 

“I think it can be actually quite soul-destroying for people because it can ruin any chances of success, and it can stop people from fulfilling their potential because of this fear, and this negative self-talk, that comes from waiting to be called out as an imposter.” 

When it comes to overcoming low confidence and low self-esteem in the workplace, Debbie has shared some hints and tips here.

* A survey commissioned by PPL PRS of 1000 people in the UK who are working in offices and workplaces in the professional services sector in June 2023.

About the author

Debbie Green is PPL PRS’ Leadership Coach. She advocates growing confidence through routine, challenging your inner critic and music. She passionately believes that a good tune evokes an emotional connection and powers productivity at work, improving performance in all aspects of your life. Whether you’re playing music in an office or hair salon, it’s universally impactful!

Debbie started WishFish Coaching & Development in 2006. She lends her expertise in people to coaching professionals in their careers to build self-esteem, regardless of seniority level or industry. She also believes in helping leaders and HR professionals instil confidence in their teams so that everyone can be the best version of themselves. Her insightful podcast ‘Secrets From A Coach’ covers self-belief and developing an optimistic mindset.

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