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Wellbeing in the workplace | A Q&A with David Beeney, founder of Breaking the Silence


Why should we bring wellbeing into the workplace?

Wellbeing is in the workplace whether we like it or not, and the healthier your workforce the better your business will perform. Businesses in the FTSE 100 who have a robust wellbeing strategy are outperforming all of the others and evidence suggests that for every £1 invested in employee wellbeing your business will generate another £3. It’s hard to understand in 2019 how some boardrooms are still seeing employee wellbeing and mental health as a ‘fluffy subject’ and not seeing the direct links between employee energy and their business results.

How do you open a conversation about mental health in the workplace?

The stigma of mental health is the huge ‘wall of silence’ that exists around this subject. We choose not to speak about this subject because we fear saying something wrong and making someone feel embarrassed or awkward so we choose to say nothing. We don’t know how to open up the wellbeing conversation which makes us even less likely to start what could be a lifesaving conversation. The answer is in training your people on the right language to use in such circumstances. We should never say to somebody ‘I am very worried about your mental health’. They would go into a ‘shut down’ mode and find it far too invasive. If you say you have noticed a change in their energy levels (as part of a much wider conversation) they are far more likely to tell you what is going on in their life and the impact it is having on their wellbeing. As a counsellor I am trained to ‘notice, not interpret’ as it is far less judgemental and I share this with my clients.

What can we do to encourage employees to proactively enhance their own wellbeing?

Employees take on average six to eight years after the initial symptoms of poor mental health to seek professional advice. This is largely because they are not aware of the early indicators combined with the powerful stigma that prevents them from being honest and open about their mental wellbeing. To encourage employees to be proactive we need to invest time and resource into the workplace to help them understand their mental wellbeing better. We need to provide them with simple tools to measure their energy levels and create cultures where people want to flourish and live a healthier way of life.

What are the business risks if we fail to address these issues?

Teams that operate with high energy are successful, but teams that are not healthy and energised will never get anywhere near optimising performance. It feels like I am stating the obvious but the risks are high levels of absenteeism, poor employee engagement, high staff churn, inefficiency and reduced productivity. If your culture is not focussed on employee wellbeing, you will lose more staff to long term work related stress. It is evidence based that employees who have suffered stress related illness are very difficult to get back to work and businesses are exceptionally poor at dealing with these type of wellbeing issues.

How do we create the right culture of trust to create a stigma free workplace?

The tone has to be set from the very top of your organisation. My clients who realise the importance of senior executives sharing how mental health has touched their own lives are seeing a tangible cultural shift. When top executives talk openly about mental health it makes it much easier for all employees to feel safe to do so. All people managers should be trained on how to create a kinder culture that drives employee energy. It is evidence based that managers will not speak to employees about wellbeing because they do not feel qualified. The great news is they don’t need to be qualified but educated on the importance of becoming more personable and how to direct employees to get appropriate professional help.

David Beeney is a mental health advocate and a business advisor. David brings his personal experience of struggling with mental health problems, commercial background and business knowledge to help organisations implement mental health & wellbeing strategies within the workplace. David is committed to reducing the stigma of mental health in the workplace.

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