On Tuesday 5th September at Red Bull's London offices we gained some insight into how our physical and mental wellbeing at work can positively impact productivity and creativity.
How well we work is hugely influenced by both our physical and mental wellbeing — from what we eat and drink, to how we sit and move during the day, right through to how we deal with stress and anxiety.
On 5th September, Red Bull and YCN invited a panel of speakers to the energy drink brand's London headquarters, to explore how organisations are striving to take better care of their employees, and how this is boosting happiness levels, productivity and creativity in the workplace — as well as sharing practical tips on what you can do to improve your work life, and inspire a culture of wellbeing at work.
Joining us was Rebecca Fairbrother, founder of Well Aware, which provides organisation across the UK with health and wellbeing programmes that enable them to better look after their employees. She set up Well Aware in 2014 after a corporate job left her exhausted and stressed, leading her to question the sustainability of our current working conditions for achieving optimum health in the long-term.
George Bettany also spoke to us as co-founder of Sanctus, a Shoreditch-based startup on a mission to change the perception of mental health. They see a world where people treat mental fitness in the same way they treat physical fitness, and their vision is to put the world's first mental health gym on the high street. They work closely with businesses big and small to change the way we deal with mental health in the workplace.
We also heard from Kate Walsh, who works in the Ground Control team at Airbnb's London office. Kate works specifically on Employee Experience, implementing wellbeing initiatives that make sure hardworking employees are all healthy and happy at work, whether through optional fitness programmes or flexible work days.
Here's what we learnt.
All speakers discussed the definite cultural shift towards taking an interest in wellness, with Rebecca mentioning that companies in the corporate sphere who have invested in employee wellbeing see proven positive results, especially through lower staff turnover. She's found that the key to attracting businesses to implement change is through framing wellbeing in the 'right' way; the way that best works for the company. For example, calling it 'self-care' rather than 'mental health', or putting the focus on 'training better leaders'. Each company varies vastly and she makes sure not to be too prescriptive with her wellness packages.
Similarly Kate mentioned her focus on working with employees at a localised level, spending time individually with people to see what they want. Whilst focusing on an office environment and making it comfortable works on a general level, she's found that talking to people about how to make their life easier helps her create initiatives that avoid forcing people to stay at work longer than they need to.
By taking a new perspective on what something like 'fitness' signifies, and changing the way it's internally communicated within a company, it can include those who care about their physical and mental wellbeing rather than simply 'sports'.
At Sanctus, George discussed the process of a working with a company so that the option of one-to-one sessions are provided in a way that employees can book in confidentially. The sessions are designed to be whatever the user wants them to be, from discussing stresses to just having a pause in the work day. The idea is that anyone can relate, like having a cup of tea with a friend.
George admitted sometimes businesses do come to Sanctus worrying about addressing the elephant in the room and 'making things worse'. However he emphasised that worries exist whether you choose to look at them or not, and it's about the potential of people able to bring their full selves to work rather than being bogged down by those worries.
Kate talked about how when focusing on wellness, it's futile to try and reduce all stresses; when people are dealing with serious challenges professionally, the best way is to counteract the work with things that bring out the lighter side in people. She suggested doing little things, like having communal lunches.
Creating a space that is empowering is the goal. With Well Aware Rebecca makes sure senior management are bought in to initiatives so others feel secure in taking time for themselves. When people feel invested in, they invest in their workplace, and she told us results often work in a trickle down effect where the initial trust starts from senior management.
George talked about creating space – both in the private individual Sanctus sessions, and with creating a space of learning online and through informal lectures. Often business leaders and CEOs approach Sanctus after seeing their written content and videos. In one case, Sanctus was approached by a company pre-empting an issue that is known to be rife in their industry.
Often a lot of Rebecca's clients have come to her to implement a wellness strategy from personal experience. Whether through a loved one having suffered, or through wanting to be able to make the most of time off, engaging at a personal level in the initial briefings is essential.
For Kate, working in-house means she's able to identify some triggers, such as people working late too often. While observations are important to identify potential 'un-wellness', she also understands that often people are keen to preserve illusions of working hard, and retaining social perceptions.
In these cases, she suggested things like taking five minutes at your desk to breath, or listen to music. "Small things make a massive difference", from drinking more water to short meditations, this session taught us that there is always something that can be done.
Wellbeing at Work is part of the Red Bull Can Do Sessions, a series of talks designed to help people get more out of working life.
Location:155-171 Tooley Street,
London, SE1 2JP,
Start:September 5th, 2017 at 6:00pm
End:September 5th, 2017 at 8:00pm
Cost:Free to members and guests of Red Bull