Top 5 Trends from Health and Wellbeing at Work 2017

Health and wellbeing at work

The only way is up – growth industry

It was our first time out at Health and Wellbeing at Work, so we took a little time to talk to other vendors and speakers about the event this year. The consensus was that the number of exhibitors and the speaker programme had really expanded on last year’s offering. This mirrors what we are all seeing in the growth trends for the wellness industry. It’s great to see this continuing increase in recognition that employee wellbeing is so vital to engagement, business performance and general wellness. The growing stress that our healthcare systems are experiencing, alongside the opportunity we have to positively influence each other in the workplace, are creating a perfect storm for employee wellness to take a really powerful position in the effort to improve lives.

Mental health – out in the open

The signs were clear and bold this year that mental health is fully on everyone’s minds. No doubt we are still exploring the best ways to support people with stress management tools and other resources and networks, but the topic itself is clearly no longer remotely taboo.

There was a lengthy roster of speakers on both days, tackling mental and emotional health from every angle. From trauma and counseling, occupational psychology, coaching, performance, stress resilience and emotional wellbeing – no stone was left unturned. It wasn’t just the topics that stood out when it came to breadth and range, but also the demographics represented. It was brilliant to see mental health issues represented from the point of view of the construction industry, older workers, veterans, doctors, women and even seafarers. You’ll definitely see the thread of mental wellness concern running through most of the other key observations.

Prevention vs. cure

It is completely up our alley to be champions of any kind of preventative health or wellness initiative, as so much of what we do focuses on healthy behavioural change. Most of human history has been dominated by disease management after the fact, in one form or another, with preventative care being the next stage of how we revolutionise our approach to being well.

We had a brief chat with Kane Ciaputa from Personnel Today in the exhibition hall on Tuesday and he pointed out the next wave of this shift towards preventative measures instead of crisis management, seems to be the wider scope of topics. Some employers are no longer just focusing on the traditional themes of nutrition and exercise, but top performers are extending their support to mental health and stress management, as a given.

Kane observed that managing stress, just like preventing chronic illness, meant solving the root problems. Financial literacy programmes, for instance, educate people on how to manage their money, pensions and mortgages well before any problems come up. Over 30% of UK employees cite financial issues as their top cause of stress, so it becomes a no brainer to reverse that trend by educating people and supporting them along the way. We’ll be curious to see how creative the industry can get in finding out which other stresses they can nip in the bud, in the context of the workplace.

The collective – we can’t do it alone

Our next takeaway is shamelessly borrowed from a presentation given by Marcus Hunt, Unilever Plc. Quite a few themes of the talk really resonated with us, as he highlighted the value of support networks and conscientious leadership, offered resounding advocacy for mental health initiatives and underlined the value of gathering data as you go. (We can’t help it – data is really exciting to us.)

All trends point to the obvious conclusion that anything can be made more possible with the support of the collective. We all benefit from many facets of our community – family, friends and colleagues – and this network can either offer positive support or enable old or unwanted patterns. If we want to see real change in ourselves and our communities then we have to throw our commitment into tangible efforts to help each other. This can be as simple as fruit bowls in the office instead of doughnuts, joining a team run to support a charity, or a major culture change like encouraging dads to actually take advantage of that new paternity leave policy.

Which brings us to the topic of top-down leadership. Marcus emphasised his belief that line managers are the gatekeepers for employee wellbeing. Unilever is going so far as to have many of their line managers trained by Mental Health First Aid to identify and help employees developing a mental health issue and guide them to the right support. This conscious effort to create environments that give everyone the permission to take care of themselves is really exciting. It also speaks to the earlier point about prevention; catching anything in its early stages gives us so many more options than trying to manage a crisis after the fact.

And lastly, data. We think everything is data driven, too. Numbers may not sound sexy to everyone, but they are the only way to prove success so you can expand or continue your programmes, and they are surely the only way to improve your efforts. Ask your audience everything you can, gather data points as you go and continue iterating and tweaking until you’re serving everyone to the best of your ability. This is where the collective feeds back into the system. All of their hard work and commitment to joining a step or sleep challenge or a mindfulness programme can help their team and the whole organisation to learn and improve.

Convenience economy – not just for taxis

Lastly, GPDQ was at Health and Wellbeing at Work to show everyone their app to get you a ‘Doctor, delivered quick’. (The play on words was not lost on us – who doesn’t like a clever name?)

With all the attention on removing barriers to self care, this does seem like a handy option for people who struggle to escape the office or for parents who are juggling sick little ones. Everyone knows someone who puts off a visit to the doctor for ages because it is easy to keep delaying and procrastinating. Going to the GP during flu season can also be incredibly off-putting and this is not at all helpful to the concept of prevention that we’ve been talking about. At £120 a visit, it isn’t something everyone can afford, but if you are able to, they’ll come right to your home or office. It is sort of exciting, to be fair, to put your address in and see a screen similar to the Uber app with a time estimate. At the time of writing, we could get a GP to our offices in 62 minutes. Luckily we don’t need one today, but if we did, it’s good to know we could get help for one of our employees in about an hour.

2018 and what comes next?

Hopefully we’ll see you all there again next year, with an even further expanded group of attendees, vendors and speakers. Our first prediction is that this industry will keep going from strength to strength, so there will be even more innovation to talk about.

We’d love to hear your key observations and comments about current trends below. What about future trends? Will AI and issues of automation start making more of an appearance, especially when it comes to MSK or health and safety? What are your predictions?

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