Powerful Lessons from the Vita Safety 2018 Risk Directors Forum
“Good health IS good business.” – Paul Dreschler
In September, we held our annual Risk Director’s Forum event at WeWork in Spinningfields, Manchester.
There has never been a more appropriate time for senior business leaders to congregate and discuss employee wellbeing at work.
Public awareness surrounding good workplace mental health and wellbeing has peaked. But we still need to work on making this subject less taboo. As Emma Mamo, head of workplace wellbeing at Mind, found in her research:
“In a recent poll, 95% of people who have had to take time off due to workplace stress did not feel able to give their employer the real reason… and 49% of people still feel uncomfortable talking to an employer about their mental health.”
The aim of the Risk Directors Forum was to spark pertinent discussions surrounding workers’ health and wellbeing.
Here’s what we covered and the brilliant speakers involved with massive thanks to the involved Vita Safety partners for their support.
Workers’ wellbeing is every employer’s responsibility, no matter the industry. Which is why we were thrilled to have a broad range of guests join us at the forum from various sectors, including; motor retail, retail and logistics, events and leisure, food manufacturing, property, construction and facilities management.
The forum was made possible owing to expert help from Anker & Marsh, an internationally renowned health and wellbeing consultancy that continually works with Vita Safety to support companies dedicated to improving their health and safety standards.
Our guests enjoyed a brilliant venue at WeWork in Spinningfields, courtesy of the Big Partnership. Laura Berry, Sarah Lawless and the rest of the Big Partnership team were a huge help throughout the day and largely contributed to the forum’s success.
A key thread running throughout the day was: how employers can provide a physical and cultural environment that enhances employee wellbeing and happiness at work.
Doing so increases productivity, reduces absence and improves staff retention. To illustrate, a Social Market Foundation study found that happier employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees.
Even more important is the fact that improving workers’ wellbeing can save lives. For example, in 2017 the highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 45-49 (people in their prime working years).
Our first speaker, Jason Anker, illuminated how mental health support is instrumental in preventing employee suicide.
A Life-Changing Experience
Jason Anker’s life altered dramatically in 1993 after an avoidable accident on a construction site. At just 24 years old he was paralysed from the waist down.
His fall from height and subsequent injuries had a terrible impact on him and his family. He was in the grips of depression: rebuilding his life felt like an impossible task.
It was a battle to improve his mental health but Jason persevered. He shared with us how meditation, exercise and mindfulness brought him back from the brink. And how he continues to help others like him be happier and healthier using the same techniques.
His lesson was powerful: employers can help their employees enhance their personal resilience and repair their lives when facing serious mental health problems. You can explore the many ways this can be achieved in our recent blog.
Following Jason’s story, our next speaker, Darius Baniabassian, explained how improving workplaces is a step towards igniting positive change for employee mental health.
Revitalising Work Environments
In a recent study, participants’ brain activity was measured in different working environments. The results demonstrated that those surrounded by natural beauty experience empathy and love. Inside a building that lacks natural light and plant life, people suffer from anxiety and fear.
Darius Baniabassian, an established workplace consultant and interior designer, discussed during the forum how proactive organisations are designing workspaces rich with natural resources, appealing to our instinctive bond to nature.
Enhancing working environments using a biophilia approach can benefit businesses through increased productivity and a happier, more effective workforce.
Ultimately, Darius explained how creating more natural environments can transform your company culture by bringing people closer together. This helps create a safe and open environment for mental health discussions to take place.
After lunch and fruitful private discussions across the group, Tim Marsh, Director of Anker & Marsh, led us into behavioural psychology in the workplace.
The key question was: how does the way employers treat their people affect workplace culture?
A Brighter Future for Humanity
Tim reinforced how positive psychological techniques, leadership and culture can improve personal and team happiness at work, in turn benefiting the overall business and society. And how bringing historical-thinking together with forward-thinking is necessary to engage a happier, more resilient workforce:
“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.” – Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
This final talk of the day highlighted a critical point: since the industrial revolution, we have systematically removed elements essential to human happiness – such as a healthy work-life balance and open communication about personal issues – which negatively impacts performance.
To move forward, we need to recognise the importance of nature and wellbeing as part of our overall employee strategy in the modern work environment.
As resources dwindle and the race for talent increases, it’s imperative that employers consider how their culture and work environment will have a positive effect on their colleagues. And crucially, how compassion and a genuine desire to help people is essential for good leadership.
Vita Safety works in partnership with Anker & Marsh to deliver continual safety, health and wellbeing culture improvement for their customers. To find out more contact us at [email protected]