For our latest HeadBox Connect panel event, we discussed the topic of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. 

Our Head of Marketing, Ann-Marie Rossiter was joined by three mental health experts at Level39 to talk about the importance of wellbeing in the workplace, tactics event professionals can use in their day-to-day lives, and what the future should look like.

Petra Velzeboer
A mental health consultant who works with a range of organisations, both nationally and internationally, to assist them with their mental health strategies and how to create sustainable change through training and development.

George Bell
Growth Lead at Sanctus, a start-up company on a mission to get people to work on their mental health the same way they do their physical health. Sanctus create a version of the gym within the workplace which takes on the form of one-on-one coaching.

Madeleine Evans
The Founder and CEO of Levell, a wellbeing management system that integrates wellbeing into work culture. Levell’s mission is to eliminate burnout by helping people use data on the drivers of long-term satisfaction and sustainable performance to make their lives better.

With Forbes ranking the events industry as the fourth most stressful industry in which to work, at HeadBox we are passionate about encouraging the conversation around mental health in the workplace. Mental health is about everyone, not just the one in four that may experience an illness, and by having open discussions about its prevalence, we hope to encourage more businesses and more individuals to join the conversation around mental health in the workplace.
To listen to the live recording of the event, subscribe to the HeadBox podcast on iTunes and Spotify.

Why do you think it’s so important to have conversations like this about mental well-being in the workplace?

Petra: Our mental health issues are on the rise and that’s going to affect us in the workplace. I want to live in a world where we can bring our whole selves to work because the evidence suggests that that’s where we can be more productive. Mental health is about all of us, not just the one in four that may experience an illness. It’s why we can’t ignore it anymore. 
Ann-Marie: What do you believe the benefits are for an organisation to have a really open dialogue and conversation around speaking about mental health, stress and burnout?
George: Some businesses don’t want to open up the mental health conversation in the workplace but these conversations are happening in your workplace, whether you want them to or not. 
These conversations can be uncontained or they can spin into something more serious like stress or burn out or companies can acknowledge the conversations, work with them, embrace them, and almost supercharge them and help people to become the best people they can be. So why not embrace them and make them the best kind of conversations that they could be?

Do you think addressing mental health happens from the ground up or does it need to happen from the top down?

Madeleine: Both top down and bottom up are necessary levers but ultimately, it’s going to be an individual taking action. 
It is a huge opportunity for an individual to step forward and set the tone and be a role model for others about how you understand what you need. I would say just because having the leader ultimately give the full permission and mandate for people to either talk about their mental health or do the things you need for your well-being, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start something from the bottom.

What kind of impact do you think that an environment has on somebody’s mental health?

George: It’s obviously going to have a big impact. What people tend to do is they take it on themselves or they go into that shadow a little bit.
Some people might end up working harder or stress levels rise and then people don’t talk about those things. I think that’s when maybe they withdraw a little bit in connection with other people and they’re not being honest about how they really feel. They start to wear masks and have got of two lives going on and that’s when everything really just starts to build.

What are the blockers? What do you see as being the reason that big businesses don’t want to get stuck into this subject?

George: I think a lot of is budget but then there’s always a step before that. 
I think businesses are trying to prove the archive of mental health so that they’re stuck in the figures and numbers, which obviously is important. But people haven’t yet seen that mental health is just as important as physical health. 
If they open the mental health conversation, it’s like opening Pandora’s box and suddenly everyone’s going to be depressed or anxious, but obviously, it doesn’t work like that. There’s a lack of education and awareness even before that, then there’s a bit of fear and then there’s not the budget and it all impacts each other.

What is the one improvement that you want to see happen within this field over the next five to 10 years?

George: I want to see us get to the point where companies are investing in mental health because they know it’s the right thing to do. 
I look at physical health at the moment and a lot of gym passes are given out. Companies measure the ROI of the gym but they’re not weighing their employees every day or checking for muscle growth. They just know it’s a good thing to do. I want us to get to that point with mental health.
Madeleine: This is more for humanity in general, but that trend of individuals taking back control, whether that’s from what does my organisation say that I need to be doing or what does society say I need to be doing or what is this technology app telling me that I’d be doing? We are not yet feeling confident and psychological and visually confident and saying it’s OK to take the time to get what you need. If everyone were to feel like that I think that would make a huge change in the world. 
Petra: I want people who are being interviewed to be asking the panel who’s interviewing them what mental health infrastructure they have in their business. 
I also want to see more men talking about mental health. That’s not to say women are doing it all correctly, but there are still fewer men talking about mental health. That will come from open conversations, individuals taking ownership of mental health and senior leaders knowing that if they don’t do it, they’re not going to retain talent and they’re going to have long term absence.
You can listen to the entirety of the talk on the Future of Wellbeing in the Workplace on the HeadBox Connect podcast, available on iTunes and Spotify.
To learn more about HeadBox Connect and listen to our live recording from our panels on ‘A Guide to Running Sustainable Events’ and ‘Female Blueprint for Success’ click here.

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