#wtrends liveblog1: dangling carrots

Workplace Trends events always have a slightly academic leaning, and so we come to expect a rational dialectic, supported by credible research. Until my talk at the end of the day, at least. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say. Today’s line-up promises a lot of data (and talk about data) underpinning our approach to workplace wellbeing such that we are generally happy in our labours and stand a chance of producing something of worth. Excusing organisational and management culture for a moment, which have a weighty say in the matter.

That’s all without me trusting myself to know that it’s probably good to stand up, exercise, eat healthy food most of the time, drink water, find a quiet spot when I need to focus, and get some fresh air during the working day, all for the benefit of my own health, sanity and output. The mind is a wonderful thing for letting you know when something’s right, or something’s wrong. We just have to trust it a little more. Its the original wearable.

So we’re looking for simplicity, clarity, common sense, practical advice, attainable solutions, action-orientation. You know, all the things you would expect from a doctoral thesis.

And we’re in a noisy, stuffy room where we can’t hear much, so living the problem.

Workplace wellbeing? Alexi Marmot urged us to consider the Doha stadium construction for starters, with an average two fatalities a day. Positive mood from the caffeinated networking, crushed. But fifteen minutes in, and we’re into stress and musculoskeletal complaints more familiar to the assembled. Its “health”, Alexi offered, the definition that captures it all – wellbeing is a misnomer, yet one that the workplace community has commandeered. For all those present with the eyesight of a fly, lots of little tables and charts to support this, and references to various reports and studies, and a lot of other peoples’ work. We even had a picture of a man eating a pasty which brought back fond memories of the irony of Ginsters presenting on wellbeing at #wtrends a few years ago. But Alexi, with all that intellectual wealth, we would love to have learned what you think about it – other than “don’t panic”.

Its sometimes tough to separate insight from a pitch, so Bridget Juniper avoided the challenge with an intro to Work and Well-Being Limited. Bridget offered one overriding point – it’s the employee’s interpretation of an event that prevails. Ergo, if I feel stressed, then I am. We may wish to reach for our well-thumbed copy of Bertrand Russell’s “Problems of Philosophy” when pondering the proposition. Refreshingly wellbeing at WWBL is seen as a broad-based issue, but survey results saw the physical workplace and its amenities as a key factor in addressing wellbeing – like putting the vending machines eight floors away for when your people have a ten minute break. So….a better thought-out workplace, focussed on people, makes a positive contribution to wellbeing. If that a surprise to you, it’s a worry – but it needs saying, and needs responding to.

Its data, data, data with Tom Helliwell, revolving around varyingly supersize proportions of people not doing much at all, and lots more slide-based eye muscle training. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, take breaks, see the family = feel better, take less time off, be more productive. The action point – incentivise: rewards for health. The real meaning of dangling a carrot. It’s a sad place to be starting from, but we need to start somewhere, to create a momentum. Tom left us with the killer question – whose responsibility is workplace wellbeing? We’ll come back to that later.

As we break for buns, croissants, biscuits, and cakes – getting the picture? – we’re mulling over the nub of the wellbeing issue. We intuitively know when something’s right, and when something’s wrong, but we justify it away. We need to trust ourselves a little more.



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