This was an exciting and informative event for CIPD’s first wellbeing conference with some good insights and challenges to how we view, manage and support wellbeing. Here is our review of the conference identifying key learning and things to reflect/apply.

We were delighted to be one of the sponsors for this conference at a time when we have launched our wellbeing section and recognising that we need that guidance to be more self-aware and to engage with our continuing professional development. The event overall had good engagement and support, with good chats and collaborations from the attendees, who shared knowledge and resources.  

Key speakers and topics

An enthusiastic and engaging opening keynote was led by David Beeney – Founder of Breaking the Silence: Creating a kinder culture and a wider holistic approach to drive your business performance, particularly during challenging times. David gave a personal and heartfelt introduction that really established the need for awareness of ours and others wellbeing in the workplace.

Jonny Gifford, Senior Advisor, Organisational Behaviour CIPD, hosted the event, keeping us informed, engaged and motivated throughout.  

Key Learnings: having spent 36 years avoiding public speaking, David reminded us it’s ok not to be ok.  It’s ok to share your weaknesses, and you can find strength in knowing that when you share your vulnerabilities you keep addressing them. He advised using the language of numbers out of 10 to gauge how people are feeling, and to remember that employees need more communication not less. By creating a kinder culture, everyone wins.

Things to reflect and apply: Try to start up conversations at work, ask how people are, share vulnerabilities, don’t ask about mental health, ask about how they are feeling on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Session 2 – Becky Thoseby – Head of Wellbeing at the Ministry of Justice Becky discussed how to evaluate staff wellness to design a tailor-made wellbeing programme for your organisation. This got us thinking about our current practice and how we make it fit for our teams.

Key Learning : To evaluate your wellbeing programme, it’s important to ask yourself:

What does wellbeing mean in your organisation?

What is your wellbeing strategy looking to achieve?

What means of data collection and analysis do you have at your disposal?

Who is the audience of this data and how do they like to receive information? 

Things to reflect and apply: Ministry of Justice have plans for a data informed approach to employee wellbeing, which takes a person-centred approach to wellbeing for their 70,000 prisons and courts.  Get to grips with what’s important in your organisation and how you will progress a wellbeing initiative. 

Session 3: Wellbeing quick wins – designing a wellbeing strategy that shows proven effectiveness from the outset was a panel discussion with:

Tali Shlomo – Head of inclusion and wellbeing – Shearman and Sterling

Sabrina Robinson – Wellbeing Lead – Essex county Council

Chris Maddren – Benefits Specialist HSBC

Key Learning:  This was a lively discussion with wellbeing strategies needing to focus on long term growth, in order to secure buy-in it is often important to build in quick wins that offer immediate benefits and can be implemented rapidly. This panel discussion covered simple ways to improve mental health, promote psychological safety and ensure your people are happy at work. They shared some good example of easy-to-implement wellbeing initiatives that will secure buy-in from employees and teams without breaking the bank. Liked the use of QR code to get instant feedback from the audience about how they were feeling.

Things to reflect and apply: How are you going to measure the initial success of your wellbeing strategy to prove ROI?

Use of QR code available free through Form Score:

Session 4:  Avoiding burnout – How to spot the signs and act early.   Karen Smith, Head of Workplace Wellbeing, UCL.

Key Learning: Explained some really good practice within UCL that include; working smarter initiatives, protected time for thinking, core business in core hours, connecting, catching up and checking in and my favourite snippet of advice – think outside the inbox.

Things to reflect and apply:   How are you going to change those habits to ensure you don’t get burnout? What small initiatives can you start to introduce?

Quote from Geogie Starkey – Marketing Consultant that attended the conference:

“The CIPD Wellbeing Conference was a fantastic day with a great mix of speakers from different backgrounds offering a healthy perspective on how to look after your wellbeing as well as how to successfully implement a wellbeing programme in the workplace. I felt empowered and enthused at the close of the day, a particular highlight was David Beeney’s person centred approach to wellbeing and how simple everyday questions can give you so much insight into a colleagues wellbeing. It helped identify my own areas for development as well as generate ideas for the people I work with. Small changes can go a long way in improving employee wellbeing and there has never been a better time to start making changes.”

Session 5:  The ‘squeezed middle’ – Investing in line managers to improve employee wellbeing. This was presented by: Rachel Suff, Senior Policy Advisor, Employment Relations, CIPD                                                Sian Evans, Head of Leadership and Development, Simply Health

Key Learning:  This session related to the CIPD’s latest wellbeing survey, conducted in partnership with Simply Health.  It looked at the unmanageable workloads and management style being by far the most common causes of work-related stress, both of which fall within a line manager’s remit. However, pressures from above place managers in a ‘squeezed-middle’ position, trying to balance their team’s workloads with the demands of the business. Some interesting activity with Simply Health working with former athlete Sally Gunnel to establish eight key areas of wellbeing. Simply Health have launched an internal app, so their employees can track their sleep, weight and overall wellbeing. 

Things to reflect/apply: Take part in the survey which is open until 31 December 2020 and you will help to develop their work for the profession and to inform government decisions.

Session 6: Combating Digital presenteeism – Gemma Dale – Lecturer and Remote Working Specialist. Liverpool John Moores University 

Key Learning:  Working from home on a permanent basis can make it difficult to ‘switch off’, with employees feeling the pressure to be constantly visible and available online. Presenteeism goes up when there are lots of fears around job security. Understanding what it means to be on zoom every day and tied to our screens. Role models are key people in organisations – have leaders who continuously demonstrate good practice, take the lead and need to step up.

Things to reflect and apply:   Be aware of the possible wellbeing implications of the pandemic and promote wellbeing activities. It could be time to re-think your performance  management.

Session 7: Wellbeing at times of crisis – Lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic – Panel Discussion 

Jane Miller – Head of wellbeing and inclusion NHS Bus Services Authority Paul Barrett Head of wellbeing Bank Workers charity Sonya Wallbank – Director of HR & OD Department of Health & Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement

Key learning:  Times of crisis and disruption have severe wellbeing implications for all members of an organisation, making it all the more important for organisations to take a proactive approach to wellbeing. This was an interesting panel discussing on how they have adapted existing wellbeing programmes, developing an agile response to a crisis that places employee wellbeing at the heart of all decisions made as well as maintaining morale and resilience.

Things to reflect/apply: Reflect on this year and figure out what has worked well and where can you make improvements and even pivot. Consider the big uptake on digital and extend webinars to get a wider reach.

Session 8: Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health, King’s College London

Keynote: What does science tell us about keeping people mentally healthy at work?

Key Learning: Mental health is a complex subject and addressing it in the workplace requires an evidence-based approach that is grounded in scientific principles.  This session gave a lot of depth to the area of wellbeing and the psychological impact. Neil mentioned the MMPI. Which is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the most widely used and researched clinical assessment tool used by mental health professionals to help diagnose mental health disorders. 

Things to reflect and apply: Consider psychological PPE – planning to manager stress, what is helpful to encourage people to look at what has worked for them.

Quote from attendee Dr Haitham Alawi CIPD External Quality Adviser:

“Wellbeing conference was a great opportunity to learn how to avoid being burned out in an uncertain, and difficult era (Cov-19 pandemic). It was a valuable time that I had to learn strategies of wellbeing at work for myself, employees, employers, and governments. Big Thank you to CIPD for making this event happen.”

Closing keynote: Build back responsibly to drive sustainable employee wellbeing. Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community

Key Learning: Make best use of this crucial moment in history business in the community – oldest and largest business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business. Build back responsibly lessons learned:

  • Wellbeing and the environment have come to the fore.
  • Elevation of mental health on a par with physical health and safety
  • The importance of psychological safety and inclusion
  • People first – kindness, empathetic and compassionate leadership
  • Responsible businesses stepping up
  • Taking remote and flexible work to scale
  • Cleaner environment / connecting with nature
  • Time with family, accommodating caring responsibility
  • Using tech for good

Explained Workwell model – an evidence-based framework for embedding health and wellbeing into organisational culture. 

Things to reflect/apply:  Remember what gets measured gets managed and so reflect on the lessons learnt and how we can continue to develop the positivity and build back responsibly.

Final Conference Summary

As I hope you will agree, this was a great wellbeing conference with insights, knowledge sharing, supporting examples, practical experiences and best practice.  Thanks to the organisers Haymarket Media Group and in particular Liam Huse for his enthusiasm and support.

To close the conference Jonny Gifford, gave a great review and summary:

  • Share your vulnerabilities
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Better to think 1 and 1 as we all have wellbeing needs
  • Web search negative images – be more positive using more current  and relevant
  • Use the right words to discuss wellbeing and ask how feeling on a scale of 1 to 10
  • Sleep too important to compromise. Don’t stay up too late
  • You are not alone 
  • Bad at planning – helps to prepare in advance. Psychological debrief.
  • Let’s focus on what people need to do their work 

Chat resources and some key links

The chat and engagement at the conference was dynamic with information and resources being shared, here are some you may find useful:

Line Manager resources:

Mental health awareness training: 

Psychological health consultancy:

Mental Health at work 2020 report:

CPD Hub and Wellbeing Wheel

Instant feedback on how you are feeling:

Thanks for reading, please do share this blog if you’ve enjoyed reading it and let us know if you have any further insights, especially if you attended.  Should you have anything you want to ask us, please do get in touch here.

Check out our Knowledge Base for further resources and support with our Ask The Experts or stay informed on our social channels via TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.

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