We launched 100% Human at Work in Australia earlier this year and we’re really excited to have grown the network to such a degree that there is now a demand for regional hubs.

With support from our local partners, Perpetual and Talent International, we brought together 90 business leaders to discuss the need for businesses to start thinking of employees as human beings rather than resources – and the momentum is ongoing.

Read: Why better mental health is better for business

At the end of October, Perpetual hosted over 30 participants to share insights and learn from each other about the importance of mental wellbeing programmes in the workplace. Sue Langley, Founder & CEO of Langley Group, is a speaker, master trainer, global business consultant and leading advisor on the practical workplace applications of neuroscience, emotional intelligence and positive psychology. Sue and her team work with a number of global organisations to bring these key themes to life – transforming culture around positive, strength based approaches, where organisations really deliver on something bigger than themselves. 

Many of the 100% Human at Work members have excellent wellbeing initiatives to talk about, including yoga and massage, sit-and-stand motion desks, meditation and mindfulness classes, communication channels dedicated to sharing of stories – the list goes on. Sue explains the importance of wellbeing programmes as ongoing and holistic, and points to neuroscience studies that show us that when learning, the brain needs the same message from many different angles before it actually hears what is being said and takes action.

Incorporating both awareness and action regarding psychosocial factors is essential for genuinely healthy workplaces.

Sue reminded me that although many people think of mental wellbeing as a continuous state, of course it’s not. We all have ups and downs and feel better and worse on different days. There are people with diagnosed mental health conditions who are super high functioning, and then there are people who don’t have a diagnosed condition who just cannot face getting out of bed some days. These people may not be engaged – they often don’t enjoy work and perhaps don’t have a sense of meaning.

In the UK, only eight per cent of employed Britons are engaged at work. eight per cent! Of the remaining 92 per cent, 73 per cent are ‘not engaged’ (psychologically unattached and putting little energy or passion into their work) and 19 per cent are ‘actively disengaged’ (resentful that their workplace needs aren’t being met and likely to be acting out their unhappiness on the job). When we’re really unhappy at work, our mental wellness is suffering and this is bad for business. That’s why it’s so important that wellbeing programmes address the full culture of an organisation, rather than offering quick fixes.

Sue is the expert, but it makes perfect sense to me. If you work in a culture of high stress, anxiety, or even fear, unfortunately all the massages in the world aren’t going to help your overall wellbeing. Sue and her team work with organisations to address the underlying nature of the culture, addressing employee mental wellbeing head on with the aim of allowing employees to be their best selves at work, as often as possible.  

Kim Ward, from from KPMG’s Insurance Claims and Workplace Health team, has 20 years of experience in the allied health sector  and she shared her insights at the event. Kim led a discussion around the emerging understanding of the psychological factors causing distress and impacting wellbeing in the workplace. Psychosocial factors include our beliefs and opinions, social context, our circumstances and how we interact with all of these aspects.

It’s so important that wellbeing programmes address the full culture of an organisation, rather than offering quick fixes.

Kim pointed out that at work, we can’t fully separate ourselves from our life outside of work, and so our psychosocial factors can have an enormous impact. Distress at home through family, relationship, financial or other difficulties reasonably increase stress levels in the workplace as well. Having appropriate responses to difficult circumstances can result in transient ‘psychosocial ill health’ rather than a diagnosable psychopathology. As such, she believes that incorporating both awareness and action regarding psychosocial factors is essential for genuinely healthy workplaces. Her perspective is that interventions that provide practical assistance may be most beneficial for people in distress and may facilitate better workplace mental health outcomes.

At the think tank, the network members were keen to explore opportunities to put some of these ideas into practice in their own organisations – including building better leaders equipped to lead more resilient teams, unlimited annual leave policies and summer hours. I can’t wait to see what they can achieve.

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