The 2018 Mad World Summit was not “just another HR event on why mental health matters”. CEOs, entrepreneurs, psychologists, bankers, consultants, and tech and data engineers joined hundreds of others to discuss how organisations move from talking about mentally healthy workplaces to creating them.
The classy venue in London showed everyone stepping through those doors that mental health is big business across all industries and sectors. It does not have to be spoken about in hushed tones with heads bowed in shame any more. There were green ribbons everywhere to say ‘This is Me’ and I am proud to be here, whatever my journey.
Like all big corporate events, there was an exhibition to allow sponsors to showcase their services. The complimentary snacks, drinks and protein balls meant the sales reps did not have to rely on chocolate and cakes to get your attention. Nor did they give you the sales spiel when you expressed an interest in their organisations, meaning you could have a friendly chat with no strings attached. My favourite stands were:
After three years of writing HR blogs I was thrilled to receive a Mad World press pass. I spoke to Professor Sir Cary Cooper about the dreaded email culture which fuels the ‘always on’ threat to wellbeing; why staying in work is often the best option for people suffering from anxiety; and how the fear of unemployment is increasing presenteeism and leaveism and stopping people experiencing stress from asking their employer for help.
I spoke to Binumi Pro founder Anthony Copping about the increased popularity of video communication in organisations. An insightful conversation with Peter Kelly, Senior Psychologist from HSE about health and wellbeing in the public sector. Finally, I met with David Tolley to discuss why men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide.
Mad World filmed and streamed all the sessions to provide a full conference experience. My favourite sessions were:
What made me think
The words "permission" and "licence" kept popping up in talks to remind everyone that business leaders are responsible for making it okay to discuss mental health at work. This is true, but the message from the top can get lost in translation as it moves down the management line. Managers have to explain to distressed employees the organisation is here to help them do their jobs so let’s find a way to make that happen. The dilemma is how to have that conversation in a compassionate and supportive manner while staying focused on performance.
I am a big fan of using health and wellbeing analytics to measure the return on investment for investing in employee wellbeing. Organisations need to know how to extract meaning from the numbers, so they can celebrate success and address problems. Will business leaders intervene if teams have high productivity but low wellbeing and engagement? If they don’t it sends the message that mental health isn’t a boardroom priority. Data provides the platform, leaders have to jump off it into the corporate hot spots to ensure people have good working conditions and supportive managers to perform at their best.
Takeaways to drop into conversations at work
I felt I belonged at the Mad World Summit and want to be part of the movement that ends the stigma of mental health in the workplace. To do that I have to keep the conversation going. Here are a few dilemmas playing on my mind:
Finally, I would like to commend Notion PR for doing such a great job in publicising Mad World and managing the media activity on the day.
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