“It is predicted that workplace absence will cost UK businesses an estimated £21bn in lost productivity by 2020.”
This is the statistic EJ Packe, MD of entrepreneur community, The Supper Club, used to open Making Wellbeing Work. This seminar, hosted in partnership with AXA PPP healthcare, presented practical tips for workplace wellbeing from a panelist of entrepreneurs and experts.
We start the discussion with a keynote from Liz Earle MBE. A global brand pioneer with over 30 years in the health and wellness business and founder of Liz Earle Wellbeing.
Liz spoke about the importance of establishing a business with purpose and hiring the right team to achieve it.
“Having a purpose driven business builds resilience. We’re facing huge times of change and we’ve never needed resilience more. When I hire people I look at attitude over mindset or experience.”
Liz went on to explain how she looks after the wellbeing of her team. This includes wellbeing Wednesdays, pilates, shared lunches and a flexible working.
“I love agile working. So do my team. I don’t want them to have a horrid commute in to the studio. If you trust them enough to pay them you need to trust them enough to work from home flexibly.”
It’s not all about your team though. It’s important as a leader to focus on your wellbeing. Whilst 8am might seem a little early to be talking about your guts, Liz says it’s an important asset. Business leaders need to be able to trust a ‘gut instinct’ and for that they need it to be healthy. She suggests adding fermented foods into your diet, such as kefir and sauerkraut.
After the audience had finished googling kefir, we headed into the first panel. The most important takeaway from this session was that every team is different. One yoga class does not fit all.
Alex Malcolm, founder and MD of Jacada travel, spoke about how he meets the varying needs of his team. Alex practices mindfulness and offers the same to his team. “When you take that time off you can make better decisions, listen better. You become more approachable.” But, he understands meditation isn’t for everyone. Jacada also offers their staff improvisation classes to help them switch off.
Harry Hugo, founder of Goat, the youngest panelist aged 24 put more emphasis of keeping his global team connected to each other and the senior team. “We’re really reflective about what we do. We vlog every day. We show the world what we do. It makes the global business be a part of something and connected.”
Eugene Farrell, Mental Health Lead at AXA PPP healthcare, seconded this stating that, “we’re humans. We’re programmed to be connected. We need that. We need to be in the moment. Organisations need to enjoy it together.”
In the second panel the themes of leading from the top and building a culture are continued.
Praveen Vijh, Co-founder of Eat Natural says, “The purpose is to grow the business but also develop our wellbeing. Our culture feels like coming home. We build communities within our workplace and with our customers.”
But what practical advice can our panelists offer the audience?
“I took a sabbatical. It was important I stepped back and that they (staff) saw I had.” Says Monique Drummond, founder of Relish. “Look at the holiday entitlement of your team. Make sure they’re taking two weeks off consistently so they can turn-off.” Monique offers her staff more than just holiday support. “We give everyone on the team an early in or late off, twice a month. They can use it however they want it. It’s a chance for ‘me’ time.”
So what about advice for the wellness of business leaders themselves? Leon Taylor, motivational mentor and Olympic medallist spoke on this:
“Move more. Not necessarily exercise, but getting up and moving. You need to disrupt the build-up of stress.”
Jan Vickery, head of MSK Services at AXA PPP healthcare agreed. “You need to get up from your desk. No one regrets going for a walk.”
EJ asked Leon how we can stop stressful habits forming. “Self awareness is key. You need a little help from your friends. We can be blinded by goals and ambitions. Give people permission to step in and give us a red card.”
This being open and asking for help is something Dan Kirby, founder of TechDept and not for profit festival Get Ahead, firmly believes in.
“I’m open about my health and mental health. I’ve started saying to my staff, ‘I’m taking a mental health day.’ Before I might say that I had a cold. Now I tell them the truth and allow them to do the same.”
Dan is clearly passionate about founders looking after their health and setting a good example to their team.
“Chronic stress pushes down your immune system and makes you ill. As an entrepreneur I have to look after myself for the sake of the company. If you’re ‘crushing’ it and ‘hustling’ and ‘winning’ at business. You’ll start losing as a human.As an entrepreneur question what success is and then look at how to look after yourself to get there.”
As the seminar closes and the audience gather to swap sauerkraut recipes, one key take-away is clear. Wellbeing at work is more than yoga and fruit bowls. It is a tried and tested business strategy that can be profitable as well as philanthropic.
Find out more about The Supper Club and AXA PPP healthcare’s Growth Leader series here.