21st October 2021
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The global pandemic has propelled employee mental health and wellbeing to the top of business agendas. Now let’s keep it there. 

“If you care about the mental health and wellbeing of your people and you care about the future of your business, join us – in-person - for our fourth annual Summit”.

Claire Farrow, Partner & Global Head of Content, Make A Difference Media.

MAD World stands for Make A Difference. Now in its fourth year, the MAD World Summit has become the global go-to solutions-focused conference and exhibition dedicated to turning talk into action; creating cultures of care and embedding mental health and wellbeing as a strategic business priority.


Whether you’re just getting started, or you’re looking for ways to build on and bolster your mental, physical, financial or social wellbeing programmes, it’s a day packed with insight, inspiration and the chance to find the answers to your questions with: 

  • 4 tracks of case studies and panel discussions
  • 25 roundtables and 10 workshops.
  • 3 keynote panels
  • 40 suppliers of work culture, mental health and wellbeing solutions under one roof

Key topics we’ll be addressing include:

  • Why workplace mental health and wellbeing matters more than ever and what employers can do about it
  • Dealing with Long-COVID and post-pandemic PTSD
  • Realistic strategies for meeting the increasing demand for a personalised approach to wellbeing support
  • Proactive, preventative workplace wellbeing programmes
  • Equipping managers with the skills to support wellbeing in the new hybrid world of work
  • Supporting the wellbeing of neurodiverse colleagues
  • Data driven wellbeing – why measurement matters
  • Seamlessly integrating wellbeing with diversity and inclusion
  • TechTalking: finding the right digital mental health and wellbeing solution for your organisation
  • Making the most of peer-to-peer networks
  • Engaging the hard to reach with mental health and wellbeing programmes
  • Best practice in financial wellbeing

Find out more here.

2019 Summit Highlights

The BBC attended Mad World - Hear their interviews here.

We'll Be Sharing


Meet the people developing the most progressive approaches to workplace culture,mental health and wellbeing


Share knowledge in real-time with our cross-sector, cross-function network of like-minded speakers, exhibitors and attendees.


Tell your colleagues and book a group pass. Get practical insights to take back and adapt to your organisation.

Latest Speakers

Elisha London
Founder, United for Global Mental Health

Vice President Health and Wellbeing/Chief Medical Officer

Dr Shaun Davis
Global Director, Compliance & Sustainability

Geoff McDonald
Global Advocate, Campaigner and Consultant for Mental Health in the Workplace (previously Global VP HR, Unilever)

Julie Page ACII
Chief Executive Officer

Gary Raucher
Executive Vice President

Dr Brendon Stubbs, PhD
Global leader and world highest cited researcher investigating physical activity and mental health

Amanda Mackenzie OBE
Chief Executive

Expert Adviser on Health and Work to NHS Improvement and Public Health England and Chair, Ageing Better

Estelle Hollingsworth
Chief People Officer

Dr Joanna Abeyie MBE
Non-Executive Director – Investors in People and Founder – Blue Moon

Lee McNamara
Group Head of Internal Communications & Culture, DFS Group

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Latest Mad World News

Nearly half of manual and semi-skilled manufacturing workers in the UK believe their employer is putting profits before people, according to a major new study. The survey was carried out by YouGov on behalf of global workplace safety company A-SAFE.

Across all sectors, 37% agreed that their employers focus more on making money than keeping people safe, but that was 9 percentage points higher for those in manufacturing. Over one in ten from the sector who took part in the survey also said they feared for their safety every day at work.

2,019 manual and semi-skilled workers from across the UK were questioned for the research. Among them were workers from the manufacturing sector, who had the following responses:

  • 45% believe that profits are put before people in terms of ensuring the right health and safety measures are in place where they work. This is compared to the all-sector average of 37%
  • 39% say the focus on creating COVID-secure environments has led to the neglect of other health and safety measures. Compared to 33% across all sectors
  • 30% do not think their employer is dedicated to keeping them safe and they do not trust them to protect workers. Compared to 24% across all sectors
  • Taken together, this leads to just over one in ten (11%) of those surveyed saying they go to work every day not feeling safe

Attitudes Shifting Towards Health And Safety

COVID-19 has impacted trust in manufacturing bosses.

A-SAFE commissioned the survey as part of a launch of its worldwide campaign to highlight the risks being taken in some factories, warehouses and distribution centres. It also wants to highlight the important safety measures that can be put in place to reduce them.

The research also found a perception that the focus on COVID-security has compromised other measures designed to keep workers safe.

Dr. Karen McDonnell, occupational health and safety policy adviser, head of Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Scotland, comments: “[A-SAFE’s] research highlights that during the pandemic, there has been a shift in attitudes towards health and safety—businesses faced pressure to be COVID-secure and continue to operate. It also shows the worries, fears and anxieties that many of us face in a working environment.

“The insight this research provides will help businesses and government bodies understand the need to follow clear guidelines for businesses in terms of health and safety.”

Time To Highlight Hidden Cost of Health And Safety Failures

Analysis of the official  Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013 data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) shows that, on average, at least 136 workers have received fatal injuries in the workplace each year since 2016 with 70,000 receiving injuries. One in five deaths are due to being struck by a moving vehicle.

It is feared that many non-fatal injuries go unreported by workplaces. Those companies choose not to notify the HSE of accidents and near misses under RIDDOR.

James Smith, co-owner and director of A-SAFE says: “I know that for some manufacturing businesses health and safety becomes a chore with red-tape, ticking boxes and endless bureaucracy. But when there are failures, the results can be catastrophic—lives can be changed and families devastated in an instant. It is time this hidden cost of going to work is highlighted…”

Manufacturing Workers Distrust Bosses Due to Health and Safety Concerns

Financial independence and stability can make a big difference to the wellbeing of individuals. Being financially healthy can improve physical health, mental health and overall resilience.

However, many employees are facing systemic inequalities that leave them stumbling when it comes to their finances.

Aon’s recent Rising Resilient report stated there are three key indicators to workforce resilience: a sense of security at work, belonging, and the adaptability and motivation to reach your full potential, all of which can be affected by financial stability – or instability.

For women in particular, there is a worrying level of disparity compared with men’s finances.

The gender pay gap, which has been widely reported, means that on average women earn less than men. Alongside this disparity comes other consequences for their financial status.

Women are also less likely to have money left over from their monthly pay check to save, according to Aon’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace white paper. This lack of ability to save impacts all of those indicators of resilience – it can minimise that sense of security and adaptability that comes with feeling financially secure.

In terms of long-term savings and investments, women are more likely to remain at the default pension savings level, and are less likely to have a target for how much money they will need to retire. However, women also tend to live longer than men, which means they need more money to retire. They therefore are 60% more likely than men to expect to never be able to afford retirement.

Recent years have also seen the added pressure of the ‘sandwich generation’, where people have both aging parents and children to care for.

Around 2.6 million people gave up work altogether to provide care for a dependent last year, up 12% from 2013, according to Aon’s The Aging Population report.

While this is not solely a subject for females, women are more likely to take breaks in their careers than men due to family responsibilities, and therefore are more likely to face the brunt of this, especially. in financial terms.

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably heightened this disparity between men and women, with women losing 64 million jobs in 2020, which is 5% overall, compared to 3.9% of jobs lost for men.

With all these issues combined, financial wellbeing seems like a steep uphill climb for women.

But it’s not just women who face systemic financial disparities. Other groups face similar issues, including those from different cultures and religions, such as those following Islamic faith. Shariah law, which is followed by those practicing Islam, prohibits earning interest and investing in funds which derive a profit from the sale of alcohol, tobacco or gambling.

This often makes the standard pension investment funds inaccessible for anyone following this law. While there are some Shariah-compliant funds, many pension schemes do not offer any, meaning financial independence and planning for the future becomes that bit harder for these employees.

However, employers can help. They have an opportunity to help plug these gaps. To demand a solution which does not exclude those on the basis of faith, or to provide a pension outcome tool, for example, to help employees plan for their financial future.

Studies have shown that by maintaining strong inclusion and diversity practices, companies have around 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee, and they are better at attracting and retaining talent, with 80% of women, 80% of black, 75% of Asian and 80% of Latino employees stating that diversity is important to them when making employment decisions. This proves that, aside from being a positive thing to do for communities, there is also commercial value for the company in catering to diverse groups and not just focusing on the majority.

How to plug the gap

Many HR procedures, policies and systems were designed a long time ago to support the needs of a standard majority. But the workplace has changed so much over the past 100 years, and therefore employers need to update and adapt policies to reflect that.

The workforce today includes different generations, sexual orientations, religions, ethnicities and cultures. Each individual has their own needs in regards to financial wellbeing and in order to ensure resilience across the organisation, employers need to understand these needs and make sure they cater to them.

Employers should be looking at the composition of the current workforce, the diverse needs of individuals and try and spot any systemic biases or inhibitory processes. Can policies be changed to become more adaptable for the individual, or can financial education and prediction tools be used to accommodate all employees for planning their best financial future?

But beyond catering to the organisation and its employees now, teams also need to be looking towards the future, to pre-empt the longitudinal employee wellbeing needs – or in other words their long-term evolving needs.

The workforce is not the same now as it was 20 years ago, nor will it be the same in 20 years’ time. Employers should be pre-empting that change and trying to understand the needs of their employees in the future, whether that be caring responsibilities, or a need to change their pension investment now in order to be able to afford retirement later.

Starting to cater to the needs of individuals instead of the majority will build the resilience of both employees and the company, and will help more to thrive in the long term.

Income Disparity: Why Employers Should Be Aware Of The Gap And How To Plug It

Arguably fuelled by IBM’s Deep Blue Program, the hype around artificial intelligence (AI) being used in the workplace has increased exponentially. But while enthusiasm for AI is driven by a thirst for learning, what is the ethical cost?

What Is The Definition Of Artificial Intelligence?

According to The European Commission’s High-Level Expert Group on AI: “AI systems are software (and possibly also hardware) systems designed by humans that, given a complex goal, act in the physical or digital dimension by perceiving their environment through data acquisition, interpreting the collected structured or unstructured data, reasoning on the knowledge, or processing the information, derived from this data and deciding the best action(s) to take to achieve the given goal.

“AI systems can either use symbolic rules or learn a numeric model, and they can also adapt their behaviour by analysing how the environment is affected by their previous actions.”

What we’re seeing at the moment within workplaces is “creative destruction”, which is a set of organisational resources seemingly underutilised requiring mutation to revolutionise economic structure. Essentially, destroying the old and creating the new. This is where AI is coming into play.

However, present discussions are abstract at best with the AI nebulous floating through a breeze of marketing lingo preferred to the definitive technical description for the end-user. The non-machine learned algorithms and AI are harmonised accomplices with consequences to ethics, social challenges and legal dilemmas resulting in the removal of human activities at the very time they are needed most.

What Is The Current State Of Play Of App-Based Solutions?

University of Cambridge researcher, William Fleming, analysed data incorporating 26,471 employees from 128 UK employers from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey. He found that well-being apps do little to improve employees’ mental health.

In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) survey revealed 15,000 mental health apps were active and 29% focused specifically on diagnosis, support and treatment. This was before the COVID-19 pandemic, so it begs the question: how many more have been released and used since then?

A study found 278 specific mental health apps available on Apple iOS and Google Play Store, where 36.4% were updated within 100 days and 7.5% were not updated within 4 years. The tried and tested legal “rule of thumb” from the Health and Safety Executive, the UK regulator, is a “1-year date from risk assessment” which asks the question of the UK regulator: What is going on?

Could AI be a hindrance for companies?

Are Organisations Accepting or Misunderstanding Their Liability?

Approximately 17% of UK employees access Occupational Health clinicians annually, whilst employers use AI or algorithmic apps-based solutions for assessing employee well-being throughout entire organisations. However, this could make them liable from a legal standpoint.

Legislation that is designed to protect employees physical and psychological health include:

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Section 2—“duty of care”
  • Management Regs 1999—”competent person”
  • The Mental Health Act 1983—”only a clinician can assess the psychological health of an individual”
  • The Equality Act 2010

When the organisation is using an app to assess an employee’s physical or psychological health, the argument exists that this is a failure of the “duty of care” responsibility as a base requirement of a “competent person”. This is because, to date, no AI or algorithm holds the legal status of “personhood”.

When government departments use an app to assess an employee’s psychological health, they have also failed to meet the said requirement of the Mental Health Act 1983 to use a “qualified clinician”. This ultimately exposes the sub-divisional departments to GDPR or DPA2018 breaches and Human Rights Act 1998 violations.

The Mental Health Act 1983 (2007 amendment) Section 7 also defines medicinal treatment to include “nursing, psychological intervention and specialist mental health habilitation, rehabilitation and care.” If businesses or government departments are using apps to assess and analyse for the best medical treatment or action, this constitutes as an intervention by a non-legal entity.

Further, this can be seen as unlawful discrimination through the Equality Act 2010. An employee needs to be able to have access to a “competent person” instead of only receiving restricted access to a non-competent Ai or algorithmic app with no legal status.

These expectations have been in place since 1772—when the legal requirement of the personhood of human beings was set by Lord Mansfield. All the laws aforementioned define the term of “competent person” as the minimum legal standard expected.

Businesses need to realise that “tick box” exercises might deliver a cost-saving but could result in them being open to legal claims. If AI is the future norm in the workplace, there needs to be more regulation and accountability in place before it is realised.


Ian Houston is an operations professional at Disruptive Management Occupational Health—an Occupational Health company specialising in complex case management and organisational well-being structuring for companies (special interest in Covid-19 management), with over 20 years’ experience at C-suite level operations on various continents. He graduated from the University of Chester Business School with a BA (Hons) in International Business Management.

Artificial Intelligence In Occupational Therapy: Distinguishing Between Hype And Reality

Dr Richard Heron is Vice President Health and Chief Medical Officer with British Integrated energy company, BP. He is also a key speaker at the fourth annual MAD World Summit.

MAD stands for Make A Difference. The MAD World Summit is the global go-to solutions-focused event for employers dedicated to accelerating the shift from stigma to solutions, turning talk into action and moving workplace culture, mental health, and wellbeing mainstream.      

In this interview Richard gives a sneak peek of the perspective he’ll be bringing to the MAD World Summit agenda, in-person, in Central London on 21st October.

Tell us a bit about your professional background at BP. How did you come into your role looking after workplace mental health and wellbeing?

I trained as a hospital doctor, in UK and New Zealand, before specialising in Occupational Medicine. After a spell as Head of Global Safety, Health and Risk Management for AstraZeneca pharmaceuticals, I joined BP as Vice-President Health and Chief Medical Officer.

Looking after population health has always been important to me, making workplace mental health and wellbeing a very natural fit. I have always felt that we need to talk about mental health just as we do physical health – we all have it, it varies from day to day, and our working lives have a major influence over whether today and tomorrow are good days.  on mental wellbeing have amplified the important role employers can play in supporting their people and their mental health

How long has BP had a support programme for staff mental health and wellbeing? Is this a national or international programme?

Although we have had programmes in place to support mental health for many years, we have seen mental health rise up the agenda over the last three years with increasing leadership support. Our programmes are international, ranging from tools to help people identify issues early, training to improve the leadership skills , targeted guidance  and employee assistance programme access wherever we operate. 

What would you say has been the most important aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing programme (in general)?

I would say the most important aspect has been our effort to reduce stigma associated with mental health. More and more, we are making it OK to talk about mental health. This has undoubtedly been accelerated with active leadership engagement at board and executive level. When our CEO shared his own experiences in a world-wide communication, it was suddenly OK for anybody to talk about mental health and over 300 people shared their own stories on Yammer within days. 

Since COVID-19 what has been the most effective aspect of your workplace mental health and wellbeing programme?

Early on, we made every effort to continuously listen to what’s on our people’s minds, both the general and the specific. Monthly surveys, podcasts, inclusive webinars with over 10,000 people directly accessing our Leadership Team, for example. This enabled us to identify, understand the issues and respond.   On Keeping connected” webinar sessions throughout pandemic our employees can ask questions of the executive team live, further emphasising our belief that it’s OK to speak up, especially when you are not OK,

When we found that people were worried about the virus itself, we filled the gaps with dedicated information pages. When we heard concerns about childcare, education, and isolation, we were able to respond with targeted guidance and support. We anticipated that people would have sick relatives and may lose a loved one,  so we increased the availability of guidance on grief.  It is still difficult for many of us to start a conversation about mental health, so we increased our training for managers and since 2020 over 16000 employees and managers have accessed one of our mental health training sessions.

The pandemic has forced mental and physical health to the top of organisations’ agendas. Our goal is to make sure it remains a priority and becomes embedded as business as usual post-COVID-19. How can people driving this agenda within their workplaces achieve this?

Our own research shows that when leaders genuinely care about the wellbeing of their staff, business outcomes improve – safety, turnover, productivity for example.

Putting care and safety and the heart of our business has been an imperative especially during COVID.  As many organisations head into challenging economic head winds, post-COVID, we must continue to emphasise  these clear links.  At BP, we have made “care” an explicit safety leadership principle, with an expectation that  “Together we genuinely care about each other” and we show this by looking out for each other. What organisation would not want to be more successful, and safer as we emerge from COVID – when you care about mental health, you care about your business.

Is there anything you’d like to share about your participation in the opening keynote session “Workplace Mental health and wellbeing: from margins to mainstream priority” at the MAD World Summit on 21st October?

I am really looking forward to joining the session. It could not be timelier for us to demonstrate that caring about wellbeing and caring about the health of a business are inextricably linked. The human case is clear, the economic imperative is clear, let’s leave no-one in doubt that the business case is clear too.

Dr Richard Heron will be joining us as a speaker at the MAD World Summit – the global go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health, and wellbeing – taking place on 21st October. You can find out more and register here.


Keynote Profile: Richard Heron, VP Health, BP: When You Care About Mental Health You Care About Business

=September is Recovery Month—meet Fallen Angels Dance Theatre and their unique movement-based practice for people in recovery from addiction.

Relationships were put to the test during lockdown as homeschooling, working from home and ever-changing social bubbles tested not only our organisational skills and technical ability but also our patience.

But it is our relationship with alcohol that has hit the headlines this summer. Even though pubs, clubs and restaurants were closed for months during national and local lockdowns alcoholic liver deaths in England and Scotland have risen sharply and more people are reporting drinking at high-risk levels (50 units per week for a man, 35 units per week for a woman).

According to the charity FAVOR UK, recovery from addiction is never out of reach and September, known as Recovery Month celebrates all those people who are on that journey, whether it’s through rehab, psychotherapy, talking therapies or other routes.

A dance company in the northwest of England is celebrating 10 years of working with people on such a journey.  With a unique combination of ballet and contemporary dance, Fallen Angels Dance Theatre allows people to explore their recovery in a non-verbal way.

Who Is Fallen Angels Dance Theatre?

Paul Bayes Kitcher and Claire Morris of Fallen Angels Dance Theatre. Credit: Brian Slater.

Founded in 2011 by professional ballet dancer and recovering addict Paul Bayes Kitcher and dance artist Claire Morris, the company has helped more than 500 people on their journey from addiction with recovery workshops, community projects and professional performance.  Their recovery dancers have performed at the Royal Opera House in London, danced for The Queen and Paul’s story has been the subject of a BBC documentary.

Claire says: “Less than 12 years ago addiction was something hidden behind closed doors, invisible, anonymous.

“The people we work with now are proud about their recovery.”

Maybe people have become more aware of addiction in its many guises.  We all now rely on our mobile phones too much or can’t stop checking our Instagram likes.   People talk openly now about binge-watching a TV series.

Claire believes that addiction is an illness. She says: “It doesn’t discriminate and it can affect anyone from any walk of life.”

The people who participate in Paul and Claire’s workshops are from all sorts of backgrounds—a hairdresser, a research assistant and an occupational therapist.  Successes include returning to work, embracing voluntary work or becoming a peer mentor within the company.

Claire adds: “Our work is based on a progressional pathway which builds self-esteem and confidence.  Some people take years to overcome an addiction problem but others can see a difference in just six weeks and regain enough confidence to go back to work.

“In our 10 years of working with people in recovery, we have only had one person that we had to admit was not right for the group.” 

How Did Dance Help People In Recovery During Lockdown?

Example of Paradigm, a dance project by Fallen Angels Dance Theatre. Credit FADT.

Lockdown was a challenging time for people in recovery with social isolation and increased levels of anxiety so Paul and Claire moved swiftly to move their workshops online.  

While many of us were glued to our TV screens, Fallen Angels were dancing in their bedrooms, their kitchens and their living rooms, creating original, thought-provoking work.

Inspired by one of the participant’s observations of life on Zoom, Paul created Paradigm—a dance piece centred around the game of chess.

Paul says: “One of our dancers thought that our Zoom sessions looked like we were all trapped inside our own boxes—just like on a chessboard.

“This got me thinking about ballet terms that fit within a box-like “en Croix”, “en face”, “arabesque”.  We started working with upwards, downwards and diagonal movements—just like chess pieces.” 

Supported by Arts Council England and one-off grants from foundations and trusts, the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic spurred the company to develop its giving strategy to offer individuals and businesses the chance to support their work. Regular givers can become a Guardian Angel and businesses are invited to talk about collaboration.

September is an exciting time for Fallen Angels Dance Theatre.  They have appointed a patron—the film, TV and theatre producer Robert Fox—and they are about to launch their latest project which is a triptych of films based on the addict’s journey to recovery.  Transfiguration, supported by Arts Council England, is directed by Paul with a creative team that includes writer and actor Eve Steele, director John Young and film director and producer Dan Thorburn.

But the most important thing about the films is that they couldn’t have been made without the recovery dancers, the “Angels”.

Dance Company Celebrates 10 Years On The Road To Recovery

Diverse children playing with building blocks on a play mat.

Working parents across the UK are changing their work hours due to childcare costs, with the majority of women being impacted heavily.

The findings come from a survey of over 20,000 working parents backed by institutions such as Pregnant Then Screwed, Mumsnet, Gingerbread and the TUC, according to the Guardian. One-third of respondents said that their childcare bills were more expensive than their rent or mortgage—a real financial burden for families.

What Is The Impact Of Childcare When At Work?

Stresses around childcare can have an impact on mental health and progression at work.

While having access to schemes such as the “30-free-hour” childcare offering from the Government, parents are still struggling with their mental health. This is due to juggling busy schedules at work and at home and the “guilt” felt when needing to leave the office.

Rachel Beech, founder and CEO of We Are Fetching, a school-run app, describes how she felt when she was in her full-time job: “Juggling wraparound care with a full-time job was such a nightmare that I left work and built an app to enable parents to request help with the school run from their trusted friends and automatically notify the school.”

“Even workplaces that say they are flexible are often not,” she continues. “The guilt you feel as a parent when you walk out before your co-workers to do the school run never goes away.

“I have rarely left work early, but I always tried to get home by 7:00 p.m to do bath time and bedtime—this frequently meant leaving before my colleagues and logging on at 9:00 p.m. to continue working.”

Koru Kids, a childcare service, says that almost half of working mothers in the UK feel trapped in their jobs due to a lack of wrap-around care, with 48% admitting to feeling that this is preventing them from being promoted in their role. Another 45% of mothers say that they are working below their experience and pay grades to fit around school hours.

Rachel Carrell, founder and CEO, Koru Kids explains: “The results from our survey are incredibly frustrating. The school day and working hours just simply don’t add up. Clearly, something has to give, and what’s giving way is mums’ careers and livelihoods.”

Campaigner and journalist, Anna Whitehouse—also known as Mother Pukka and one of the organisations supporting the latest survey shared with the Guardian, says that mums are being asked for “mission impossible.”

“Mums are left legging it from pillar to post, from work to school and back again to paper over the cracks of a childcare system that doesn’t work,” she says. “Quite frankly we’re worn out, and [Koru Kids’ research] shows, we’re stuck. We can’t win.”

Jayne Ruff, occupational psychologist and founder, Parenting Point, says that research shows a relationship between work and home-life demands and negative outcomes: “Many of the returning mothers I support have experienced an emotional tug-of-war between wanting to build a fulfilling career and feeling they’re returning to work just to pay the childcare costs, all at a time when they’re already facing huge amounts of guilt about what this change will mean for their families.

“Research clearly tells us that a relationship exists between work and home-life demands and negative outcomes such as reduced performance, engagement, and physical and mental health, which can be anything from disrupted sleep patterns to increased risk of stress and eventual burnout.”

How Can Employers Help Parents Tackle Childcare?

Flexible working and term-time contracts could be ways to help working parents.

Aside from childcare vouchers, some companies are proactively trying to help working parents with the financial or emotional burden of childcare.

One company, N21, offers its employees fully flexible working hours so they can meet the needs of daily life, including the school-run. CEO, Neil Robbins, says this “particularly benefited” its employees, some of which had young families.

“We have recently taken this one step further and introduced unlimited annual leave for everyone because I felt it was important our people took the time off they needed throughout the year without having to worry about exceeding a set number of days,” he continues. “This gives all of our people more flexibility to take that long-awaited big family trip or to book additional days off around school holidays or family occasions when in the past they may have been more reluctant to do so.”

Kate Palmer, HR advice and consultancy director, Peninsula, believes that the pandemic led to widespread new ways of working and says that workplaces can get creative with adapting working hours and workloads to help working parents manage.

“Other ways employers can help out are subsidised childcare, increased paid or unpaid leave, allowing for time off in lieu so that time can be banked up and term-time only contracts,” she explains.

Childcare Impacting Working Culture And Career Progression, Finds Survey

After 18 months of widespread homeworking, leaders face the complex challenge of balancing employee needs and preferences alongside organisational and team priorities.  With two thirds of organisations looking to implement hybrid strategies (CIPD, 2021), it is vital that we turn our attentions to finding that ‘hybrid’ sweet spot, blending the best of both home and office-based worlds, and promoting ongoing flexibility.  

Every team will have its own quirks and nuances; however, our research has identified five common essential ingredients that support effective hybrid working and could offer a focus for those looking to navigate their organisations successfully through this transition: Building a climate of trust, showing compassion, cultivating connection, providing clarity and communicating effectively. 


Trust is critical to effective teamwork, and its role is amplified in hybrid teams where co-workers need to rely on one another with less visibility.  Without a climate of trust there is also a heightened risk that it is less safe for people to speak up, raise a new idea, ask for help, and admit a mistake without fear of judgment or negative consequences. Cultivating psychological safety within the team therefore becomes of paramount importance, not only for wellbeing but for performance.  Every individual needs to feel that they are trusted to work autonomously, that their performance is being judged on outcomes versus hours or working patterns.   They also need to feel confident to raise their head above the parapet, ask for help when needed and find ways to ensure that their own needs are met. A climate of trust is more likely when leaders prioritise the remaining four C’s of compassion, connection, clarity and communication. 

Showing COMPASSION towards yourself and others

With all the flexibility benefits that homeworking brings, it is a double-edged sword and for many, the blurred boundaries between work and personal life, and the tendency to be ‘always on’ has taken a heavy toll on employee wellbeing. In the hybrid world, many personal burdens and anxieties go unseen.   More than ever before it is imperative to lead with compassion, directed both inwards and outwards. How do we judge ourselves when we make a mistake? Do we show others kindness and understanding when they get things wrong? Increasingly research shows compassion has a role in the workplace: protecting mental health through buffering the impact of the stressors around us. 

Cultivating CONNECTION and a sense of belonging for all

Despite a myriad of tools and technologies set up to ensure consistent (or even excessive) connection to our colleagues, many feel a sense of isolation and miss the serendipity of watercooler conversations, which previously acted as a natural backdrop to our office existence.  Having missed these opportunities for an extended period of time, many people report feeling disconnected; impacting not only working relationships but also mental health and wellbeing.

In the hybrid world, there is the additional risk of an ‘us and them’ mentality – albeit often unintentional – between office-based versus homeworking colleagues.  The shared context and sense of tribe between collocated staff, who do get to enjoy regular opportunities for ad hoc chit chat and side conversations, can amplify feelings of exclusion and disconnection from those who are dispersed.  As we bring people together at different times in different ways, we need to have a dual lens on social connection: maximising opportunities for informal conversations when people are in the office but at the same time continuing to create space in the virtual space for social connection. 

Providing CLARITY and direction

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.  Our external world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, and this is challenge is amplified within remote or hybrid teams where co-workers are often dispersed and lack the implicit information, cues, and feedback that a collocated team environment provides.  Having increased freedom to work independently from home can be hugely motivating, but if you are unclear on your goals or how to access information or resources, and do not have someone to tap on the shoulder and ask – this freedom can be debilitating and lead to mistakes, duplication, and heightened anxiety. When people are depleted and struggling with their mental health, clarity over tasks and expectations can help to build their self-confidence and keep them on track. Leaders can use this transition to a new way of working as an opportunity to revisit goals and expectations to make sure that everyone is clear on their role and responsibilities.  

Driving effective COMMUNICATION

There is no shortage of tools for communicating in the hybrid world, however, our chosen mode in the moment can sometimes be haphazard, intrusive, biased towards our own preference, and/or out of keeping with the content or intention of the message. Transitioning to hybrid working, even if team members are continuing in the same jobs, requires a fresh look at the way they communicate – with one another and with wider stakeholders.  Blindly relying on old ways or defaulting to individual styles and preferences can become a huge source of conflict within a hybrid team. Reviewing how you communicate together as a team to consider whether you have the right balance of email, phone, instant chat, video calls, in-person meets etc. and identifying common communication challenges and their root cause(s) is likely to improve effectiveness and wellbeing.

Taking time to agree a common set of ground rules as a team, which can be reviewed periodically, will set teams up for success. 

The road ahead will present twists and turns for every organisation, with many trialling hybrid working approaches for the first time.  Organisations that adopt a test-and-learn approach, where leaders experiment and listen to employee feedback, will be well positioned to thrive in the long run. With continued unpredictability ahead, considering how the 5C’s can be embedded in every day working practices will help to make sure every individual feels safe and supported to do their best work in a hybrid world. 

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Jo Yarker will be facilitating a roundtable at the fourth annualMAD World Summit on Thursday 21st October, in-person at 133 Houndsditch in Central London. The Summit is the go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. For more information visit the event agenda or to book visit the booking page.

The 5C’s Of Effective Hybrid Working

The workshops at MADWorld run alongside the main agenda – for both “delegate” badge holders and exhibition only “visitor” badge holders – from 11.15 to 13.15 and again from 14.15 to 16.00 on 21st October.

Each workshop will run for 50 minutes and accommodate up to 40 attendees. Seating is available on a first come basis but you can express interest in attending any or multiple workshops when you register.

Full details are here and this is a sneak peek of two of the workshops:

How to implement workplace wellbeing, on a shoestring budget

Many employers wish to prioritise mental health and wellbeing, but not all have hefty funds to devote to it. So, how can you implement a mental health and wellbeing strategy with a small, or even no budget? And, where there’s a budget available, what changes do you prioritise?

Join this workshop to hear practical suggestions that you can implement immediately in your organisation and learn how to separate ‘the wheat from the chaff’ when it comes to spending wisely in this busy space. 

This workshop will be run by Thomas Duncan Bell, Founder, My Whole Self and Marilise de Villiers, Co-Founder & High-Performance Coach, My Whole Self

How to create long lasting behavioural change with employee wellbeing

Enhancing personal resilience by positively reframing our current context and tapping into our emotions are some of the key ways to help deal with mental, emotional, social and behavioural stress. The process takes time but is one of the ways to ensure long lasting behavioural change when it comes to our wellbeing.

In this interactive workshop, Charted Psychologist Jonathan Passmore and CoachHub UKI Behavioural Scientist Windy Maledu will show how to take the first step in this journey and how you can help your teams face challenges in the future with more strengths and optimism.

This workshop will be facilitated by Prof. Jonathan Passmore, Chartered Psychologist, Henley Business School andWindy Maledu, UKI Behavioural Scientist, CoachHub

The MAD World Summit is on Thursday 21st October, in-person at 133 Houndsditch in Central London. The Summit is the go-to event for employers who want to Make A Difference to workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing. For more information visit the event agenda or to book visit the booking page.

Workshops @MADWorld Summit Sneak Peek

Business for Health (B4H) and the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) are engaging the business community to design a Business Index to measure business contribution to health and promote the role of business in creating a healthier nation – recognising that health is the foundation for wellbeing and economic growth.

Building on CBI’s report, Seize the Moment: How Can Business Transform the UK Economy, B4H and the CBI are working together to provide practical ‘how to’ information to help businesses improve their contribution to population health and get ‘Health’ into ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) frameworks to guide innovation and investment in sustainable health.

Matthew Fell, CBI’s Director of Policy, says: ‘Creating a healthier nation is one of the six business-led opportunities our ‘Seize the Moment’ report identified.  Business can enable millions of employees to gain greater resilience, wellbeing and opportunities at work, and lead broader transformation that will not only benefit them, but also local communities and our nation as a whole.’

John Godfrey, Chair of B4H, adds: “B4H is pleased to be working with the CBI.  It is in businesses’ interests to support a healthier population; for almost every sector, achieving better population health creates opportunities and drives economic activity.  What we are trying to do with the B4H Business Index is to develop some of the metrics, because what gets measured gets done and we want to help business on this journey’.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, concludes: “COVID-19 has highlighted that population health is a critical issue for business. There are opportunities to make our nation healthier and more resilient and business has an important role in this. So, I warmly welcome this new initiative by the CBI and Business for Health.”

Business Index for Health @ MADWorld Summit

If you want to find out what the Business Index for Health means for your people, your business and your mental health and wellbeing initiatives, you can join the Think Tank session at this year’s in-person MADWorld Summit on 21st October in Central London.

The Think Tank will be introduced and facilitated by John Godfrey, who as well as being Chair of B4H is Director of Corporate Affairs with Legal and General and Tina Wood. Tina is Co-founder & CEO of B4H as well as being the Co-founder & Director of the APPG for Longevity.

In a closed-door setting to encourage open discussion, the Think Tank will explore:

  • The CBI states that 10-20% of the disease burden on the health and care system can be addressed through health interventions by businesses (particularly in the areas of musculoskeletal conditions and mental health).  How can the business sector make sure it can achieve this impact?
  • What will good look like in the next 3-5 years in workplace health?  How will trends in hybrid working, the gig economy, ageing workforce and technology (like automation) shape best practice ?
  • How can we create a standard for excellence?
  • How can smaller businesses (in the supply chain, in the freelance/sub-contractor sector) be supported to achieve this standard?  What is the role of government?
  • How can we address the behaviour change challenges to maximise employee engagement and achieve better return on investment in employer-provided health & wellbeing programmes?

The Think Tank will take place during the 4th annual MADWorld Summit, from 14.30 – 16.00pm on 21st October at 133 Houndsditch in Central London.

Spaces are limited. If you would like to join this year’s Think Tank discussion, please email claire@makeadifference.events.

Think Tank@MADWorld: Impact Of New Business Index For Health