8th October 2020

Giving mental and physical health parity of esteem at EDF Energy

22nd August, 2018

Petra Velzeboer & Claire Farrow

Lloyd Dean is a true next gen leadership representative of the slash economy. Having shrugged the “single profession” model, by day he works for EDF Energy and in the evening, he runs his The Future of Learning podcast.  

At the Mad World Advisory Board meeting in May, there was a call for more next generation leadership perspectives to be included on the Mad World Forum agenda. So, we are delighted that Lloyd Dean, Head of Digital and Innovative Learning, EDF Energy has come on board.

In advance of his participation in the Next Generation Wellbeing track at the Mad World Forum on 9 October, we explored Lloyd’s viewpoints on a few topics:

To start off, could you introduce yourself and let us know where your interest in mental health comes from?

I’m interested in mental health from a personal perspective. I’ve dedicated 2018 to raising awareness and money for men’s health related issues, particularly the Movember Foundation. A few years ago, I was involved in a car crash and experienced PTSD after. I’ve been on my own journey to recovery and want to now act as a role model for change.

What are the top 3 things that have helped your own journey of recovery?

The things that helped me the most were:

-       Accepting that the thoughts, feelings and emotions I was experiencing were ways other human beings would react. Removing the expectation that I should be able to recover quicker. Patience!

-       Therapy. Listening to and working with a trained professional. Specifically, I used EDMR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) therapy.

-       Sharing my journey with others – it’s been liberating

Can you tell us a bit about EDF's approach to mental health in the workplace and why you think this is ground breaking?

EDF Energy has a zero-harm ambition. This involves health and safety related topics but also mental health. Its unique approach is that every single meeting starts with a daily safety message which is communicated through an app built into our Slack channel. Often this includes mental health, so there is no shying away from the topic - physical and mental health have parity of esteem.

Each member of the meeting discusses their physical or mental health safety outcomes and experiences in detail and it’s through this connection that learning happens. In the mental health space there are also lots of resources and key findings shared - for example, resources on our learning platform and links to expert websites.

What role are you playing in driving this forward? What are the key attributes needed for someone who is driving this agenda in their workplace?

In order to drive this agenda, I think we need to be brave enough to tell our personal stories and lead through action. It’s not useful to tell other people what to do if we’re not living what we preach. I think that senior leaders of an organisation could be doing more in showing that they are human as well, realising that this enhances mental health, team building and productivity in the long run. Within the above context and background for the year, I’m sharing things on my social media channels and keeping the conversation going in all of the roles I do.

How important do you think it is that the mental health agenda is driven from board level?

I think it’s critical to modernising our approach to mental health at work. We can’t ignore this topic anymore.  

How does mental health fit in with your perspective on the Future of Learning? You have written about the potential of VR and AI in this space. What do they mean when it comes to workplace wellbeing, and ingraining behaviour changes into company culture?

These technologies can only help, if they are used strategically. VR experiences are so good and I think can be used increasingly for exposure type therapy. In the AI space, an app called “Woebot” helps to develop skills such as resilience and self-esteem. Even though such AI tools have been widely researched by academic professionals, I suspect they will be received with scepticism. But if AI can help people and provide skills at the same time – what’s the problem? In my opinion, our relationship with technology will become more personal in the forthcoming years. I believe that the more technology knows us, the more it can help.

Today's workplace is multigenerational. Are the different communication preferences of different generations accommodated when it comes to talking about mental health at EDF?

I think putting people into generational boxes is not helpful. Some people keep things to themselves – they might’ve been like that at 21, 37 and still when they are 50. Other people their age may open up more about their experiences. However, I think the conversation is specific when we discuss gender, e.g. 3 out of every 4 suicides in the UK is male. Why is this? What do men do or think for these alarming statistics to become a reality? This is a conversation to explore, in my opinion and one that can truly save lives.

What is your personal vision for the next generation of workplace wellbeing? Where do you think we still need more fresh thinking on the topic of mental health in the workplace?

I think the conversation on this issue needs to be a collective. It’s not. I think some organisations are still in a transitionary phase; they want to do something different but don’t know where to start. So, it looks and maybe feels a bit awkward. We all need to be more authentic and the employee experience needs to be more consistent – but it’s more than just leadership training!

What are the key takeaways you would like to gain from being part of Mad World in October?

I think it’s important to have cross-industry dialogue on mental health. I want to know what other organisations are doing and what questions people are asking, so I can understand how our idealistic views are being utilised in practice and hopefully learn about more innovation around mental health at work.

Pushing yourself on all sides must be challenging at times, how do you avoid burnout and look after yourself?

-       Having processes for things that usually happen. From how I sort emails through to travel and automating social media. This is very important and every so often I review what I’ve been up to and make changes. E.g. Do I feel happy doing X? Do I want to be doing Y? Then making rules to follow that. It’s an evolving thing though and sometimes I can notice rushed thoughts and the feeling of fatigue – I prioritise myself at that point.

-       Understanding what foods work for me and what activity makes me feel good. I try and walk 10,000 steps most day. I find if I’ve done that I’ve also eaten well and am tired enough to sleep in the evening (I aim for 8 hours).

-       Reading. I find this is the best way to stop and become involved in one thing. Some others might call this mindfulness!

We’re so excited to showcase innovative solutions to mental health at work and to lead by example in talking about our own mental health. Our hope is that many more people can follow in Lloyd’s example of being open and doing their part to create change. We look forward to continuing the conversation at Mad World on 9 October.

Don’t forget to register if you haven’t already booked your place. We look forward to seeing you there.

Petra Velzeboer & Claire Farrow

As well as being a member of the Mad World Advisory Board, Petra Velzeboer is an integrative counsellor, executive coach, speaker and training facilitator with extensive experience helping leaders create mentally healthy workplaces. Prior to her role as a mental health consultant, Petra was clinical director for an EAP provider, managed youth mental health projects in the charity sector as well as a private therapy practice since 2009. She has a MSc in Psychodynamics of Human Development and is excited about developing technology tools to enhance empathy and compassion. Claire Farrow is the Conference Director for Mad World. She drives the content for both Mad World News and for the Mad World Forum.

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