8th October 2020

Mad World Summit 2018 Review

9th January, 2019

Paul Carter

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:

  • Binumi Pro – video creation and content platform to enhance corporate communication channels
  • Inition – I found peace in the augmented reality of this faraway beach, swimming in the calm sea as the positive psychology voiceover freed my mind
  • Fjorlight – I spent 10 minutes in a red light therapy booth, pretending I was in a sci-fi film on a mission to the galaxy far, far away


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.

Favourite sessions

Mad World filmed and streamed all the sessions to provide a full conference experience. My favourite sessions were:

  • Breaking down barriers with bold leadership – Brian Heyworth, Global Head of Client Strategy from HSBC is an excellent public speaker and articulated the multiple workplace factors that affect employee wellbeing.
  • Mental capital and wellbeing in the workplace - Professor Sir Cary Cooper encouraged people to read Joseph Heller’s book ‘Something Happened’ to understand workplace psychology.
  • TechTalk – 10 digital mental health solution providers raced against the clock to compete for the Tech Innovation Award. Well done to the winners, Unmind. I think all sales pitches should be completed in three minutes.
  • The way forward: turning talk into action – CIPD’s Rachel Suff flew the flag for HR, reminding people the role of line managers is the common thread in creating mentally healthy workplaces
  • ‘Prevention is better than cure: easing transition from education to employment’ – Graduates may be young, talented and earning a good salary, but the fear of failure and 24/7 digital living leaves them at risk of burnout.
  • AI and the future of work – Parham Vasaiely from Jaguar Land Rover managed to include UK productivity in his presentation on what will happen in the future. You’ll have to watch his presentation to find out if robots will solve the UK’s productivity crisis!

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:

  • We have to explore digital wellbeing platforms, but will employees prefer talking to chatbots rather than their manager?
  • If we stop emailing each other so much, what will we do instead?
  • How can we empower employees to take ownership of their wellbeing?
  • How prevalent are soft management skills and what difference do they make to the manager – employee relationship?
  • People want to be part of a successful company, but they also want time for self-development so they can look after number one
  • Meaningful work is essential but is it possible to make all jobs stimulating?
  • How can we measure the impact bullying, harassment and discrimination have on employee wellbeing?

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.

Paul Carter

Paul Carter is a Senior HR Consultant at Civil Service Employee Policy in London. He has worked in HR for five years after spending 10 years in communications and committee management. He is CIPD qualified and writes HR blogs to encourage debate on how to make the world of work a better place. Writing and running help him manage his mental health and he is determined to raise awareness of what living with Pure OCD is like. He is always interested in meeting new people and exploring new opportunities.

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