Mental health is a kaleidoscope of colours. And this year, Kaleidoscope 2022 was a truly global trio of events. Across 24-hours, the workplace wellbeing community united in-person (for Kaleidoscope EMEA) and online (Kaleidoscope APAC, Kaleidoscope Americas) to explore how we can ‘Shape tomorrow, together’, in an age of ‘multi-crisis’. Here are 7 top takeaways.
1. The case for action is more obvious than ever
To kick off Kaleidoscope, Dr Nick Taylor – Unmind’s Co-founder and CEO – laid out some stark facts.
“We know that poor mental health is estimated to cost the economy a staggering 1 trillion US dollars in lost productivity,” he said. “That is a number that is so large it’s really hard to fathom.”
In case that’s not scary enough, Dr Nick also pointed to a study that showed the number of employees at risk of burnout has increased by 29% in the past three years, plus a stat that should make anyone who cares about workplace wellbeing pause:
Employers rate workplace mental health and wellbeing 22% more favourably than employees.
“That’s a huge disconnect,” admitted Dr Nick. “It implies that what we think we’re doing is working, but actually the employees experiencing it have a slightly different view.”
The case is clear, yet the task remains great.
2. Mental wellbeing is, at last, a worldwide discussion
It’s not all bad news. Dr Nick championed the sheer number of CEOs now talking about mental health – something that was just not happening a few years ago – and that ISO 45003 is putting mental and physical health on a level playing field. He also shouted out the WHO’s landmark guidelines for workplace wellbeing, and how this topic is now so mainstream, it’s a top talking point in the White House.
Dr Nick: “In the State of the Union address this year, President Biden spoke about the prioritisation of mental health. To hear the most powerful person on Earth talk about mental health … is really, really exciting.
“In it he said: ‘We cannot transform mental health solely through the healthcare system. We must… foster a culture and environment that broadly promotes mental wellness and recovery’.
“That last bit is what I really want to focus on.”
3. …but there are no guarantees it’ll stay this way
If there’s a low-key silver lining of a world in perma-crisis, it’s that mental health conversations have no doubt hit the mainstream. Yet Rebecca Hemsley – John Lewis Partnership’s Head of Wellbeing – urged against complacency. In the Kaleidoscope EMEA panel discussion (‘Creating psychologically safe cultures in a crisis’), she said:
“We’ve been quite lucky, in a sense. We’ve had two really hot topics in this space – Covid, followed by a cost of living crisis – which means that our managers are all ears. [They] want to help and want to support their partners, because they can see the impact it’s having.”
Rebecca added: “When that changes, and hopefully one day we do get back to a little bit of normality, how will we keep up that momentum?
“At the moment, we’re in the spotlight, it’s easier. When the spotlight turns to something else, who will care?”
"In the State of the Union address this year, President Biden spoke about the prioritisation of mental health. To hear the most powerful person on Earth talk about mental health … is really, really exciting."
Dr Nick Taylor – Co-founder & CEO at Unmind
4. Psychological safety is powerful (and managers are key)
Over in APAC, Damon Klotz – Work Culture Evangelist at Culture Amp (and host of the meteoric Culture First podcast) – talked about the power of a psychologically-safe workplace. In a conversation with Unmind’s Head of Psychology, Dr Kate Daley, Damon said it’s managers who make this possible.
“For me, the 1-on-1 is sacred. I think it’s one of the most important parts of our experience at work – having open, honest, regular conversations with the person you report to.
“There needs to be the highest level of psychological safety between those two people,” Damon added. “You want to see real emotion from that manager, and you want to know that there’s trust and you feel supported.”
During the EMEA panel discussion, Rebecca Hemsley also saluted the power of good leadership: “We are focusing on training our people managers, in not trying to fix somebody, and not the sort-of first-aid approach, but how to spot the signs – the practical signs, the easy-to-read signs – that someone is starting to struggle,” she said.
“It might be a change of behaviour, or they seem different, but realising that those are not just necessarily people having a bad day, but people who might need a bit more support or intervention.”
5. Lasting change needs buy-in at every level
Also during the EMEA panel, Arti Kashyap-Aynsley – Global Head of Health and Wellbeing at Ocado Group – made clear that psychological safety is not a job for leaders alone. Rather, it’s a team game.
“I think that sometimes we put a lot of pressure on the senior leaders – and I don’t negate that they have accountability – but, actually, what we’re doing is putting the parent-child model directly into the workforce,” she said.
“What we’re saying is, as leaders, you play this really big, parent scary role, which you must own and you must create for your children. But actually, at the heart of it, we’re all adults going to a virtual or physical office every day. All of us have an accountability to play.”
“Stressful situations can occur at any time. The term ‘burnout’ can certainly apply when you’re not taking care of your wellbeing, so with respect to our industry, making sure that you’re looking out for your wellbeing is a necessity.”
Jonathan Coyles – VP of Drug, Health & Safety Programs at Major League Baseball
6. Proactive care remains crucial
Though the conversation around workplace wellbeing has rightly evolved (as Dr Nick said in his intro speech: “I think it’s really important that we move away from thinking about mental health in organisations as solely being about what you’re doing internally, but also … the I, the we, and the all”) it’s vital companies don’t over-correct. As noted above, everyone has a role to play. And proactive care is key.
Done right, employees don’t have to wait for top-down support. Instead, when armed with the resources they need (whether that’s mental health tools, peer-to-peer support, or wellbeing-centred training) staff can help themselves, on-demand.
At Kaleidoscope Americas, Jonathan Coyles – VP of Drug, Health and Safety Programmes at Major League Baseball – captured this brilliantly. Sure, his point focused on the gruelling demands of pro baseball, but what follows can easily be applied to our ‘always-on’ workplace in a broader sense.
“Those who are fans of the game know this, there aren’t many days off in baseball,” he said, during the ‘Creating psychologically safe cultures’ panel session. “Our players play 162 games over 185 days ... that is seven days a week, running from February to November, so there’s not much of an off-season.”
Jonathan continued: “Stressful situations can occur at any time. The term ‘burnout’ can certainly apply when you’re not taking care of your wellbeing, so with respect to our industry, it is something that, making sure that you’re looking out for your wellbeing is a necessity.”
For Jonathan – maybe, all employers – there is no substitute. “Because, without that, we could lose good people, or we could impact the product that we’re looking to deliver.”
7. Unity is strength
In his keynote speech, Kaleidoscope EMEA headliner Bruce Daisley (Twitter’s ex-VP turned bestselling author) called BS on the story we’ve all been sold about workplace resilience.
“Never in the history of calming down has someone calmed down by being told to calm down,” said Bruce, “And I think, along the same lines, never in the history of resilience has someone become more resilient by being told to be more resilient.”
Sharing insights from his latest book, Fortitude, Bruce put forward that, in harsh times like these, resilience has little to do with ‘grit’ or a ‘growth mindset’. In reality, “it’s the strength we draw from each other.”
“One of the things we’ve seen work really well internally – we’re a thousand people, across the US, Australia and Europe – is our employee resource groups. It’s been really fascinating to watch,” said Nick.
“Creating spaces, internally in organisations, to get that qualitative data – that’s something I would heartily recommend. It’s provided so much colour to that data insight we would see as well.”
Or, as Bruce later put it, this is the magic of ‘Simcha’.
“This word, when translated from Hebrew into English, is ‘joy’ … but it’s more than that. This means ‘shared joy’,” said Bruce.
“There’s something that elevates beyond an understanding of religion, of connection, of society, any of us can think about the relevance of that for the moment we’re in right now.”
Want to find out more about Unmind?
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