Meetings That Matter

We’re now several weeks into a new year, and many of us will be settling into a comfortable pace of work. Whether you took some time away from the proverbial ‘coal face’ over the festive period, or simply used the ‘lull’ in normal work-flow to catch up on your To Do list, January is often a month which marks the start of a new approach as to how we blend the demands of work with other commitments in our life.

When we ask our clients, ‘What challenges your resilience day-to-day?’, meetings are one of the most commonly-cited ‘time-stealers’ that they experience. Not only do poorly run meetings eat into valuable work-time, they can also push the whole diary out so that ‘after hours’ working becomes the go-to solution and extended hours threaten to become a toxic norm.

Take a moment to consider your usual weekly diary – do you know in advance of each week who you’ll be meeting with, and why? Have you laid time aside to prepare for the meeting, to ensure you make an effective contribution to discussions? Equally, have you apportioned time to make some notes post-meeting, including kick-starting key actions that might be assigned to you? Finally, if there are meetings already diarised, are they generally scheduled to run for 30-60 minutes, or are they open-ended, posing a potential threat to your planning for the remainder of that day?

Here are six time-savvy tips to ensure that meetings add to your work-day, rather than detract from it:

1. DIARY PLANNING – Take a good look at your diary of upcoming meetings and consider the balance between desk-time and meeting-time. Are you overloading your diary with meetings, leaving little time for ‘getting on with things’? It’s as important to book good quality desk-time into your diary as it is to schedule effective meetings. Consider what your optimum balance is and ensure desk-time has appropriate representation. Also consider whether meetings are better between certain hours. This will be more complex to manage in international teams, but it’s still worth reviewing. If you’re UK based, post 3pm on a Friday is not going to set you up for success.

2. TIMINGS – The most effective meetings run for 30-60 minutes. Any longer and it’s worth building in a brief comfort break to re-focus and re-energise. The longer you run on without a break, the more likely it is that the meeting veers off-topic. If there are multiple topics to address, consider several short, sharp, targeted meetings instead, with a clear 15-minute break between them. Where an internal meeting is scheduled for 60 minutes, consider working together to finish around 10 minutes early, allowing everyone time to complete their notes and clarify actions.

3. AGENDA – A clear and concise agenda is key. It forms a backbone for the meeting and helps to keep discussions on track. If you’ve been invited to a meeting without an agenda, contact the organiser and ask for one. Ensure AOB is just that – don’t use it as a catch-all. Take time to ensure all agenda items are suitably listed. This will quickly flush out if a meeting is likely to expand outside of the planned time-frame, and you can revise the timings accordingly. Far better to manage expectations at the outset than start to eat into other timings in your (and others’) work-day. Before the meeting ends, review the agenda points to clarify ownership (who, what, when) against agreed action points. This may not feel like it saves time in the meeting itself, but it will certainly save time afterwards, when everyone is clear on what’s required, by when and from whom.

4. OUTCOME – Consider what will make the meeting successful for you – what’s your desired outcome? Is it to share knowledge, secure sign-off, gain important updates on a project? Knowing what you want to achieve before you go into the meeting will ensure it’s an effective use of your time.

5. BEFORE AND AFTER – With busy diaries it can be difficult to find time to adequately prepare in advance of a meeting. For each meeting that you schedule, build in 15-30 minutes before the meeting to allow you to prepare mentally – refresh your reading, finalise your notes. Build time in after the meeting to update your notes and kick-start any actions required from you. Schedule or reserve time in your diary now to complete any extended actions. This ensures these actions don’t over-ride other commitments or slide into a black hole.

6. QUALITY NOT QUANTITY – In many workplaces, a meeting culture is one that erodes productivity rather than supports it. High-quality meetings bring key stakeholders together to build consensus and agree shared outcomes. Low-quality meetings simply place a variety of people in the same room or on the same video call, on the premise of discussing a shared project. Aim for quality rather than quantity – consider timings, agenda, preparation and follow-up as basic house-keeping – everyone, including you, will benefit from this.

In today’s workplace, meetings take many forms and blend a range of formats and technology. The above ‘basics’ can be applied to most scenarios. Making meetings matter will ensure that you’re able to benefit from good quality connection that supports effective collaboration.

How will you make your meetings matter?

To find out more about our resilience workshops, please visit:

Seasonal wishes

Seasonal Message from our Founder & CEO, Sam Fuller

Writing our end of year reviews has taught me to appreciate all of the great things that have happened over the last 12 months. It’s easy to look back and remember challenging workloads and the fast pace that we’ve adopted to push projects successfully across the finish line, but when you take stock of what you’ve actually accomplished during the year, it’s incredibly satisfying.  Please read on to hear about some of the highlights.

Launch of the Wraw Psychometric Tool and Survey

The launch of Wraw, the world’s first psychometric tool and survey that measures resilience and its impact on wellbeing in the workplace, was a peak moment for all of the team. Drawing on an evidence-based, validated, tried and tested model we are super proud of what we’ve built and how it will support individuals across the whole continuum of wellbeing and resilience.

Feedback has been outstanding and we can’t wait to share more in 2019 on the improvements and ROI organisations and individuals have made as a result of the Wraw feedback and resources.  One example of our client feedback this year is:

At AstraZeneca we had a Senior Leadership Team with some members that were sceptical about wellbeing and resilience. The Wraw reports supported a workshop (run by The Wellbeing Project) which rapidly became a forum for very open and honest discussion about how we behave as individuals and as a team, and more importantly, the environment we create for our workforce. By the end of the workshop the scepticism was gone and we have an action plan that we believe will be impactful for the team and our organisation.

Claire Sloman, Director of Human Resources and Business Operations, AstraZeneca UKM

Our practitioner feedback is also very positive:

I just wanted to say a very big ‘Thank you’ for a fantastic couple of days working with you and the team from The Wellbeing Project and learning all about Wraw. I am genuinely impressed by the tool and all the support systems you have in place around it and am excited by the opportunities it presents to help strengthen Resilience and Healthy High Performance.

Sally Leese, Sally Leese Associates

Changes To Legislation?

A bright light continues to be shone on mental health, and we wait with anticipation to understand the potential changes to legislation, and necessary employer buy-in and commitment, so that mental and physical health and safety are aligned in the workplace.

We are delighted to have had a place at the table presenting, discussing and debating the changes and benefits of workplace wellbeing. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Brexit and Resilience – Building resilience through challenging times
  • Global Employee Engagement Awards (UK) – Wellbeing judge
  • Mad World 2018 – presenting Wraw at ‘Tech to the Rescue’ – The Latest and Greatest Tech Companies
  • Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT) Global Annual Meeting – panel member of People vs. Robots
  • CIPD – Supporting Healthy High Performance
  • National Innovation Network – Women in Leadership
  • Mental Wellbeing Summit, Dublin – Building and Sustaining a Culture of Resilience at Work

Wellbeing Digital Learning

A key future focus for us next year is to build a digital learning platform that dovetails with our Wraw psychometric tool and survey, providing bursts of knowledge and practical learning for individuals, teams and leaders as they set targets to not only raise awareness but to find credible and accessible solutions that are scalable and accessible for everyone.

Walking The Talk

2018 has most definitely been a year where workplace wellbeing and focus has soared; the growth of The Wellbeing Project and its team of experts reinforces that shift.  We are determined during these exciting but demanding times to walk the talk, to live and breathe the five pillars of resilience in everything we do, and to build better futures for our employees as well as those organisations we support.

Here are some examples:

5 Pillars of Resilience

Energy Pillar 

  • Encouraging regular breaks and flexible working to attend exercise classes, hobbies or groups
  • Regular check-ins to understand work-life blend and project or task priorities
  • Wellbeing allowance for all employees

Future Focus

  • Personal development allowance for all employees
  • Team involvement in strategy meetings and targets
  • Living our vision, values and mission

Inner Drive

  • Managing the natural perseverance and grit to get the job done within the team – avoiding a strength turning into a weakness
  • Constructive feedback on performance, highlighting strengths, learning from mistakes
  • Setting standards for best behaviour across the team and for leaders – supporting confidence and self-belief

Flexible Thinking

  • Creating new opportunities to grow and develop within the team
  • Open to new ideas, technology and ways of working with our clients
  • Appreciating and accommodating working arrangements when life changes for the team outside of the office

Strong Relationships

  • Allowing time for the little things – saying thank you, making time to catch up with one another on life outside of work
  • Treating one another as equals – avoiding hierarchies
  • No blame culture – openness about what hasn’t gone well and learning from the event, committing to improving it


A huge thank you to all our clients, supporters and readers for your lovely feedback and the trust in us to do a good job.

We look forward to working, meeting and listening to your thoughts in 2019.








Taking The Lead On Mental Wellbeing

On 9th November we were among those attending the ISMA Growth 2018 conference in London, marking the 20th anniversary of National Stress Awareness Day and the very first Stress Awareness Week.  Carole Spiers, the brains and engine behind this event, brought together over 100 wellbeing professionals to discuss and share best practice in the field of wellbeing.

Top of the agenda for the keynote speakers was a topic which is currently taking pole position in numerous boardroom discussions: how do we support and promote mental wellbeing in our people?

Leading Through Trauma

Up first, with the opening address, was Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, who shared her very personal and poignant experience of leading her firefighters through the immediate events and longer-term aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, June 2017.

As the room listened, Dany explained her ethos and approach to taking care of her firefighters, both then and now, with a specific focus on mental health. What became clear was that in order to effectively lead her firefighters through that period of time, she also had to lead herself. Following on from Grenfell, Dany personally accessed counselling and treatment to help her process and make sense of the events. She chose to speak openly about this and took the important decision to ensure that counselling services were immediately available to all firefighters involved; not just on site before they went home, but also as a continued resource for everyone over subsequent months. Supporting wellbeing, she explained, was not just a one-off, it was a constant and by role-modelling a positive approach to proactively managing her own mental health, she had encouraged and inspired others to do the same.

Proactive Steps

In the aftermath of Grenfell, leadership within the fire service has sought to truly embrace the principles of a ‘caring organisation’ and work continues across the board to foster open dialogue, ensuring all personnel have access to support and resources which proactively promote personal wellbeing.

At the end of her keynote, Dany was asked what her advice would be to other leaders.  Her response was:

  1. Be honest and talk openly about your own experience; lift the lid and in doing so, you’ll set the tone for others to do the same.
  2. Be proactive and have an intervention in place before something happens; your people are the biggest cost to your business and also the biggest risk if something goes wrong.

Dany Cotton’s address reflected many of the discussions we have with our clients about the role that leaders can play in truly shaping a culture of wellbeing.  How leaders talk and act creates a series of explicit and implicit permissions that inform the culture of an organisation.   When employees feel supported to proactively maintain their mental health, they are stronger and more resilient for it.

Reflecting on your organisation – does your top team demonstrate resilient leadership?  Are your people informed on how to support and maintain their wellbeing?

If your answer to either of these is ‘not sure’, why not get in touch and find out more about how we can help foster a climate of healthy high performance in your organisation.


Quick Links

Mental wellbeing– MHFA accredited and tailored mental wellbeing workshops

Wraw psychometric tool – reports and resources to support wellbeing at work


Open workshops – now taking bookings for 2019

Want to get 2019 off to a flying start?  Check out our open courses here.


Mental health – is your organisation up to speed?

A recent study links open and supportive workplaces with greater motivation and better retention.


Will mental health at work be added to current legislation?

The UK’s biggest employers are calling for the government to prioritise its manifesto pledge so that mental health at work is valued in the same way as physical health.



Learning For Life

Learning is one of the most beneficial activities you can undertake for positive mental wellbeing, bringing some advantages that may be unexpected, as well as the more obvious. For example, learning will clearly increase your skills, which can help in an existing role or in the search for a new job, and of course, this is why many undertake education as an adult. Less obvious but just as valuable, it also shifts your perspective, boosts resilience and mental wellbeing, and brings about changes in the brain. It even benefits your physical health.

Sam Fuller, Founder and Managing Director of The Wellbeing Project, explains that one of the less apparent benefits of learning is that it bolsters emotional resilience. This happens because, by learning, we are taking control and moving forward.  This leads to a sense of feeling fulfilled and satisfied, which boosts confidence and self-belief.

‘We are not “finished articles”,’ says Sam. ‘Life is constantly moving – it’s fluid, not static – and learning opens up new horizons, giving us a fresh perspective.  As we try new things, we learn more about ourselves.’

Resilience is also helped by the physical changes that occur in the brain when we learn.  Learning new skills opens new neural pathways – we are literally opening our minds.

Mental and Physical Benefits

Learning is a great boon to long-term mental wellbeing as one British study shows. It found almost nine out of 10 individuals who were short-listed for adult learning awards reported positive emotional or mental health benefits. Evidence suggests that adult learning seems to have its most positive impact on self-esteem and self-efficacy when it meets the needs of the learner, and when the learner is at a stage in their life when they are ready and receptive to benefit from it.

Perhaps surprisingly, learning can also have a positive effect on physical health, with research showing that one year of formal education can add more than half a year to a person’s lifespan.

There are practical reasons for continuing to learn too. As we live and work longer, the changes to our working lives mean we need to keep up-to-date.  As this article from Harvard Business Review explains, the benefits of learning include being better able to adapt to workplace changes – increasing technology, for example – especially as it impacts on the motivation to embrace them.

Grabbing Opportunities

Given the additional years we will be working, many of us may outlive the career plans we set when we were younger. There is such a variety of different working arrangements now on offer that there are all sorts of opportunities which we couldn’t have envisaged in the past.  Learning puts you in a place to be able to seize them, which circles back into resilience, especially given the connection between learning and a growth mindset.

As Prof. Carol Dweck sets out, people with a growth mindset believe that their basic qualities can be developed and their innate traits are the starting point. This viewpoint creates a mindset that embraces new challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.  The individual doesn’t fear failure because it is simply a chance to learn from the experience. For example, ‘clever’ is something you achieve and work towards rather than being innate.

This is in contrast to a fixed mindset in which people believe their basic qualities – such as intelligence or talents – are fixed traits so they tend to see feedback or learning in terms of how it evaluates their abilities. For example, you’re born ‘clever’ and tests prove or disprove that.

Sam explains that having a growth mindset is an important part of being resilient and having buoyant mental wellbeing, and learning helps achieve and maintain that outlook.

‘If we’re going to be able to take advantage of all the opportunities and possibilities that come our way, it makes sense to approach this with a growth mindset, rather than fixed – adapting and evolving to address the requirements of our working context,’ she says.

Job Satisfaction

Of course, learning also helps us to do our existing jobs better. The sense of improvement and moving forward in a role inevitably brings about increased job satisfaction.  Such is the power of learning for work that research has shown the rise in job satisfaction caused by job-related training is comparable to the increase gained from a 1% increase in hourly wages.

And research reveals that taking a part-time course for work over the past year has been estimated to give wellbeing benefits equivalent to £1,584 of income per year.

But learning need not be formal for the benefits to be experienced. Taking the time to read around a subject or having a curiosity about other departments or roles in your organisation is also a form of learning. Being open to new experiences and learning opportunities will help foster a growth mindset, boost resilience and wellbeing.

As Sam points out: ‘Our appetite to learn, and our curiosity to find out more about different things in life, is at the heart of long-term resilience. Just as when we travel to new countries and experience different cultures, so we can learn new things, join new interest groups and pick up new skills – the whole time we’re adding new facets to our life, new people and relationships, new connections, new knowledge.’




Managing Pressure

Stress may be an inevitable part of life. But how we recognise and respond to it can differ immensely from person to person.

Pressures will occur for all sorts of reasons; perhaps it is a sudden spike in workload or an accumulation of demands in our professional or personal lives, or it may be that the pressure has been ongoing for some time without the necessary downtime to recuperate, leading to a feeling of running on empty. When pressure persists, stress can creep in, and when that goes unchecked the problems begin.

This is a problem that is on the rise in the UK. According to the Health and Safety Executive, there were 526,000 UK workers suffering from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, up from 480,000 people the year before.

Many employees are reluctant to talk about stress at work, believing they will be seen as weak if they admit to it. Instead, they find their own means of coping, which may be healthy and sustainable or they may deploy short-term fixes which ultimately create longer term problems. For example, drinking alcohol to de-stress may appear to be effective in the moment, but can have serious repercussions as a long-term coping strategy.

Individual Differences

Everyone is different and responds to pressure in their own way. Some can deal with a lot of pressure and others cannot, and this changes for each of us depending on what else is going on in our lives.  Similarly, we all cope in a manner that is specific to us.

Less resilient people tend to use emotion-focused mechanisms to manage stress, such as comfort eating. Some behaviours might also include avoidance or delay tactics such as procrastinating, and ruminating on the negative aspects of a situation.

Resilient people, however, know they have a choice in how they respond and are much more likely to be proactive in managing stress in a healthy way. Research has found that resilient individuals recognise what causes them stress and they take steps every day to keep it under control. They also understand that sometimes it will get the better of them and a stress reaction is triggered, as this article from Harvard Business Review explains.

Spotting The Signs

Stress can be insidious and individuals may only become aware of it when it is causing them problems.  The most resilient people have identified their own personal markers for when stress is creeping up, enabling them to take action quickly.  We asked our team of consultants, coaches and trainers to share how they know when they’re starting to experience stress and what they do about it.

Our Head of Client Delivery, Desiree Ashton, says that, for her, physical traits are a tell-tale sign that stress is on the rise:  ‘My voice changes – the tone and pace is higher and faster than normal. And my face and neck will become flushed with my Scottish complexion giving me away every time.’

As soon as she spots it, she resets in the moment by taking an immediate short break.  Real-time-resets that work for her include running her hands and wrists under cold water or stepping outside to take a few deep breaths.  In the throes of a busy day, she’s found that knowing her ‘real-time-resets’ can work wonders to get the day back on track.

‘I’ll also touch up my makeup. This has less to do with appearance, and a lot more to do with taking time out to focus on something which is very different to the actual situation I’m dealing with. These few minutes of quiet calm provide an invaluable window for my emotions and thoughts to ‘recalibrate’. It’s a moment of individual self-care for me that can help me re-centre and feel ready to take on the world again,’ says Desiree.


Stress also manifests itself in a physical way for Helen Beckingham, one of our trainers.

‘Signs for me are, without doubt, waking between 3-5am and having difficulty returning to sleep.  It also affects my digestive system,’ she says.

Helen Brown, another trainer, knows that her particular markers are being very tired or busy and she is aware that in these circumstances there is a danger of passing her stress threshold. When she reaches it, Helen’s stress manifests through her behaviours and thoughts.

‘I move quicker, talk shorter and nag more! I’ll have a sense of being out of sorts and I’m less tolerant of things,’ explains Helen.  ‘I’ll also feel that I have too many things to think about.’

To combat stress in the moment, Helen favours the STOP technique:

  • Stop what you’re doing
  • Take a breath
  • Observe what’s happening, to you and your feelings, the situation and the other person
  • Proceed by planning the most effective way forward

Rod Yapp finds that regular journaling is an effective way of managing stress: ‘It seems to release the issue from your head preventing this “washing machine of thoughts” going around and around. Once you get your concerns on paper and then ask yourself, “How much would I care about this if one of my children was ill?” or “How does this problem compare to those facing a Syrian refugee”, it gives you a strong sense of perspective.’

Regaining Control

A loss of perspective can be a sign of stress and taking steps to regain it can be very powerful. Gemma Walton, our Project Manager, says that she asks herself a series of questions about what is making her stressed. This helps to get her problems into perspective.

‘One of my techniques is rating my stressors honestly on a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 is death.  I find that things rank much lower than I’d imagined when I do this,’ she says.

Gemma also suggests that a helpful way to feel back in control when stress has crept in is to write worries on a piece of paper then screw it up and throw it in the bin.

‘Binning that piece of paper is cathartic because it feels like the stress has gone into the bin with it,’ she explains.

For other ways of keeping stress in check, take a look at the NHS’s top stress busters. All of them have their foundations in building emotional strength and being in control of how you respond to any situation. Our examples from within the team demonstrate that each person will have their own markers that indicate stress is rising as well as their own very individual means of getting it back under control.

The trick is finding yours.

Our 5 Pillars Of Resilience Masterclass in June offers individuals the opportunity to identify healthy coping strategies and build greater resilience.  To find out more, please see our open course page.





Combatting Workplace Stress

We recently contributed to an article from McGinley Support Services which tackles the issues of how to cope with workplace stress and achieve great mental health, in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.

You can read the full article here:

A High Price To Pay

The consequences of failing to address financial problems can be extremely damaging to individuals. But many employers are unaware that the same is true for organisations.

Evidence shows finances are a big worry for employees, as revealed by Neyber’s financial wellbeing report last year. Bank of England data released in March shows that credit card borrowing alone – without any other debt or financial problems taken into account – jumped to its second-highest level in January since before the financial crisis.  Consumers borrowed an additional £746m on credit cards over that one month. This is particularly worrying because analysis from earlier in the year shows that credit card debt is trapping consumers for longer than previously thought. The Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority found 89% of card debt was held by consumers who were also in debt two years ago.

Last month, official figures revealed that, for the first time since records began, UK households are more likely to be borrowers than savers. Households became net borrowers last year for the first time since data began to be collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 1987.  Figures also show that savings levels are at their lowest level since 1963.

The Wellbeing Project’s money coach Jo Thresher says many organisations have not thought ahead to the difficulties they may be creating by adopting a hands-off approach to the financial wellbeing of staff. In its 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte found that, whilst 88% of UK businesses had wellbeing programmes, only a third offered initiatives that Deloitte considered ‘beyond the traditional’, such as financial fitness.  Personnel Today also reports that only 10% of organisations have a financial wellbeing strategy in place. According to Thomsons’ Employee Benefits Watch 2018/19 report, almost a quarter (22%) of employers said they did not want to get too involved in their employees’ financial lives and one in five believed that it was not their role to do so.

Yet Jo says that failing to consider the financial wellbeing of a workforce means that organisations could face serious consequences in the short, medium and long-term.

In The Short Term

One of the first things to be affected is productivity, explains Jo.  Those who are worried about finances may be preoccupied with these challenges rather than focusing on the job and may suffer from sleep problems, which means they turn up to work tired and stressed.

Absence rates are also affected by sickness caused by poor financial management, points out Jo. A tell-tale sign of financial problems in the workforce is a rise in absence at the end of the month as money problems hit. Some may encounter a temporary but recurring dip in their wellbeing as a result, whilst others may be forced to take sick days because they have run out of money for train and bus fares or petrol to get into work. That will have an inevitable negative impact on overall productivity in the organisation. This is borne out by CIPD’s Employee Financial Wellbeing report, which found that one in four employees said financial concerns have affected their ability to do their job, rising to a third in London.

Another short-term problem can be turnover.  Jo outlines that it is common for those with financial difficulties to move jobs for small amounts of extra pay. ‘You get people leaving jobs, moving to a new one for an extra £1k or £2k because they’ll think that will sort their problems out,’ says Jo.

This is disruptive to the business – it costs time and money to recruit a replacement, and results in loss of knowledge. The irony is, of course, that the move won’t necessarily solve the financial problems unless the individual is able to identify a different way to manage their money, which will help them avoid this monthly rollercoaster.

‘It’s not always about having more money or less money – it’s about not doing the right things with the money they have,’ explains Jo.  ‘This is where financial wellbeing workshops can help.’

In The Short To Medium Term

There are other challenges facing organisations that do not address the financial wellbeing of their workforce.  It has been a decade since the credit crunch and we have all become used to especially low interest rates, but, for many people, that low rate is now the norm rather the exception. Jo points out that we are now used to paying less for mortgages than we would in rent, which was not always the case for previous generations.

She believes that many employees are simply unprepared for a rise in interest rates and, when it does come, may be unable to cope financially. When changes come, they will hit some people hard, says Jo: ‘The knock-on effect could be significant.’

It may mean that a greater proportion of the workforce is struggling with their finances. Some may be forced to take a second job to make ends meet, spreading themselves more thinly, and others may leave employment altogether, especially if they have young children and are unaware of the childcare help available. Others will stay in the workforce, but fail to be fully focused on their job and have a higher sickness rate than before.

Yet none of this is inevitable.

‘There such a huge link between mental health and money and if we support people to have that emergency fund, they’re more likely to bounce back from problems,’ explains Jo.

In The Long Term

Lack of financial support brings significant long-term impacts on an organisation too. Jo points out that retirement planning can be very poor amongst employees and one result is that many will be unable to retire when they want to. This will impact on culture, employee engagement, succession planning and talent management. The answer is to help employees save for retirement now so that they can leave when they choose to, rather than being forced into staying.

The savvy company will take a strategic approach to mitigate the risks that financial problems might bring to an organisation. Jo points out that employees often feel a great sense of gratitude when their employer supports them in improving their financial management in a way that is genuinely helpful to them.

‘Individuals want someone who will help them join up their work and their personal life – this is what we do. And if your employer is paying me to help you to plan your retirement or find support, you kind of see your future with that employer,’ she explains.

A report last year by the Working Group for HM Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority showed 90% of employers recognise that financial concerns have an impact on workplace performance. With analysis by the Resolution Foundation showing that typical incomes stagnated in 2017-18 and annual income growth being expected to reach only 1.3% by 2022-23 – which is well below the pre-crisis average of over 2% – now is a good time for organisations to act. Helping employees to address their financial wellbeing is a win-win for organisations. They are supporting employees to make the most of their money and plan ahead and, at the same time, minimising HR headaches now and in the future.

To find out more about how The Wellbeing Project can help support your workforce’s financial wellbeing, go to:


Addressing The Mental Health Gap

There seems to be an ever-widening gap between encouraging those with mental health difficulties to seek support and the help available. The Wellbeing Project is planning to help address this divide by developing a valuable new resource to support mental wellbeing and resilience.

There is a trend for those in the public eye to be vocal about their mental health troubles and, in speaking out, encourage others to do the same. In 2017 alone, the celebrities who revealed they had experienced mental health problems included actors – Ryan Reynold and Emma Stone – and musicians – Lady Gaga and Zayn Malik – as well as sportspeople – Dame Kelly Holmes and cricketer Jonathon Trott.  A member of the Royal Family also spoke out; Prince Harry revealed how he was close to a breakdown in his late twenties after more than a decade of avoiding grief at his mother’s death when he was 12.

Undoubtedly, the trend is a positive one.  It helps to destigmatise mental ill-health and the message to those suffering is clear: you’re not alone, be brave, speak up, seek support.  However, as demand rises it also puts additional pressure on a service that is already thinly-stretched.

Just last month, analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists revealed that mental health trusts have been left with less funding in real terms than they had in 2012.  In real terms, income for mental health trusts is £105m lower in 2016-17 than five years earlier, due to Government cuts.

When people do seek help, there is also sometimes confusion about the support available. For example, a recent survey found that four-in-10 school leaders struggle to know what type of mental health support is needed for their pupils when young people ask for help.

Creating Support

The lack of available support has become increasingly apparent to me personally.

Last year, The Wellbeing Project started to notice a rise in the number of calls from individuals seeking our help. As an organisation that primarily works with other organisations, we were confused. Many of the calls were from individuals who were concerned about their mental health or that of a friend, partner or family member. We discovered that people were Googling for help, finding us and calling. It really highlighted to me how sparse the support was for those in need.

As a result of this increasing demand on services, more organisations are now stepping up to help address the gap. Leading employers are providing training and support to help raise awareness of mental wellbeing and how to increase it. When appropriately targeted, these proactive measures give employees the tools to build their resilience and also help to ensure that they receive the right help at the right time.

For some months, I’ve been working on a new assessment and psychometric tool that will help support the mental wellbeing of individuals and help organisations to target their interventions more effectively.  The result is Wraw – which stands for Workplace Resilience And Wellbeing – and we plan to launch it in the autumn.

As the name suggests, the tool is suitable for organisations as well as individuals.  It is a psychometric assessment that provides a report on strengths and development areas on wellbeing so using it in organisations can help flag up potential problems before they become serious, which is when sickness absence occurs or occupational health is involved.

It’s based on four columns that represent a wellbeing continuum.  Each of us is on this continuum, sliding up and down as we go through life.  In the right-hand column is resilience, where we are performing at our best, focused and determined in a way that is sustainable.  At the other end of the continuum is the far left-hand column where mental and physical health are suffering acutely.

The problem is that, for many, difficulties only start to be addressed once they are at the far left.  For individuals, it clearly means they are further away from being healthy and it takes more work and support to get better. For organisations, it means high costs, as the Government-commissioned report Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers makes clear.  The independent review of mental health and employers, which was published last October, said that the annual cost to employers is between £33 billion and £42 billion, with over half of the cost coming from presenteeism – when individuals are less productive due to poor mental health in work – with the rest of the cost coming from sickness absence and staff turnover.

How much better would it be to help identify those in the middle two columns and offer them the support to either stay on an even keel or, preferably, move towards resilience on the right?

Getting It Right

The difficulty can be identifying those people because not everyone wants to put their hand up and admit to struggling, especially in the workplace.  But running this tool across a workforce would flag to organisations where their employees are sitting on the continuum. Although the assessment results of each individual remain confidential, their employer would see, at a glance, where there may be opportunities to offer support.  It might be a certain business area, site, or even team. The results would enable an organisation to target resources appropriately to get the best return on investment.

This is important because, sometimes, organisations put support in place that is inappropriate. At best, this is a waste of time and money; at worst, it can do more harm than good.

Wraw will help to ensure the right support is available at the right time.  It will do this by training practitioners – independent wellbeing consultants, coaches or employee health consultants – who, if they pass the course, will become licensed to practise Wraw.

That way, either an organisation or individual can go to the Wraw website and find a licensed practitioner locally to run the assessment and then provide appropriate advice and support.  I’m determined to make it as affordable as possible so that it’s available to the many rather than the few.  This applies to the organisations that want to use Wraw, as well as individuals – it will be within the often tight budget of the public sector.

It is my goal that those in need of help will be able to find it quicker and more easily.  Rather than working ‘blind’ it will help individuals to make informed choices depending on where they currently sit on the wellbeing and resilience continuum, informing relevant and timely interventions. For the individuals and organisations in need of clear guidance and support, it will be a valuable resource to help improve mental wellbeing.

Train to become a Wraw Licensed Practitioner – we only have a few places left on our July and September programmes.  Please click on the box below for further details and the opportunity to secure a place before the programmes become fully booked.


Getting Strategic On Mental Health

So much of our lives is spent at work that it is unsurprising to see increasing evidence emerge that shows it can have an enormous impact on our mental wellbeing. Just last month, a survey by CV-Library showed that over a third (35.2%) of the nation’s workers are suffering from mental health issues including anxiety and depression, with 43% admitting that their job is a key contributor to these feelings.

Of course, many of us will have emotional pressures from our personal lives too – relationship stress, financial worries, concerns about children or ageing parents, or simply the day-to-day burden of never having enough time.  It only takes one or two of these factors, either in the workplace or at home, to go awry, and we might find our mental wellbeing suffering.

The smart employer recognises this and seeks to address it – and the savviest are being strategic about it.  We are seeing a rise in the number of clients who are integrating mental wellbeing into their overarching strategy.

So how are they being strategic?   And can your organisation glean any ideas on how to go about it?

Creating A Super-Team

The starting point of a more strategic approach for many organisations is creating cross-functional teams to explore what is needed to support mental wellbeing in their particular workforce. Typically, the functions involved are HR, Health and Safety, and Learning and Development – the functions that are the most commonly affected by any dip in mental health amongst staff.

For HR, the impact is felt in sickness absence figures, which will often rise when mental health is suffering, and, of course, presenteeism where individuals are physically showing up to work but are mentally elsewhere because they are preoccupied with their troubles. Both absence and presenteeism take an inevitable toll on productivity, creativity and outcomes.  And, of course, HR’s place on the team is ensured because the function will almost certainly have existing involvement in organisational wellbeing because of its remit for managing human capital.

Health and Safety join the cross-functional team because accidents are more likely to occur if mental health is poor.  It may be that an individual is finding it hard to sleep because of their worries, that their preoccupation is such that they lose concentration on tasks, or that they are simply less able to deal with the day-to-day stress and busy-ness of a shift – all of these factors put them at increased risk of accidents or mistakes, which may harm their safety or that of others.  It is a concern that is common to the Health and Safety function in many sectors – manufacturing, the NHS, construction, and social care may be very different in nature, but accidents and mistakes can have catastrophic effects in them all.

Finally, Learning and Development is included because this team is expert in training, both from a delivery and strategic perspective.  The function will have a map of existing mental health initiatives that are being offered across an organisation and it may take on the provision of training in mental wellbeing.  That might come in the form of taking a lead with a specialist like The Wellbeing Project, who would deliver an initiative, or it might be the function participates in a ‘Train the Trainer’ programme so that any mental wellbeing activity is delivered in-house.

Mapping Out Provision

The expertise that sits in each of these functions is such that there is great value and power in pulling them together to focus on mental wellbeing.  In combination, they make up a super-team whose components have knowledge and understanding that complement one another and gives a deeper insight into what might be needed.

The next step is mapping out what the organisation requires.

For some clients, this is about making their mental wellbeing programmes more uniform and structured. In organisations that have already taken steps to support mental wellbeing, the provision can be patchy and disjointed – possibly delivered in an ad-hoc manner at some sites, but not others.   Taking a strategic view means that a programme is available to the entire workforce.

Strategy also involves considering the needs of that specific organisation, both in terms of delivery and logistics.

The content, language, pace, and format need to be right for their particular sector and company. The content and delivery that works for a financial institution is likely to differ from a construction firm, which will differ again from a public sector body.

Fine Tuning

In terms of logistics, it is thinking about how a mental wellbeing programme will be delivered.  If an organisation has opted to put in place mental health first aiders – existing members of staff who have been trained to offer timely support to colleagues who are experiencing mental health difficulties – then it is working out how many are needed.  Or it might be pinning down the number of workshops that are delivered to staff or managers and when they can be delivered to minimise disruption to business.

Some organisations introduce modules on mental health awareness to their induction programmes to ensure new starters have the right mindset from the outset.

The third element to an organisation’s strategy is to pilot their offering so that there is an opportunity to fine tune it.   This is where the delivery is tested in terms of content and format to ensure that it meets the need, and is appropriate for the culture of that organisation and sector.  It makes sense that an organisation which is investing significant time, money and energy in a mental wellbeing programme, will ensure the initiative is as effective as possible.

Those who take a strategic approach are likely to find that the return on investment (ROI) will be much greater than organisations that don’t – and that return is likely to be considerable.  An article published in The Lancet showed that a manager mental health training programme had a significant impact on absence, with a ROI of nearly £10 for each pound spent – and that is on absence alone, without considering returns on other metrics.

The business case is clear, which is why a rising number of employers are being proactive and focusing their efforts on being more strategic in this area. If it is not already doing so, isn’t it time that your organisation did the same?

For those who need help in setting a strategy or delivering mental wellbeing programmes, get in touch with us by emailing or telephone +44 (0)800 085 6899 today.


Money, Money, Money…

Does your organisation see a spike in sickness absence towards the end of the month? If so, it’s a sign that employees’ financial wellbeing is far from healthy.

The Wellbeing Project’s money coach, Jo Thresher, says absence at the end of a month is a common sign of financial difficulties.  ‘People are not making it to payday and they can’t afford the bus or train fare or to fill up on petrol to come into work.  Or it can be that the stress caused by financial worries peaks at the end of the month and so does the illness ratio, with the level of duvet days increasing,’ she says.

It is a myth that financial worries only affect those at the lower end of the pay scale, says Jo.  In fact, financial wellbeing – and lack of it – cuts across every part of an organisation, regardless of salary level.  The CIPD’s Employee Financial Wellbeing report from 2017 showed that a fifth of employees earning £45,000 to £59,999 were so worried about finances that it affected their ability to do their job.

‘It can affect anyone at any time.  I’ve seen business people who have run up their company credit card with food shopping because they have run out of money,’ says Jo.

On the face of it, this is hard to understand. How can someone who is paid £50k per annum face financial problems in the same way that someone on £20k does?  Jo says that the causes for money woes may differ, but the symptoms of the resulting worry and stress can be the same.

All Salary Levels

Examples that have arisen for higher earners during Jo’s workplace sessions have included difficulties caused by paying for children’s private education, divorce, making poor investment decisions and lifestyle choices.

‘People at that level often feel they are expected to have and do certain things, such as go skiing twice year, have a new car or the latest phone,’ says Jo.  ‘There are always shiny new things to buy.’

Those on a lower salary face financial pressures for different reasons.  Jo says they are often good at budgeting because they do it so frequently, but they may find it hard to make ends meet because their bills outstrip their income and they are often unaware of help available.

‘They don’t know what they don’t know. They may not realise that moving a lot will affect their credit rating.  Or they don’t realise how much childcare vouchers will save them or how much benefit a pension will bring, because nobody teaches this to us. They are so busy thinking about the short term – putting food on the table and paying the bills – that they don’t think about the long term,’ says Jo.

The Extent Of The Problem

Whatever financial problems are being faced by individuals, a growing body of evidence shows that anxiety about finances leads to poorer mental, physical and social wellbeing, which can affect attendance and performance at work.

A report last year –  Financial Well-being in the Workplace: A Way Forward by the Financial Advice Working Group for HM Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority showed that 90% of employers agreed that financial concerns have an impact on workplace performance. Research by Willis Towers Watson in 2016 found higher levels of financial stress result in higher absenteeism – in Europe, nearly seven work days a year were lost to absence in a group with high financial stress, compared with three days a year in a low financial stress group.  The 2017 report from Willis Tower Watson finds that employees who are troubled by their finances are twice as likely to be in poor health as those who declare themselves financially ‘unworried.’ They also report considerably higher stress levels, more absence and presenteeism, and significantly lower levels of work engagement.

In total, financial stress costs the UK economy £121 billion and 18 million working hours in time off work each year, found 2016 research by Neyber.

Neyber’s The DNA of Financial Wellbeing 2017 report revealed that finances were the biggest worry facing employees, with a third saying they had money concerns.  This is borne out by MetLife’s 2017 UK version of its Employee Benefits Trends study, which found that 39% of employee respondents are living payday to payday and 34% are distracted at work by financial concerns.

And a 2017 white paper Employee Financial Wellbeing – Time To Do More by The Bank Workers Charity found that almost half of all employees worry that they will be unable to retire, given the state of their finances, and one in three loses sleep because of this. It also found that one in four workers say they have lost sleep over money worries in general.

An Emotional Issue

A large part of the problem is that people often stick their head in the sand. Jo says that our relationship with money is complicated and an emotional issue that many find it hard to address.

People find it scary and boring and there can be an element of shame involved.  The British often don’t want to talk about money and everyone thinks that everyone else is doing it much better than them.

‘Those who earn more often feel a lot of shame – they feel they are good at their job so should be good with money and often people don’t want to admit that they are in the same situation as those they are managing,’ says Jo.

There is also a reluctance to seek help because many are worried that the organisations they might approach for guidance or support would try to sell them something.  Yet they feel unable to address it themselves – Jo says that adults in the UK have an average financial numeracy of a 9-year old. Even those who feel they have the ability to tackle the problems often cite time shortage as a reason they don’t.

Finding  Solutions

All these elements combine to render individuals stressed, anxious and disempowered.  This is where Jo can help.  Her sessions provide strategies, tools, and techniques to get employees back on track.  They include guidance on how to make more of what you have, tackling debt, financial planning including for retirement, government or employer schemes such as childcare financial support, and how to get on or move up the housing ladder.  She signposts to reputable outside sources of help and cuts through the jargon for those who find financial language confusing.

‘It’s not about getting people rich quick; it’s about meeting the person where they are.   I’ll say: “Where are you on the ladder of money and can I get you onto the next rung?”. That might be out of debt onto zero or from zero to having emergency savings,’ says Jo.

Financial wellbeing is a problem that is not going to disappear anytime soon.  In fact, it is getting worse.  An internet survey conducted for the Money Advice Trust (MAT) found that more people will struggle with their finances this January than last year – 16% said they were likely or very likely to fall behind with their finances in January 2018, as a result of Christmas spending. That amounts to 7.9 million people, the MAT said, and compares with 11% in a similar poll last year.

Such figures suggest that, for those employers who are not already addressing the financial wellbeing of their workforce, now is a good time to start.

To find out more about how Jo and The Wellbeing Project can help support your workforce’s financial wellbeing, go to: