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Interview with Professor Ivan Robertson, Co-Founder Robertson Cooper
We are delighted to have Prof Ivan Robertson as a keynote speaker at our annual ABP Conference.
Wellbeing has become a popular topic in our society nowadays, the growing awareness and discussions around a person’s wellbeing has impacted different areas of an individuals’ life and this has a direct influence in the workplace. It is clearly a hot topic with the number of newspaper articles on wellbeing at work increasing dramatically over the past 20 years.
We wanted to explore reasons for this rise with Prof Robertson:
Q: In your opinion, why has wellbeing become such a popular topic and what actions are you noticing organisations taking to develop their focus on wellbeing?
– At Robertson and Cooper we’ve being delivering wellbeing strategies to businesses for more than 15 years. If you go back 10 years or even 5 years the situation was very different. In the beginning to talk about wellbeing and psychological health in organisations was quite a challenge. I had to really convince executives that wellbeing was a topic that they should show some interest in. In other situations it was very difficult to sell the idea to organisations. Now it’s completely different and I think there are several reasons behind this.
– One of them is a strong business case that links the wellbeing to people in specific organisations with important business-related outcomes. There are obvious links such as people’s rate sickness absences, overall performance, productivity, customer satisfaction and even levels of share prices for listed businesses. This means that the link between people psychological health in the organisation has become stronger.
– In terms of the popularization of wellbeing, there was a societal shift where Chief Executives, famous artists and sports people started to share their experiences – the increased discourse on wellbeing has opened up more channels and discussions. For example, people started to talk more about mental health wellbeing making it more acceptable. Consequently communities are starting to see mental health not as a weakness but as a true disease.
– As we know people are often influenced by others – particularly those they see as being successful. So when highly profitable organisations started talking about their wellbeing strategies and linking this to profits that helped others take notice.
Q: In your point of view, what wellbeing issues we are not exploring; what wellbeing topics we should be talking about more?
– In my opinion, we need to invest in providing support to employees because for those who are diagnosed with mental health diseases such as depression and anxiety, it’s clear that they need support. Not everyone has a mental health problem but they experience various stages of psychological wellbeing from really positive through to not very good at all. These are people who don’t have specific mental health issues or stress related problems. People one day can be doing well, but in a couple of months, they could be the ones in need of attention. For this reason, I think the conversation really needs to focus more on how we improve the overall psychological wellbeing of the workforce. I know that there is a strong link between psychological wellbeing and long-term physical health, for example cardiovascular disease, diabetes, heart related problems and immune system problems. There are severe consequences not only for individuals but also for the organisation if wellbeing issues are increased in an organisation. So, there is still a need to consider the “health” of the whole workforce group to prevent them being the next ones with wellbeing problems.
Q: Can you please give a brief insight about your talk at the annual ABP Conference in October?
– I will start with the question: how do organisations nowadays look at wellbeing and mental health? I’d say that we can categorise these organisations, for example there are the ones which are clearly out of date regarding wellbeing actions. This type of organisation only focuses on stress related problems and people with mental health issues. The most common way of tackling these issues is avoiding people going off sick and the main concern is a possible law suit against the company. These organisations see wellbeing as a problem not as a solution. On the other hand, there are organisations which work with strategic wellbeing and they are getting the results that if you improve wellbeing of your people you will get the business benefits. I’ll share more of the differences in my talk.
– In addition, I will talk about which factor influence people’s wellbeing and psychological health. The different types of interventions in wellbeing and new areas of wellbeing that seem to be attracting interest now such as the importance of people’s financial health. If you ask board executives which wellbeing they are think should receive investment you’d get workload problems, depression, anxiety but if you ask to employees they’d probably say financial issues and financial pressures on them. The discussion will be about how do you help and support people on the edge of their mental health. I will also be exploring workplaces designing like smart offices and the relationship of this with wellbeing.
Professor Ivan Robertson is speaking as a keynote at the annual ABP Conference on 11th October at 11:30 am.
Tickets are on sale now and can be booked here. Early bird rates until 31 August!
Tais Lopes de Queiroz