Calling for more diversity in the wellbeing space

Recently I’ve been wishing for more meetings with men. I spend a lot of time in meetings with women. And while I know my 20-something self would be puzzled by this statement (and would be delighted to chat regularly to women, albeit in a work capacity) let me explain…

Just under three years ago now I embarked on a career change. I was getting a bit disillusioned with life in marketing and wanted to pursue my interest in health and wellbeing.

Having had a wobble with my own mental health some years previously, I’d seen how slowly but surely conversations around the subject were shifting. So I decided to launch a service providing employee health and wellbeing support to businesses.

And when I say ‘health’, that’s with an equal emphasis on physical health. Starting in 2018 from my spare bedroom in SW London, Shine Workplace Wellbeing was born. After vowing I was done with commuting into central London each day, interest in our services and a growing team meant I soon reversed that decision and we set up an office in Vauxhall.

Even if it is just for now, I'm back in that spare bedroom while working from home...

Encouraging more males

Which brings me back to today and my first point - my desire to speak to more men. The last three years have seen me pitching, presenting, meeting, calling, zooming (is that a verb now?) to a much higher percentage of females.

I’m often conversing with HR personnel who are predominantly female and I’m also increasingly speaking to internal wellbeing leads or asked to join internal wellbeing committees to provide an external perspective. Even these roles or the makeup of such teams and committees are 90% female.

And the recent Wellbeing for Working Parents sessions we’ve been running - which have been very popular - were also, you’ve guessed it, mainly attended by Mums. Despite a concerted push to get more Dads involved when we noticed the regular disparity.

Hence I want more men to get involved in any aspect of employee wellbeing. To dispel any preconceived notions, those involved in this area don’t sit around and meditate or discuss who’s running upcoming yoga classes.

This is about finding solutions to making employees healthier and happier - and as I’m sure you know, crack that and the chances are your business is going to perform better.

But perhaps because of the gender imbalance, some of the things men may find contributes positively to their wellbeing can be overlooked.

Wellness Programmes

Take 5 a side football for example.

One survey we ran with a client (always anonymous) drew a number of disgruntled comments about the removal of financial support for the company’s team.

We fought hard for it to be reinstated in said client’s revamped employee wellness programme.

But because there isn’t that instant association between football and wellbeing, it took some convincing. However, it’s back (or of course it was pre-COVID) with six or seven blokes from the company getting together once a week for some physical exertion, a beer afterwards and social interaction, strengthening work relationships. But not only does it do this, it also stokes an appreciation from these employees to the company for subsidising the activity.

It’s so beneficial for the participants’ wellbeing and if that wasn’t wholly apparent then, I think it is now due to the pandemic.

Because that’s one good thing to have come out of this turbulent time. It accelerated the conversation around mental health and made those who weren’t already aware, that mental health does not exist in isolation and there’s so many factors contributing to our mental health.

Because of COVID we appreciate (or atleast I hope we appreciate) that we need to exercise more, get good sleep, to break bad habits, have structure for most days, and importantly, to create boundaries between work and home life. I have no qualms in saying how lonely I’ve felt at times this year, yearning for that interaction with mates, family members and colleagues.

Collectively we’ve realised that isolation and lockdown are pretty detrimental to our mental wellbeing. So with this new found appreciation for what makes us tick mentally and physically, I’m asking more men to get involved with their employee wellbeing schemes. To sit on committees and help shape programmes that will appeal to them and other men to share their stories about what they do to give their wellbeing a boost.

It doesn’t have to be about overcoming depression, just as simple as the buzz you get post run and the positive impact that has on your mental health.

And if you can’t commit to that, to join sessions or workshops, particularly if you manage staff.

Maybe you’ve got through the past 12 months relatively unscathed, but there’s no doubt others around you at work will have faced tough times.

So boost your managing with empathy, your conversation skills around mental health, and your active listening.

I would love to have a meeting with you in 2021 (preferably in-person).