Guest blog: Ivory Towerism and Workplace Wellbeing

This week, I took part in a webinar with Debbie Kleiner, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at PES on the vast (yet interwoven) topics of workplace wellbeing, internal communications and inclusion.

This was part of a series of webinars supporting the new offering, which helps HR and People teams to deliver the workplace wellbeing message. My ‘first career’ was in PR and communications before moving into people strategy and so I’m interested to cogitate on this theme and weave in my recent inclusion consulting work.

What is workplace wellbeing?

Seems appropriate upfront to share what this means to me. Sure, there are many factors affecting an employee’s wellbeing, mental health and quality of life that are firmly outside the control of an employer. However, employers certainly do have a duty of care to support their staff to the best of their ability.

The quality of someone’s working environment will have a huge impact on overall wellbeing (I believe in a moral responsibility of employers here) but, crucially, the most enlightened employers also see the massive upside in terms of engagement and performance when team members can really deliver their best.

If I think about the evolution of diversity & inclusion and workplace wellbeing in a corporate context in recent years, it’s been fascinating to watch many brands align the two, under the broader ‘D&I’ umbrella. (Other terms such as ‘equity’ and ‘belonging’ also find their way into job titles). For my part, the two are very much inter-related. The purpose of my consulting business is to create more human workplaces.  When you are thriving, happy, healthy and engaged you can perform at your best. If you do not feel included, if you are not made to feel like you belong, you will be unable to thrive and certainly not ‘be your best self,’ articulated below by Shawn Achor;

“Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed.” – Shawn Achor, Harvard Psychologist, Researcher & Author

Debbie and I ruminated on what bad practice we’ve seen and shared practical insights in terms of best practice. This is where ‘ivory towerism’ comes in. A compelling piece of research from BCG last January discovered that whilst most global organisations were now addressing the inclusion agenda, most of their resource and spend was not positively impacting their target audience. Why? Ivory towerism. A disconnect between leaders in their ivory tower developing programmes without understanding or including the target group.

Thursday’s session was lively and fulsome conversation, with plenty of relevant and practical content. Feel free to view the recording here. We examined the often bewildering to do list of the HR professional, the myriad strategic imperatives to consider in today’s complex and uncertain world. How do elements like purpose, internal comms, D&I, wellbeing etc fit together? Strategically, these elements should be brought together under the umbrella of the company values and culture. And after all, shouldn’t every organisation have a people strategy, aligning the people approach with the business plan? I feel an entirely separate webinar in the making…