Stating the obvious?

But perhaps because the obvious still needs stating.

I’m at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership Conference listening to Sir Cary Cooper talking about wellbeing at work.  This is what he had to say:

 We have a problem with mental health and stress absence in the UK. Employees regularly go to work when they are sick – presenteeism is a major problem. 

A quality of life survey undertaken since 1997 showing people feel that their volume and pressure of work is increasing. 

Long hours culture. 75% of people work more than their contracted hours every week – excluding what we do on our smart phones. We work the longest hours in Europe. But long means ill. Long means family impact. 

Only 35% of employees are both healthy and present. What a miserable statistic. 

Excessive emailing – sometimes out of hours (whatever that means anymore). Some companies are banning it. Blocking it when you are on holiday. Limiting who you can cc.

Many managers don’t have the right social and interpersonal skills for this stuff. The most important relationship at work is the one with your boss. Bad managers should come with a health warning.  Bullying and aggressive management is a real problem. 

The pressure to be always on through technology adds to the unhealthy mix. 

My thoughts are these…

Don’t we know this stuff? Isn’t it obvious?  That working long hours makes us less productive.  That stress is bad for our health.  That mental health is a problem for many people in our organisations. That bad managers are deadly. 

It shouldn’t need research.  It shouldn’t need stating.  But yet it does.  But  yet there are cultures in which this stuff is hard wired.  Where sitting at your desk equals work.  Where emailing late at night is acceptable and where talking about mental health is not.  Where presenteeism is work like a badge of honour. Where crappy management is all too real. 

We know this stuff.  It isn’t a knowledge gap but a to-do gap in most organisations.  This is a culture thing, a line manager capability thing. And until we address that, really tackle it and call it out, we will keep on having the same old conference conversations.

Over to this thing about the pressure of emails, the pressure of technology.  I believe it’s a personal thing. For some, or more accurately perhaps I should say, for me, this doesn’t really present a problem.  Call it FOMO, call it habit, call it sad (I know some people do) but being in touch is just part of who I am.  Yes, I grab my phone the minute my alarm goes off in the morning.  More accurately, my phone is my alarm. And yes, I’m checking my notifications.  Over my breakfast I check all of my social media feeds.  Well, apart from LinkedIn of course.  Ain’t no one got time for that. I reply to messages, drop into a chat channel with some of my social media besties. No stress, no pressure.

I work for a global business.  While I am asleep my colleagues are working and emailing.  Once again, no stress or pressure felt. 

It is both personal and contextual. We rail against email, but someone commented to me recently that the thing they dislike most of all is a phone call, because it demands immediate attention rather that the email which can be responded to later. Demonising email is just focusing on symptoms not causes. 

Back to Cary… He asked the HR folk in the room: do people look forward to coming to work everyday? Or do they look for leaves on the line? 

Something to think about perhaps, at your place. 

Please forgive any typos this is a live blog!



1 thought on “Stating the obvious?

  1. Thanks for this post, if it were a piece of vinyl, I’d store it in my scratched record box. As you observe, a lot of people are really stuck on this stuff. Here’s a quote from last year’s CIPD conference, overheard during HRUnscrambled. ‘After this conversation, we need to act. Cary Cooper’s been talking about wellbeing for the last 20 years, and nothing has changed.’ To put this quote in context, CC gave the opening address at the conference. Here are a few more snippets I heard as I listened to the conversations percolating.

    We should pursue wellness for its own sake, and if we need to link it to £ in order to release budget, so be it.

    Use ‘stealth mode’ – this brings to mind Proceed Until Apprehended and Trojan Mice.

    Part time fully present beats full time not there (physically and/or mentally).

    Ban internal email two days a week. I’m not a huge fan of banning stuff but if this stick can be used to stir the pot of conversation then maybe it’s worth a go?

    In addition to wellness, there were good conversations about inclusion and other things at HRUnscrambled. They feel relevant so I’m posting a link to the conversation summary, in case folk are interested.

    OK – I’m off to write a shopping list now – I’ll try and make it a meditative process.

    Cheers – Doug

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s