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Supportive or intrusive; Is tech the key to workplace wellbeing?

These days, developments in technology are plentiful. What some might have considered unimaginable many years ago is now very much reality. Businesses, whether small or large have been forced to embrace the tech-trend or risk being left in the dust. Technology has been used to address a variety of issues in business, inducing the recent move to working from home, which wouldn’t have been achievable without the advancements we’ve seen in tech over the last decade. With tech being used to solve a plethora of issues, it was inevitable that our own wellbeing in the workplace would make it’s way into the tech world.

What is now known as the “global corporate wellness market” is expected to grow at an annual 7% rate by 2028, already being valued in the tens of billions in 2020, according to a report by Grand View Research. With corporate eyes and ears keenly focused on our wellbeing at work, tech is being implemented in a variety of ways to attempt to measure whether we’re satisfied or stressed.

But is tech truly the key to our wellbeing?

Some may argue that certain implementations of technology to monitor an employee’s wellbeing could be considered intrusive or inhumane…

The most recent roundtable, hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintyre, brings together a group of experts and entrepreneurs, who put their knowledge on tech and stress to the test by discussing whether the answer to our wellbeing woes can be found in the implementation of technology in the workplace.

 

Awareness

 Beginning the discussion Lorena Puica of IamYiam, explains that during the early years of her career, workplace wellbeing was not at the forefront of the minds of employees, nor businesses themselves.

“I was in my twenties and I was oblivious to most of the challenges in the health space,” she says, further explaining that despite being unaware of the majority of challenges faced in the workplace when it came to health, she had still assumed these problems were being addressed, “I still expected that from an organisational perspective, there would be a small amount of awareness and some tools provided.”

“But at that time, that was not the case,” continues Lorena, “I think over the past five or six years, [wellbeing] has really moved to the top of the agenda of most organisations.”

Being considerably passionate about her work, Lorena understands more than most the importance of raising awareness, mentioning that much like her, many may be unaware of the consequences of a constant immersion in their workload in their early careers.

“I think it’s the responsibility of the organisation to raise awareness,” she says, “it’s wonderful that people are committed to their work, that they’re passionate and give everything, but they need to be told there are some tools that might support them not reaching the breaking point.”

 

Responsibility

Lorena effectively highlights the importance of awareness when it comes to mental health in the workplace, but should all the responsibility be on the shoulders of the business, or is it a team effort? Phil Davies of FlyForm gives his own input as a CEO and founder.

“An interesting approach would be a split between the individual and the organisation,” says Phil, despite his own contribution to his businesses mental health initiatives, Phil elaborates on Lorena’s previous point by pointing out that we shouldn’t entirely rely on businesses when it comes to our mental health:

“I think unfortunately because of the nature of business these days, someone somewhere needs to make sure businesses are doing what they’re supposed to do,” says Phil, highlighting the need for involvement from the government to moderate businesses contributions to the mental health workplace space. “there needs to be a safety net for companies that aren’t addressing this problem, which is still a massive issue.”

 

Balance

 There are so many resources available to monitor your own, or your employees’ mental health, whoever may be responsible for ensuring wellbeing will not be short of resources that’s for sure. A more complex issue, however, is finding the balance between utilising the data, whilst still employing a human emotional aspect that allows us to empathise with each other in the workplace.

Giving his own perspective on the matter, Charlie Winton of OK Positive says: “you can’t just have a reactive response to things within a business, from an organisational perspective, you need to look at how you can get the best out of your people, because that in return gets you the best out of your bottom line and your profit as an organisation.”

“When I look at mental health support, I see preventative, proactive and reactive,” Charlie continues, “99% of solutions look at proactive and reactive, whether that’s an app that helps you with breathing, whether that’s an EAP or a counsellor, you’re waiting there until there’s a problem before you go and solve it.”

“I see tech working on its own to pre-empt triggers, to allow people to realise things they would have never realised before,” says Charlie, expressing the importance of preventative measures in wellbeing-tech, utilised alongside human action, rather than a reaffirmation of what many know already, which is that they’re simply stressed.

“We need to be able to use tech to tell us things we didn’t know beforehand,” says Charlie, “once you get the organisation and the individual coming to that middle point where they both agree to get the best out of everything in that situation, we’ll see much more profitable, productive and loyal employees in business.”

Impact

Pre-emptively addressing problems is a strong solution for both our mental and physical health, and utilising tech can be an effective tool when it comes to monitoring and stopping detrimental factors in their tracks before they become a real issue. But outside of diet and meditation, looking deeper into the workplace, the impact of certain aspects in a working environment can be an important consideration.

“A big part of fostering wellbeing in the workplace is actually looking at the fundamental factors that impact it,” says Lee Chambers of Essentialise. Explaining how many factors come into play well within the workplace rather than just the individual themselves, he states “things around workload, how the clarity of a role directly impacts a person’s wellbeing and looking at the aspects around autonomy and appreciation are things tech can create efficiencies in.”

“A massive thing with tech in the workplace when it comes to mental health, is trust, accessibility and functionality,” Lee says, “employees are looking at these aspects more and more because while they don’t mind giving a level of qualitative data, they’re much more likely to give quantitative, which provides data to work with from a strategic, objective perspective when it comes to wellbeing, but that can then present challenges and delves into that area where that human connection is being eroded or lost.”

“We want to find ways to become the masters of the technology that builds wellbeing, rather than technology becoming the master of the population,” finishes Lee.

 

Effectiveness

 Adoption of tech is happening rapidly across all aspects of business, with wellbeing now at the forefront of many agendas. Some think many are simply getting swept up in the trend rather that making genuine considerations when it comes to tech implementation – especially wellbeing.

Stephanie Henson of techtimeout believes there’s a problem that needs to be addressed in businesses implementation of tech, “I think the problem is, everyone’s throwing technology into businesses at a rapid rate,” she says, “I do think technology is the saviour, but you can’t just throw it in, then tick a box, you can’t just put something in and then hope it’s going to work.”

Speaking of her own experience providing wellbeing platforms, tech and initiatives in the professional services space, Stephanie says, “there’s a huge opportunity and need for this sort of service, but the motivation for why, the bottom line is still marketing and recruitment issues, so the actual drive for why might not be as genuine as we might have hoped.”

When discussing the effectiveness of the implementation of wellbeing related tech and initiatives in general, Stephanie explains that while the thought is there, incorrect motivations behind wellbeing tech implementation can undermine its efforts. “The employees might be like, ‘this is all great, but my manager is still sending me emails on a Sunday,’” she says, “It’s not necessarily the top or the bottom we’re trying to reach, it’s actually the middle-management area.”

“That’s the challenge that we have, how do we re-educate a culture of managers that have managed in a particular way for the last 20-30 years, where they expect productivity on the basis of time worked equals productivity,” asks Stephanie, ““I think that’s a challenge we collectively need to address.”

“Yes you can throw tech in, but how do you do it in a way that truly engages with people in order to make a difference?” finalises Stephanie.

 

Motivations

 Going off Stephanie’s point regarding motivations behind wellbeing tech leading the way amongst many businesses, Simon Scott-Nelson of Wellity Global adds his own perspective on how while the outward appearance of a business may orient itself towards wellbeing, the disingenuous façade ends up falling apart once many employees break into the culture and positions of employment –  resulting in a variety of consequences.

“I think the churn is a real issue,” he says, “the levels of sign-off are now unbelievable within organisations, yes they have an outward ambition to increase the wellbeing of their teams, but that usually relies on an individual stakeholder.”

“If that stakeholder moves from an organisation, you have to reverse back into that period of education,” says Simon, “however, what we’ve noticed over the past few years is that a lot of the education has been done anyway by society.”

“The thing about senior leadership is, if they’re going to have an open door policy, they’re going to have to be the first ones to walk through that door,” continues Simon, “there’s an uncertainty when you introduce something to an organisation, if they don’t see any of the senior leadership participating, then many have a level of fear and a lack of trust that causes them to not have the confidence to walk through themselves.”

Commenting on the extensive insight given by the roundtable and reflecting on some of their points, Jon Dawson, partner at haysmacintyre says: “Wellbeing in the workplace is high on many organisations’ agendas but the motives behind this can vary from the impact of wellbeing on the bottom line, to societal pressures or personal experiences.

Whilst employers are in a position to support workplace wellbeing, it’s widely acknowledged that individuals must take an element of responsibility for their own wellbeing and so employers are looking to equip their staff with tools and techniques to help them do this. Whilst technology may be a contributing factor in poor health and wellbeing for some of us, many of the wellbeing initiatives being adopted by employers utilise technology to help support their staff. This is an exciting and necessary time for the technology industry, as it looks to correct some of the wider issues that it played a part in creating.”

Supportive or intrusive; Is tech the key to workplace wellbeing?

*INVITE ONLY*

FORMAT:

We’re delighted to have you join this Great British Entrepreneur Awards roundtable discussing how entrepreneurs are facing disruption and innovation pitfalls. We’ll be focusing on: Supportive or intrusive; Is tech the key to workplace wellbeing?

Our community is all about bringing great minds together to support, connect and share.

It is our intention that from this session you will:

  • Create new and interesting connections
  • Share and consume trends and opportunities
  • Support or receive the support of industry peers and experts
  • Be included within a write up to appear on Fresh Business Thinking post event (all quotes and comments will be sent to you for sign off ahead of any sharing)

The session will run for 45 minutes. After initial introductions Jon Dawson will open up the discussion.

We will grant all attendees camera and microphone access/visibility.

This is intended to be an informal and relaxed conversation between some of Great Britain’s most exciting entrepreneurs. There is no pressure and no expectation, if restrictions allowed we’d like to be doing this over a breakfast but we hope that for now, the comfort of your own home will do. We can’t wait to see you!

THE PARTICULARS:

Taking place on Tuesday 8th February at 8.30am, the session will run for 45 minutes. Please have your camera and microphone on.

This is the link to join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81879326366

ATTENDEES:

Ben Towers, Tahora
Ben (23) is Co-Founder at – a workplace connectivity platform helping colleagues create meaningful connections in the workplace, have a greater sense of belonging and integrate into the company culture. An entrepreneur since he was 11 years old when he started his first business, Towers Design, Ben has always been motivated by creating things that help people. By 18 he was named by The Times as ‘the smartest teenager on the planet’ and working with the UK Government and Royal Family on their entrepreneurship programmes. Prior to starting Tahora, Ben was the Communications Director at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Charlie Winton, OK Positive
Charlie Winton is founder of OK Positive, a business-to-business mental health application designed to reduce the effects of mental health issues in the workplace (including anxiety, stress and depression) and support employees with their day-to-day mental health, creating a happier and more productive workforce.

Dean Mortimer, Wellpoint Media
Dean Mortimer is an entrepreneurial Director with a diverse range of business sector experience which includes: Construction, Training, Strategic Management Consultancy, Disability Services, Occupational Health, Mental Health Services and more recently Health and Wellbeing services as Director of Commercial Operations with Wellpoint Group.

Dean has substantial experience in Sales and Marketing which he has used to develop and build two successful Occupational Health businesses which were subsequently acquired by larger OH businesses in 2006 and 2016 respectively.  More recently he has been working to develop the range of services delivered through Wellpoint Groups’ Well.Me Digital Platform and is also a Director and Board member of a Mental Health Company.

Dean is passionate about his work with people who have experienced disadvantage and particularly severe mental health problems and was a member of an All Party Parliamentary Working Group in Mental Health chaired by Dr J Bray MP.  This Group successfully changed the benefits system to enable people with severe mental health problems to move to independence through paid employment. Dean also contributed to the Working for a Healthier Tomorrow Strategy with John Frost and Dame Carol Black.

Francesca James – Great British Entrepreneur Awards
Francesca is the co-founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, acknowledging the hard work and inspiring stories of British entrepreneurs and businesses in Great Britain. With a community of outstanding entrepreneurs who’ve gone on to become household names, the Awards pride themselves on celebrating the entrepreneurs story and not the balance sheet.

Jon Dawson, haysmacintyre
Jon Dawson is a Partner within the Creative, Media and Tech team at Haysmacintyre LLP. Jon advises fast growth businesses and their founders on accounting and tax related matters, including management accounting, corporate finance, transactional services, international expansion, restructuring, EIS, share option schemes, R&D tax credits, audits, tax compliance and exit planning. 

Jon has widespread experience working closely with clients as they go through a period of change, whether it be rapid growth, fundraising, or an exit. Jon enjoys advising his clients throughout their journey and looks after an array of the firm’s creative digital and technology clients, ranging from privately-owned companies to publicly-listed groups.

Lee Chambers, Essentialise
Lee Chambers is an award-winning British psychologist, coach and entrepreneur. Featured widely across the media, from the Telegraph to Vogue and the Guardian, and trusted by companies such as Indeed, Reebok, TalkTalk and Oppo Mobile, he takes pride in utilising his skills to increase wellbeing and performance.

Lee’s journey has been one of challenges and successes. Over the past 15 years, he had the pleasure to work in corporate finance, elite sports and local government, all while building a European video game business. It hasn’t been plain sailing, and he has faced mental health challenges and losing the ability to walk along the way.Today, Lee runs Essentialise, a wellbeing and coaching company, with the ambition of positively impacting the health and happiness of 1 million individuals. He is involved with a number of other organisations and causes focusing on health innovation, health inequality, inclusion and human performance.

Lorena Puica, IamYiam
Lorena had a decade-long career in strategy and investment management with global institutions, working with portfolios of over £200 billion before setting up her own business. Using the knowledge from her degrees in mathematics, economics, and finance, she wrote and published “Microfinance as a tool for empowering individuals towards Sustainable Personal Economics” whilst gaining two world records as an extreme athlete. 

Following 3 years of personal health challenges, Lorena founded syd™ as a science-backed, AI-powered preventive health platform that gives people the power to understand their own biology and behaviour via a digital twin. syd™ is a virtual companion that provides science-backed recommendations for your colleagues and a real-time population analytics platform for enterprises. 

syd™ leverages research, machine learning, and creativity to empower 1 billion people to take charge of their life quality by 2025.

Phil Davies, FlyForm 
Phil is an entrepreneur with a passion for solving business and socio-humanitarian challenges by harnessing the power of technology. Phil has a wide range of real-world, hands-on experience gained during 20 years in the IT and Tech industries covering a range of customer service, technical and managerial roles.

Alongside his technology leadership roles, Phil is also a public speaker and social media influencer, speaking regularly on topics such as entrepreneurship, addiction recovery, mental health and well-being, and growth mindset.

Simon Scott-Nelson, Wellity
Simon’s first sales business was started in the property industry in 2009 which grew to two offices, included four business acquisitions and a successful exit in 2017.

He realised there must be a way to improve the sales industry’s approach to mental health and wellbeing and this is now his burning passion. Following a period in his life where he experienced burn-out, he also gained a healthy appreciation for mental health, which in turn, through resilience, led to the birth of Wellity.

Stephanie Henson, techtimeout
Stephanie is a  highly motivated, highly enthusiastic individual with proven experience of improving business processes, managing teams, and managing large accounts at Director level.

At Six Ticks as the Sales and Operations Director, she oversees the distribution of software solutions to SME’s. They provide quality websites, future-proof mobile apps, customer database and CRM systems, and custom projects.

Stephanie is also responsible for sales and operations in 14 countries across 5 continents around the world, from schools in Ireland, to online hair products store based in New York, to film production companies in the UK, golf courses in Saudi Arabia and an array of businesses from telecommunications, Recruitment, and retail outlets in Shropshire.

Teresa Swinton, Paradigm Human Performance
Teresa Swinton is the entrepreneur behind Paradigm Human Performance. Her tenacity and determination to succeed in instigating real change in the workplace has been instrumental in the business’s evolution, and in turn, Teresa’s rise as an influential entrepreneur has been remarkable.

She has a burning desire to help business leaders to create a just culture and instigate real, tangible change that improves human performance. Driven by her passion for people, she takes great pride in getting to know every facet of an organisation in order to understand where opportunities to improve exist.

Teresa focuses on improving organisational processes to ensure that workers are set up for success. She spent 30 years working in high risk industries, including Construction, Rail, HV Distribution and Fossil-Fuel and Nuclear Power Generation. She truly understands the complexity of people and the organisations that employ them, as well as the challenges of leadership.

Teresa is driven by a desire to improve the safety and wellbeing of every workforce she works with, as well as promoting the importance of good mental and physical health.