Wednesday, 4 November 2015

CIPD Conference Blog #2 of many

The first session I've been to today has seen Professor Sir Cary Cooper talking about mental wellbeing and health.

There's a lot that he covered and I can't type quick enough but here are some things that resonated with me.

He talked a lot about presenteeism and what is causing the rise of it across the UK. A large and growing group of people now attend work without being well enough to do so, and this is as big an issue as those who take time off because they aren't well.

Sometimes these people are coming in to work because they are engaged and want to be there, but sometimes it's fear of taking time off. And yet we all know someone who is there in body but not in spirit, and who seemingly does little or no productive work on a regular basis. Cooper suggests that this group accounts for as much as 28% of the workforce. 

What % is it in your workplace?

He also covered the factors that can make people unwell in the workplace. Aside from the expected and usual ones like long working hours, and poor line management relationships, he included the "Americanisation" of workplaces, not taking your full holiday entitlement and inappropriate work/life balance. 

On annual leave, Cooper suggested that people are working such long hours in general that they are having to take and use their annual leave to do things that are routine and ordinary family and non work stuff that they would normally do in non working time, and therefore missing out on the relaxation that annual leave is meant to bring. 

I'd not looked at annual leave in this way but equally am guilty of doing that myself. I took two days off last year to work on my garden, and so did my partner. That was because we didn't have time to do the garden in the evenings or at the weekends because one or both of us had some work commitments that were eating into those times. 

Does this happen in your workplace?

On wellbeing initiatives Cooper talked at how effective some interventions can be in reducing absence, for example EAP schemes. I've recently discussed whether it's right or cost effective for an organisation to have an EAP scheme and concluded that yes it is, but Cooper is right to point out that whilst such interventions will have an impact on some individual cases, and be enormously helpful to those people, the interventions themselves are usually dealing with the symptoms of absence and poor health rather than dealing with the causes. In short, they don't change the culture. 

An interesting point. 

I've blogged on another of Coopers themes of ignoring or switching off work emails in non working time to make that distinction clearer, and it was telling that many people in the audience understood the need to do this, but as the straw poll showed, can't do this themselves. 

Even now I struggle to leave work behind in the evening and at weekends, although annual leave days are different, but at least I've made a start. 

Cooper closed by quoting Dilbert, and Robert Kennedy. But so many of the gems of wisdom in this session came from Cooper himself, making so many salient and interesting points about wellbeing. 

A brilliant opening speech at #cipd15 from Professor Sir Cary Cooper. 

Till next time.

Gary.