November 4, 2015 in Events (live blogging), #cipd15

#cipd15 – Mental capital and wellbeing at work

Opening keynote by Professor Sir Cary Cooper. Wellbeing is really important and we want to create workplaces that people want to go to!


Why is wellbeing important? Stress and Mental ill health are the leading cause of absence, and presenteeism is a huge problem. See the CIPD Absence Management Survey for more information. A recent survey suggests that 28% of people are consistently working despite poor health. 1 in 4 people suffer from Anxiety or Depression at some point in their life. Mental health costs the UK £70n per year, equivalent to 4.5% of GDP. There is an abundance of evidence about the importance of wellbeing, but it is personal narratives and stories that seem to capture more attention that the ROI numbers.


Many managers are working way in excess of their contracted hours; 11% of people work in excess of 60 hours a week. 70% of people work over 40 hours a week, and this contrasts with what Sweden are doing. We know that long hours does not equate to being effective. If you consistently work long hours, you will get ill. Survey results from people show the clear impact of excessive working – the negative impact on wellbeing, on families, and on productivity.

The sources of stress are well-known and well documented:

Intrinsic job causes – too little or too much work. Time pressures and deadlines, poor physical working conditions. Email causes huge problems and all of us can be guilty of checking our emails far too frequently and out of hours. Some US companies are closing email servers down in evening and weekends to help stem the flow of emails out of office hours.

Role in the organisation – role ambiguity, role conflict, and too little responsibility can cause problems, Lack of control and lack of managerial support cause problems. Autonomy is a really important factor.

Relationships at work – the fundamental relationship at work is your manager. Managers can provide feedback through praise, or they can do it through finding fault. A quick show of hands in the audience shows that there is a massive lack of appreciation. Most people are told quickly when they do something wrong but aren’t told when they do something well. This is a huge problem, and we must make sure that we have the right managers (by recruiting the right people and then training them to be good managers!). UK PLC has a greater need for socially skilled managers than ever before.

Career development – under and over-promotion and lack of job security cause problems. Fear of redundancy has a massive detrimental impact on wellbeing.

We are starting to see the emergence of ‘leave-ism’, particularly in the public sector, where people are taking holiday time to catch up with work.

All HR people should read Joseph Heller’s ‘Something’s Happened’.


We need a comprehensive programme to improve wellbeing, addressing things at several levels:

Primary – Dealing with the underlying stressors – it is really important to create the right kind of environment in which people thrive.

Secondary – helping people to cope. Wellbeing and resilience programmes do work and will help people.

Tertiary – Picking people up. Employee Assistant Programmes (EAPs) work; they do help people, although they can increase staff turnover (when counselling helps people to figure out that they should leave!) and that’s a good thing!


If we could improve the wellbeing of people in work on the UK, it would have a massive positive impact on the economy. To bring this alive, the impact on the bottom line would be enough to fund 243,000 nurses!


Summary: We need to make work fun! We spend more time there than we do with our families, so it should be fun!

Beautifully captured in this drawing by Simon Heath:



(This was live-blogged during a session at the CIPD Annual Conference & Exhibition – #cipd15 – I’ve tried to capture a faithful summary of the highlights for me but my own bias, views – and the odd typo – might well creep in.)

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