Megatrends, Wellness and Safety

Neil HartleyHealth & Safety Issues/TrendsLeave a Comment

health and wellness

Buried in our Halloween post were some wellness and safety ideas that came out of the latest Euromonitor International megatrends analysis and which deserve expansion here.

Firstly, the megatrends analysis. What is it? It’s a lifestyle survey of 1,000+ people in each of 40 countries, conducted annually and aimed at identifying the megatrends shaping consumer markets.

These megatrends are driven by five socio-economic factors such as population change, technology and changing values, the impact of which on health and safety we have covered in a previous post.

Why are the megatrends which shape consumer markets important from a health and safety perspective? Because we are those consumers. That’s us. Yes, the analysis is intended for those marketing to consumers, but it’s still the consumer who goes to work so it’s important to all concerned with wellness and safety to understand broad trends and particularly those that impact on the individual.

The eight megatrends that cause the most disruption across industries are:

  • Experience More
  • Shifted Market Frontiers
  • Healthy Living
  • Shopping Reinvented
  • Middle Class Retreat
  • Ethical Living
  • Premiumisation
  • Connected Consumer

All are interconnected in one way or another and the purpose of this post is not to describe each but to look at those that have the biggest impact on health and safety. They would be the Connected Consumer and Healthy Living, although Ethical Living and the Middle Class Retreat are worthy of comment too.

Connected Consumer

This refers to our almost 24×7 connection to the digital world. From a past world where technology served us and made life easier, to a world today where many of us feel ourselves to be slaves to our devices with a need to be constantly connected, not just to social media but to work too.

With Silicon Valley executives restricting their own children’s access to technology we should be extremely mindful of the broader impact of this megatrend. While their concern may focus on social media, our own concern should be on the ease with which technology enables 24x7x365 connection to our work.

Do you check your work e-mail before going to sleep? Hardly conducive to a good nights sleep.

Do you remember the last time you took a holiday and never once checked your e-mail? I do, and it was in 1999. I remember that holiday extremely fondly and most, if not all, holidays since have been a disappointment and lacked the desired element of reinvigoration.

So, what happened? Did I suddenly become indispensable? No, I just became more connected and eventually a slave to technology. Am I suddenly more popular/better rewarded/indispensable/rested/reinvigorated for having been super-connected all these years? Of course not! Can I say for sure that my mental well-being has taken a hit after 20 years of pseudo-holidays? I actually think it has, yes.

It’s interesting that one of the first tech execs to ban his kids from using a screen was Steve Jobs back in 2011. As brilliant as he was, even Apple survived his passing. Even he was not indispensable.

So, assuming I’m not alone in the pseudo-holiday syndrome, we’re all slightly less well off mentally and likely to be suffering from increased levels of stress that we take into our workplaces.

Given the massive cost of poor mental health to the UK economy, through absenteeism and presenteeism, would an enlightened company be one that mandated at least one annual two week holiday for every employee during which time their access to work e-mail and other systems would be suspended? What a great, caring message that would send to employees. Can you imagine the “discretionary energy” that would release in the workforce?

Healthy Living

Not only are consumers/us/our employees demonstrating a more holistic approach to wellness, there has also been a lifting of the taboo surrounding mental health.

We’ve already seen a sea change in attitudes to mental health across UK industry and we should expect this to continue. Successful employers will be those who not only help their employees deal with mental health issues, but who proactively support their need for exercise, a healthy diet and spiritual beliefs. 50% of respondents in the Euromonitor survey stated that their spiritual beliefs are important to them.

Ethical Living

Just as consumer decisions are framed by the need to be more ethical, so employees (and, particularly, millennials) will want to work for companies with a purpose [beyond profit] such as sustainability, climate change, or recycling.

It may be difficult to see how your own business can influence sustainability, for example, but try some brainstorming, include employees, and launch initiatives that employees can participate in to generate their own feel-good factor.

The alternative is a whole generation of employees without purpose who either leave or, worse, stick around and add to the presenteeism.

What About Safety?

We’ve been guilty of using the term “work-related stress” in the past, as if the stresses of work can be isolated from the wellness challenges outlined above. Indeed, the megatrend Middle Class Retreat is one that has hit the UK particularly hard. One of the top 10 developed countries with the largest middle classes, the UK has seen negative real growth in the median income of the middle classes over the past 10 years.

Coupled with job insecurity, the cost of putting kids through University, interest-only mortgages, a pensions crisis etc., there’s a significant level of life stress to be dealt with before people even get into work. Then there’s the commute and its associated stresses and cost.

Having further stress introduced by the working environment doesn’t help and can be outright egregious in situations of bullying, for example, but if we didn’t have all of these other life factors dictating that we hang on to our jobs, almost at all costs, then we could just leave and find another job.

Whichever way we look at it stress is a massive factor with a significant impact on our mental wellbeing which can then have a significant impact on our safety at work. Are we under pressure to complete a task while being [even slightly] distracted? Does that pressure make us cut corners?

Our safety depends on our mental wellness and, by all accounts, we’re not doing too well at the moment. Perhaps while we’re working on improving our mental wellbeing, having procedures and rules in place that keep us safe should be seen as a support mechanism and not as a hindrance to getting the job done.

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