Ruminating Cows, Trojan Horses and More Reasons to be Cheerful in 2020

Neil HartleyHealth & Safety Issues/TrendsLeave a Comment

picture of cows

This is the third in the trilogy of posts taking an optimistic look at UK health and safety issues in 2020. The first focused on Brexit, the second on the role that data and technology can play in improving health and safety outcomes, while this one is all about ruminating cows and trojan horses [really? – Ed].

OK, seriously, we’ll get to the cows and horses, but this post is all about the positives around mental wellness and the lifting of the taboo that is such a cause for optimism.

Major strides have been made in recent years resulting in a much greater awareness of mental health such that the taboo is lifting and employers/employees alike are accepting the benefits of a more holistic approach. Perhaps the latest, most visible, awareness campaign was last weekend’s FA Cup ties which all started a minute late to highlight the Take a Minute Heads Up campaign.

Awareness leads to understanding, understanding to tools (individual and collective) and tools to, hopefully, better outcomes both for individuals and employers.

We provided a high level commentary on the availability of tools in our recent post Mental Health – A Pinch of Optimism and that optimism derives mainly from increased awareness, the lifting of the taboo and those tools ranging from new social platforms to simple help sheets to aid conversations between employers and employees.

Much still needs to be done – it almost feels like the build-yourself furniture has arrived but without the instructions. Everything is there but it will take several false starts to build something functional let alone the finished article.

An example of what we mean here is work-related stress. We’ve always held the view that this is absolutely intertwined with life stress – the normal, how am I going to pay the mortgage, how secure is my job, what’s my purpose type stuff. According to megatrends analysis this relates to the retreat of the middle classes. Any wellness solution at work can’t be isolated from these broader, life issues.

An interesting quote from psychologist Guy Winch is, “The interesting thing about work stress – we don’t really experience much of it at work.” He said this in a TED talk that I was attracted to by the title: “How to turn off work thoughts during your free time.” Personally, if work is stressful and I wake in the middle of the night, thoughts of what needs to be done flood my mind and that’s me awake. Hence, the interest in the talk which you can watch below.

 

Guy describes the problem as ruminating about your job (task lists etc.) [much as a cow does when chewing the cud] and gives 3 examples of how to counter this. It’s well worth a 10 minute time investment and, hopefully, there will be something there that can help counter ‘work-related stress’.

The Trojan Horse? Well, that relates to the megatrend ‘connected consumer’ and is your smartphone – the trojan horse for rumination.

From the employer’s perspective, the benefits and perks required to recruit and retain staff seem to be a hot topic at the moment and ‘wellness’ is playing a role there too. It’s interesting that only c40% of UK employees take their full holiday entitlement while, at the same time, some companies (e.g. Virgin, Netflix) are introducing unlimited holiday schemes. Perhaps, what employees (and employers) would most benefit from would be an environment in which all took their full entitlement but without the trojan horse such that they can become totally disconnected from work?

Wellness impacts productivity either directly through absenteeism or indirectly through presenteeism (which itself can have an impact on incidents) so the employer has motivation beyond recruitment and retention and the good news is that conversation has started.

We believe that 2020 has much to offer and, with the right mindset – not to mention less rumination, we can be optimistic about the state of UK health and safety.

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