The world of work is changing and it’s affecting peoples’ health and wellbeing. One major influence is technology; the digital world’s influence on work, and almost all aspects of our lives, is growing all the time. Not so long ago any talk about robots and artificial intelligence would have seemed utopian and futuristic, confined to science fiction films and books. Not anymore.
World demographics are also changing. We have a workforce that is increasing in age – by 2030, the number of people in England above the age of 65 will increase by 50% and the number of people aged 85 or over will double.
At the same time, the birth rate is slowly falling. In 2016, the average age of the UK workforce was 39, but by 2030 it will be 43. This kind of demographic change will have a profound impact on workplaces – aside from the health implications of managing an older workforce as we are much more likely to develop a disability and multiple long-term health conditions with age, it won’t be unusual to have at least four generations working together. This could be wonderfully innovative but it could also be challenging for employers if they’re not geared up for managing such an age-diverse workforce.
Another dimension of the ageing population is the increased caring responsibilities many of us will have for elderly or ill parents and relatives while also juggling work – this will potentially have a major effect on some people’s psychological wellbeing if the right support isn’t in place at work.
I have certainly seen the changes since I started work at Mott MacDonald just over 20 years ago. I joined in 1996 as an environmental scientist embarking on a new career in health and safety. My experience stood me in good stead, and after completing my health and safety training with the company I was ready to make a start.
Over my years with the company I have seen a complete shift in the focus of health and safety. 20 years ago, the focus was very firmly on health and safety compliance – taking steps to reduce the risk of injury and ill health associated with work. And over time the industry has been fairly successful in understanding and reducing physical safety hazards. But as we seek to move beyond minimum legal compliance and to be more proactive in our approach we need to broaden our focus and look more holistically at our culture – how we do things and why.
At Mott MacDonald we have been looking at our health and wellbeing for a number of years now. There is a lot of different activity across our business which encourages and supports us in being more active, making sensible health choices around our diet and nutrition, making sure we are getting enough sleep and speaking out if we are feeling depressed or anxious.
We now want to take this to the next level. This is not about “yoghurt and yoga” as I heard one person describe it. This is about having a global strategy for wellbeing, led by our managing director Mike Haigh and reported on at executive board meetings as a strategic issue.
So, what does wellbeing mean to us at Mott MacDonald?
This year we signed the Time to Change employer pledge, the main government supported campaign to end mental health stigma in the workplace, led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. We are one of 500 organisations to sign the pledge and we have an action plan which makes us accountable to take forward a number of key principles and activities to foster a mentally healthy culture across the workforce.
We’re committed to raising awareness of mental health and creating an inclusive workplace environment where all staff feel supported. Staff are also provided with advice for on the five ways of wellbeing, which aims to help people build resilience and manage their own mental health by taking positive action, building social connections and finding ways to cope that work for them.
How are we doing?
We are a global business, employing 16000 people, operating in 150 countries, so we face challenges embedding our approach across such a dispersed workforce.
Vitality Health Insurance announced the results of its latest Healthiest Workplace in Britain survey a couple of weeks ago. Encouragingly our scores have improved. Overall, we were 31 out of 139 for the healthiest workplace and healthiest employees. In terms of managing stress we were ranked 22nd.
As you can see, we’ve come a long way from when I joined back in the 1990s. It’s great to see the changes and the progress we are making. We still have much to do, but we are committed to making our health and wellbeing strategy a reality for everyone at Mott MacDonald.