The Health and Wellbeing at Work event is back for its 17th year at Birmingham’s NEC. Here, HR magazine provides a roundup of some of the key takeaways from day two.
HR is unhappy
Sage’s 2022 report, The changing face of HR, found 62% of HR professionals globally were considering leaving the profession and 80% felt burnt out.
Through its own research, the CIPD has also recognised more consideration is needed for HR’s mental health.
HR professionals concerned about their own wellbeing are often advised to ‘put their own oxygen mask on first’ so they can support and lead organisations through challenge.
But Beth Samson, people director at Investors in People, argued it’s time to challenge this analogy.
“Are we saying that our workplace is like a plane that’s depressurising? That’s a problem,” she said.
“Also, are we only going to put our own oxygen mask on so we can look after other people? I think we should be putting it on if we have to because we need to look after ourselves.”
Samson’s practical suggestions for HR leaders seeking to protect their own mental health included:
- Boundary setting – both with available hours and the nature of issues people can come to them about
- Dedicating time to their own professional development
- Including slots of time off to recharge during large-scale change projects
Employers need new rules for retirement
Between 1960 and 2020, the OECD estimates social and scientific advances have added an extra 10 years onto people’s life expectancy, and that is only expected to keep growing.
The problem, according to Mike Mansfield, CEO of age inclusion charity ProAge, is that though life expectancy has changed, how society prepares people for that extra 10 years of life hasn’t.
He said: “On that journey of life it’s like adding 10 miles to the end of the road when we really haven’t changed any of the traffic lights, traffic signal or the road bumps along the way, in terms of when we start and stop various phases of our life.
“Compared to 1960, we are doing an awful lot of the same things at the same point in our life – entering and leaving education entering and leaving the workforce and retiring.”
As many employees now have defined contribution pensions, rather than defined benefit schemes where employers allocate a sum for life when people leave or retire which were more common in the 1960s, the responsibility for retirement savings Mansfield said has shifted.
But, he added: “There is a role for employers to help people out. That role can be very important in in creating opportunities for people to save for their retirement but there’s a very important other area where employers can make a big difference on the non-financial side.”
By encouraging employees to live a healthy lifestyle through the benefits they offer employers can help to ensure no-one has to stop working earlier than they want to.
Many people who leave work before retirement age, Mansfield said, are forced to do so due to ill health.
The other area employers can help is in skills.
He added: “We all know the job market is changing a lot. It’s hard to keep up in many cases, but making sure that employees have up to date skills so that if things happen, they lose their job, that they are able to change jobs into something else or progress with their own career.”
Loss of faith is impacting inclusion
Diversity and inclusion training provider Pearn Kandola has undertaken an international study into the experiences of people with religious faith in the workforce and so far made Christian and Hindu findings available.
According to the 2021 Census, Christianity is still the most common faith in England and Wales as 46.2%, equivalent to 27.5 million people, described themselves as such.
People of Hindu faith, by comparison, represented just 1.7% of the population in 2021, around 1 million people.
Despite the disparity in popularity of these two faiths, Pearn Kandola’s research has found similarities in Christian and Hindu employee experience in the workplace.
For example, 37% of Christian employees felt comfortable discussing the religious festivals they celebrate at work. For Hindu employees, just 41% felt the same.
After Christianity, the second most common response to the Census was “No religion” amounting to 22.2 million people (37.2% of the population).
Binna Kandola, senior partner at the firm, said: “The number of people who follow no religion at all, that’s going to increase over the next 10 years.
“You could argue that the people who don’t follow a faith are having a greater impact in terms of the sense of inclusion they create, or the sense of exclusion they create, than we might realise.”