Show 38 of the csuitepodcast focussed on the importance for companies to prioritise employee wellbeing and was recorded off the back of research that had been released on the day of recording that showed that that employees are now more stressed and under more pressure in the workplace, with 1 in 3 adults saying that they do not feel supported at work and with over half of all respondents saying that they would consider changing jobs this year as a result.
The research had been carried out by Cisco and joining me in the studio were two representatives from that company – El Cavanagh-Lomas, VP for HR at Cisco Europe Middle East Africa and Russia, and Jean Kerr who works within Leadership and Team Intelligence in the organisation’s EMEAR HR team. Alongside El and Jean was Jessie Pavelka who was a fitness trainer on the US TV programme, The Biggest Loser, but Jessie had also been recently working with Cisco on a new wellbeing programme. As it happens, Jessie was also the third most followed guest of the podcast on Twitter!
We started the podcast discussing the findings of Cisco’s research and El explained that what they had learned is that the pace in which people are working today is continuing to accelerate. She said that we used to talk about work life balance but believes now, with the pace things are going and the scale of change that we’re facing, that’s just not possible. Instead, we have to focus on work life integration, bringing all elements of life together.
Cisco’s findings actually came off the back of another report by consultants Mercer that showed British employers are losing on average 27.5 days per employee every year due to sickness and underperforming in the office as a result of ill-health and in monetary terms, absenteeism and presenteeism is costing the UK economy £73 billion a year in lost productivity. However, El said that this wasn’t just a UK issue and that, with Cisco being a global company, they are facing this concern all around the world. She said that they know wellbeing has a direct impact on employee engagement – relating to higher motivation, creativity and positive customer experience. Ultimately, according to El, you are affecting the bottom line as you are helping to avoid all those issues listed in the Mercer report.
To combat these issues, Jessie explained that he had been working with Cisco to launch the CiscoPavelka Initiative, which is based around his own philosophy of health, which itself is based on four elements:
- Mind Power
What Jessie is looking to do is implement small changes in each of these areas. For example, in Food, it could be as simple as drinking more water, having more leafy greens, or eating more protein. For Movement, go for a 5min walk in your lunch break. However, when it comes to stress of anxiety at work, Jessie feels that Mind Power and Family are probably the most important. He said that Mind Power equals Mindfulness and that for a lot of us, we get so busy that we forget to take a break. Jessie believes it’s important to find time in the day to go and do some deep breathing for five or ten minutes or to meditate, and that a lot of us need to be open to these exercises and new ways of doing things, especially if we’re constantly feeling stressed. Finally, with Family, Jessie said that’s ‘Connect’, i.e. the people in your world that support and encourage you to be healthy, both at work and at home.
The initiative is delivered in an online community, called the ‘Pavelka House for Cisco’, where employees can go for information and inspiration and find tools, tips and tricks to practice Jessie’s four elements. They’ve also developed an app called ‘Nudge’ that acts as a reminder that keeps everyone taking part accountable.
The conversation moved on to a related topic of the importance of Mental Health in the workplace off the back of a question sent in by Jon Salmon, who is working with the charity ‘Heads Together’. In response, El said that Mental Health is a taboo topic in many organisations and that employees often feel more scared to bring forward issues of their mental health than they do about their physical health and that the impact of this on their lives at work is phenomenal. She went on to say that at Cisco, they want to create an environment where people can come out and talk. In fact, the company is sharing more and more stories through their Mental Health ambassadors across the business who are training to provide assistance and support, plus they have an employee assistance programme available too.
One of Cisco’s employees who had worked with Jessie on the programme for over six months was Jean Kerr and you can watch a bit of Jean’s story in the below video:
Jean explained that the key is showing someone what they can do. She thinks that for a lot of people, when they are in that place of overwhelm, when you are in that scenario that you don’t feel that you can have the balance, you stop believing in yourself and your ability to do things and so that’s all about mind power. Jean said that the key thing for her though was actually asking for help from both her home family and her Cisco family, which has made her much more effective in how she gets things done. But the big thing was the mind power – having no devices first thing in the morning and last thing at night has helped her to sleep better and start her day better.
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