On Tuesday September 4th we held the inaugural meet up of the Workplace Wellness Ireland community at the Bank of Ireland in Grand Canal Square in Dublin. I was blown away by the attendance and by the positive feedback following the event. The atmosphere and energy in the room was something I had hoped for so it was extremely pleasing to see my expectations not only met but exceeded on the night. Thanks to everyone that came along and contributed to the positivity.
I kicked things off by discussing the buzz surrounding workplace wellness in Ireland. My aim with the Workplace Wellness Ireland group is to ensure that we are not looking back in 10 years time and remembering wellness as a ‘fad’ in Irish workplaces. What a missed opportunity that would be? By bringing people together to share experiences and lessons learned I believe we can improve all of our services, we can demonstrate real value for Irish businesses and for the people in those businesses and eliminate any future talk of a workplace wellness fad.
I also mentioned the fact that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to workplace wellness. The bad news is, it’s not an exact science. The good news is that there are simple strategies that can be followed to significantly increase the chances that wellness initiatives will be successful. This is the type of information I want to promote and share at our meetups and in the online community.
I then introduced the values I’ve created to the community. I would love if we can adopt these at our future events and in any online interactions. The Workplace Wellness Ireland values are:
Share without expecting anything in return
Have fun and respect everyone
- Make friends, not contacts *
*Thank you to Startup Grind for inspiring me on the third value ;)
‘Workplace Wellbeing Lessons Learned’
The first speaker on the evening was best selling author, international speaker, and health and wellbeing coach Jim Kirwan. Jim started his talk linking saying goodbye to his daughter at Dublin airport, last Christmas, to the value of time and the importance of our health and wellbeing. He then explained why what he does is so important to him by telling us his dad's story; he died very suddenly at 47 of a massive heart attack when Jim was only 20. He described this as 43 lost years and said he does not want this to happen to you.
Jim then introduced us to the 6 Key Ingredients of Effective Strategic Wellbeing which he refers to as FIT-CEO.
F - First: CEO and all executives and managers have to walk the talk.
I - Involve: Increase employee involvement and engagement will follow.
T - Transform: Wellbeing is a great opportunity to transform your organisation with BHAG's (Big Hairy Audacious Goals).
C - Culture: Wellbeing is at the top of your organisation values.
E - Excellent: There is no other way!
O - Outcome: Clear vision of results you want to achieve in short, medium and long term.
Jim also introduced his top four lessons based on his experience of working with Irish companies.
In Company A only 25 people out of 150 employees showed up for his wellness week talk; everyone else was too busy. Company B (which was of a similar size to Company A) had to hold two separate sessions to accommodate the numbers that wanted to see and hear the talk.
What was the difference? The CEO, executives, and managers from Company B promoted and attended his talk(s)!
Your wellbeing initiatives should focus on the majority of employees, not a minority.
Most one-off wellbeing talks are not effective; think PROJECTS with a beginning, middle, and end which can measure results and change behaviour over time.
Your wellbeing initiatives should be fun, enjoyable and sustainable. Sustainable means that employees can make changes that last!
Left to right: Robert Carley, Jim Kirwan, Brian Crooke, and Caroline McGuigan
Caroline McGuigan and Robert Carley: ‘Mental Health But Not As You Know It’
After a short break for some tea and chatting Caroline McGuigan and Robert Carley of Suicide or Survive (SOS) took centre stage. SOS works with individuals and businesses to educate, inform and inspire people to cultivate good mental health and reduce stigma.I’m fortunate enough in that this is not the first time I’ve heard Caroline and Robert speak and they never fail to inspire me and make me laugh.
A key message from their talk was that we all have mental health. Forget about the traditional statistics. Everyone has mental health issues at certain times according to Caroline and Robert.
Caroline discussed her own inspiring story and the obstacles she has overcome and continues to overcome. She introduced herself as a mum first and foremost. She also happens to be a psychotherapist, mental health advocate and the founder and CEO of Suicide or Survive.
Highs and Lows
We all have highs and lows. Robert gave a heartfelt example from his own life. This week in September is an emotional one for Robert and his family as they remember the sudden passing of his wife seven years ago. This September he also learned that he’s going to be a granddad again.
We can all relate to certain highs and lows in our own lives. Even from day to day and week to week there will be highs and lows that impact us. Caroline and Robert are on a mission to highlight the need to start conversations on mental health in Irish companies, to reduce the stigma and create work environments that are supportive of speaking up if you happen to be going through one of those lows.
It really was an inspiring and engaging talk and no exaggeration to say that those present were close to tears one minute then roaring with laughter the next. The audience played their part too, as we were first encouraged to turn to the person beside us to tell them they had mental health issues, then stretching our hands in the air as high as we could (and then a little higher….and a little higher….) to squeezing a fist together as tightly as we could then slowly releasing it and letting all the tension escape.
From Now On…
I didn’t expect Hugh Jackman to feature at our inaugural meet up, however Caroline and Robert had everyone standing together at the end of their talk to join in on the chorus of a song from The Greatest Showman movie: From Now On...From Now On.
Like you care about your dental health, care about your mental health — we all have it!
The meet up was just as much about meeting new people as it was about hearing from the wonderful speakers. There was a great energy in the room before we kicked off on Tuesday and this was repeated during a short interval between speakers and again as we wrapped up for the evening with lots of people staying back to chat and ask questions.
Most people I’ve spoken with since have mentioned the really interesting people they met at the event, which is yet another expectation of mine which was exceeded on the night.
The energy and atmosphere was supported by our brilliant food exhibitors: Fiona’s Food For Life, Skinny Malinkys Juices and The Fruit People who kept everyone fuelled on the night.
One of the values I introduced was ‘Make Friends, Not Contacts’ and this certainly seems to have been the case on Tuesday.
As I discussed on the evening, I want the group to tackle different areas and perspectives in workplace wellness. There’s a great mix of organisations and industry sectors represented in the community, and also companies of different sizes. Some are at different stages of the wellness journey, with some businesses quite experienced in this area and some only starting out.
At future meetups I want to hear from these differing perspectives. While there will be differences from company to company, there will also be similarities that we can all learn from. I’d also love to hear from you the community as to what topics you would like to see addressed in the future. Drop me a line and let me know.
Our next meet up is scheduled for November 13th, again at the Bank of Ireland at Grand Canal Square and again from 6 pm to 8 pm. Get the date in your diary!
Thanks, everyone and see you on November 13th!
Brian Crooke is a wellness consultant, speaker and trainer specialising in the auditing, development and delivery of workplace wellness initiatives for Irish companies through his Office Worker Health business. He is the founder of the Workplace Wellness Ireland community and meet up. In his spare time Brian is trying to bring free resistance training to every county and community in Ireland with his parkHIIT project. Contact Brian to find out more: firstname.lastname@example.org