Songwriter Will Young on how to support staff with their mental wellbeing


Singer/songwriter Will Young closed this year’s Employee Wellbeing Congress by giving delegates an insight into how to support employees with their mental wellbeing.

Songwriter Will Young on how to support staff with their mental wellbeing

Will Young has become an advocate for good mental wellbeing after having a breakdown, and has consequently restructured how he works to protect his mental health. In conversation with Debi O'Donovan, director of REBA, he explained that he believes that wellbeing is now a critical issue for employers because “part of your brand is looking after your employees”.

“Companies have to address it [wellbeing],” he said. “They didn’t have to five years ago.”

The need to address wellbeing is becoming increasingly acute, as findings from Reba and AXA PPP Healthcare’s Employee Wellbeing Research 2019 shows. More than 70 per cent of respondents said that high pressure working environments are having an impact on employee health, while 62 per cent of boardrooms are concerned about the mental health of their workforce.

“Working is always going to be stressful,” commented Young. “But it’s about helping people to manage that [pressure].”

During the afternoon plenaries delegates also heard from a panel of employers who have already implemented wellbeing initiatives and have taken steps to improve the culture in their organisations. Two key ideas from this discussion were the importance of good work and good leadership.

Susan Gee, group occupational health & wellbeing manager at Yorkshire Water, explained that the foundation of any wellbeing has to be good work. She said that from the outset you have to ensure you are offering good, safe, secure work where people can grow and develop.

“A good employer offering good work will naturally lead to wellbeing,” she said.

Sarah-Jane Norman, group people & culture director at Innocent, added that this is where the need to join-up wellbeing to the wider business becomes apparent. This is because wellbeing extends to the company’s purpose and wider areas such as recruitment, corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion.

The need for good leadership was also highlighted by the panel who argued that senior leaders need to be visibly engaging with wellbeing initiatives.

Gail Bagley, director of reward EMEA at Intercontinental Hotels Group, explained that in their organisation wellbeing messages often come from senior leaders rather than HR, while some leaders have opened up about their own mental health struggles.

“You have to have board involvement,” added Gee. “It needs to be physical and felt leadership.”

Will Young finished the conference by highlighting how he felt about his own mental wellbeing.

“I don’t need to be fixed,” he said. “I just need to be listened to.”

The REBA Employee Wellbeing Congress is the leading UK event for heads of HR, reward, benefits and wellbeing that aims to help you design and implement a joined-up approach to your employee wellbeing strategy – a cohesive strategy across physical, financial, mental, and social wellbeing



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