Conversations on Wellbeing at Work

Essentials of Wellbeing and Highlights of Our APAC Summits with CEO Lawrence Mitchell

October 09, 2023 John Brewer
Conversations on Wellbeing at Work
Essentials of Wellbeing and Highlights of Our APAC Summits with CEO Lawrence Mitchell
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Get ready for a transformational journey into the realm of workplace wellbeing with Lawrence Mitchell, the CEO of Wellbeing at Work APAC and Founder of Finding Equilibrium.   Lawrence will share many of the wellbeing  insights he has developed over the years as well as share some of the highlights you can expect at the APAC Summits in November.

You will gain a new perspective on holistic wellbeing, that extends beyond mere physical health to encompass a myriad of factors like job design, environment, and technology. We'll also put the spotlight on Australia's current economic scenario and its influence on well-being investments.

Broaden your understanding of wellbeing as we traverse through the landscape of connection and balance. Lawrence, with his extensive expertise, will lead us through the strategic blueprint of creating positive and solution-oriented teams, the pillars of sustainable performance, and the importance of rest - a lesson he's gleaned from his experiences with elite athletes.  

We'll also be challenging conventional notions around workplace wellbeing. Lawrence and I will take a hard look at psychological safety and burnout, examining the role of employers in designing jobs and allocating resources that support employee well-being. As the world grapples with the return-to-office debate, we'll be addressing this pressing concern. We'll be wrapping up our conversation with the importance of mental control and adopting a mindful approach towards what we feed our minds. 

So, tune in for this enlightening discussion and walk away with actionable strategies to prioritize wellbeing in your life and workplace.

Find our more about Wellbeing at Work's Global Summits, our Global Hub Community of C-Suite executives and our Bespoke division at wellbeingatwork.world



Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Conversations on Well-Being at Work. This is the podcast that features speakers from our summits around the world, and I'm John Brewer. I help design some events in North America as well as hosting this podcast. You can find out more about our work at our website, wellbeingatworkworld. You can list our global summits. We have a hub with all sorts of great information there, as well as webcasts and like, so we really encourage you to check that out. So our guest today is Lawrence Mitchell, who's the CEO of Wellbeing at Work APAC and the founder of Finding Equilibrium. So delighted to have Lawrence with us. So welcome, Lawrence. Thank you, Hello, John.

Speaker 2:

Nice to see you.

Speaker 1:

So before we begin, just check in and see how you're doing.

Speaker 2:

How am I doing? I'm doing good. It's early in the morning here. Well, not that early. It's nearly nine o'clock, so yeah, I'm fine Full of the morning energy.

Speaker 1:

Which is the opposite of me, because I'm early evening in Canada here, so I'm running a little bit of an empty.

Speaker 2:

You've got the evening energy.

Speaker 1:

I do the best, so anyway. So pretty great to have you here. Perhaps you could just start by telling us a little bit about I know you've got I think you've got two summits coming up in Australia. If you could just tell us where, when and what's happening at those events.

Speaker 2:

Sure, yeah, we run the annual Wellbeing at Work summit in Australia in November. So it's coming up in Sydney on November the 14th and then in Melbourne on November the 16th, and it's really good time of year because we'll be reflecting on the year, because here in Australia it's it's summer and so it's an opportunity for people to reflect on 2023 and, of course, look ahead to 2024, which sounds very futuristic when I say 2024. But, yes, we've got a really amazing agenda Lots of big employers who are, you know, who will be sharing their experiences and their projections. And I always say, at Wellbeing at Work, our summits, we don't just talk about well being, we experience it. So we'll be sharing lots of tools to help people manage change and manage performance and be the best version of themselves that they can be.

Speaker 1:

Okay, well, it sounds like I know you know. So, from what I've seen, there are only a number of years there. Now this has been. This is our sixth an ongoing success, right?

Speaker 2:

Sixth year in Sydney and we've had the pandemic obviously in the middle of all of that. But yes, this is our sixth year.

Speaker 1:

So how do you, how do you sort of approach and define well being within the, you know, within Australia and through the events that you're doing?

Speaker 2:

Well, we define well being in a very holistic way. So well being is everything that touches a person. So and in Australia it's, I would say that over the because I've been, I've been doing this work in well being for a decade and I guess, when I look back and I think 10 years ago, well being was seen in a much more physical way, so it was much more health and safety. And then then then we've seen the growth and the expansion and awareness of the importance of mental health, and so, as we work more with our minds and that becomes a greater priority, whereas now it's becoming more holistic and areas like job design, the environment, the technology we know that those things will impact how someone feels. You know, well being is about our energy. So if we feel good in our body, then we are experiencing well being. If we feel drained, if we feel, if we feel stressed, it's stressing our body then of course that's going to drain our energy, which means there's less energy for performance.

Speaker 1:

Yeah Well, I know certainly what we're seeing here. You know, I used to do events initially in Canada that were focused very much on mental health and they were about sort of interventions about, so you know, having doing mindfulness or you know, interventions related to people who were suffering with depression, those kind of things. It's become much more about the culture in the organization and the way in which the culture supports well being. That's. I'm assuming you're seeing the same sort of shift in Australia as well.

Speaker 2:

Absolutely, I think. I think, in truth, well being as a word is a very intangible concept to many leaders because it means different things to different people. To some it's the activity you know we do, mindfulness, but that's a tool that and that will support well being. But I think there's a greater awareness that an investment in well being will enable performance, so it will enable a high performance culture and with a high performance culture, that will enable a high performance business. So it's certainly about finding that balance and recognizing that well being isn't an intangible, peripheral topic, but a power that drives performance and all the things that we want from a business.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'd like to sort of explore that issue of performance a little bit. But before doing that I want to maybe ask a question about the environment, the current environment in Australia, and I know like thinking about the events we were doing in the US last year, we had quite a large number of people in the tech business who were involved in well-being who ended up sort of leaving. You know, their departments were closed down. We saw here in Canada, we had an event out in out West in Calgary and again there were a number of kind of large employers who cut back in terms of their well-being departments. Are you seeing in Australia, is there is this sort of pressure on well-being in a way through a slowing economy, or organisations being a little bit more ruthless, I guess, in how they invest their money?

Speaker 2:

For sure. I mean, this is a global trend. So as the economy softens and we're seeing fallout from there and of course, questions are being asked If there's less resources to invest, leaders have many choices Do I invest in technology, do I invest in new products, innovation, or do I invest in well-being? So this is my point that if well-being is intangible, you're not going to be able to invest in that, and that's why there's a big focus, because we have a leadership panel at the start of our well-being at work summit in both Sydney and Melbourne, which is focused on well-being in a downturn. So how do we actually frame well-being to be seen as something which isn't peripheral but which actually really supports and drives performance? Therefore, the choices of whether to cut or not becomes an easier one. But when things are seen as peripheral, do we need the well-being? What's the impact if we cut it? And if we can't feel that there's going to be a significant impact, then you become a victim of cost-cutting, which definitely we're seeing, particularly in the tech sector, which is exactly what you'll be experiencing in North America.

Speaker 1:

So I think one of the important messages that we've been sending, delivered in the events I've been involved in recently in the UK and in Canada, is that link between well-being and performance. Yes, organisations are saying we've got to perform, but you can't do that without also devoting time and resources to well-being.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and I always say that creating a culture which is based on well-being requires a partnership between an organisation to make tools and knowledge accessible to their people, and then, of course, the individuals, who need to take ownership and responsibility for their own well-being as well, because there are things that we can do as individuals that are within our control that will impact our well-being and our own personal performance. And then an organisation can support their people through change by giving them access to these tools and to experts, because really an organisation is a community. It's a community of people that come together for a common purpose, and organisations can really support their people in coping with change.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think that's one of the most interesting aspects of well-being and one that doesn't get. I don't think it gets quite the attention it deserves, and that is that we see cultures having an important impact on well-being, and that's a key aspect of it. But actually it's the connection and community you've got to create that is really the driver of well-being. We've seen the Surgeon General in the US producing a report talking about an epidemic of loneliness, and creating those kind of connections is really fundamental to performance and to well-being. So is that something that gets you covering at all at the conference?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely the whole conference in itself, as I say, it's not just talking about well-being but it's the experience in it. So we have a lot of connection time. So we call our network a connection, because part of the benefit of coming together is that people are connecting with each other, having conversations with each other, learning from each other, sharing with each other. So it's a huge part of well-being and we know that the well-being of the team impacts the well-being of the individual. So if the culture of the team is negative, that will impact the culture of that individual, whereas if the culture of the team is positive and solution-orientated, then that will lift people above the line of resilience. So when I talk about the line of resilience, it's a simple model that one of our partners, griffith Consulting, actually shared at our conference last year in Melbourne, which highlights a line of resilience and the goal of us as individuals, as well as us as leaders of teams, is to keep above that line of resilience, to remain positive and solution-focused.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so that connection side of things is really a big part, I think, of resiliency. That you can't be really effectively resilient unless you're connected to other people.

Speaker 2:

You do, and I think everyone's unique and everyone's an individual and different. People need different levels of connection, but we all have a need for connection at some level.

Speaker 1:

So we've got this sort of notion of performance that organizations need to focus on performance in order to deliver, that they need to also look after care for employees in terms of their well-being, and one aspect of one dimension of that is connection. Another aspect is around balance. I know in your own work your equilibrium is part of the business that you founded. That notion of balance and creating balance. Can you maybe expand a little bit on that?

Speaker 2:

Sure, One thing I just want to add, just on the performance piece, because I think it's important. I would add the word sustainable performance, because often the word performance can feel very negative to individuals because it can feel like performance management and those types of things, Whereas when I talk about performance, I'm talking about sustainably high performance, which means that it's not just high performance in one week and then everyone's burned out. It means we have a sustainably high performance culture. I just wanted to make that point because I think it's important. When we talk about performance, it does have negative connotations. Just moving on to balance, so I guess you know balance, find an equilibrium, is really the philosophy that I live my own life and it's about balancing different aspects of life, because when you're in harmony, you have well-being. When things are out of balance, then you have ill-being and it feels wrong. So, finding an equilibrium, I created a simple model which has five pillars and the goal is to have balance between those pillars. So it's the physical, the mental, the emotional, but also financial time, how we spend our time, which is always a big challenge for us from a well-being point of view. It's like, oh, there's never enough time to do all the things we want to do as we move into the last month before our Australian summit. Of course, time is really pressured. There's a lot of stakeholders at the summit. We have 50 speakers, so that's a lot of different people. You know we've got over 20 partners, which is wonderful and we're really excited, but there's a lot of work for us to do so it can be very easy to fall out of balance and then to suffer. So bringing in habits and routines into my life, the way I live my life, allows me to remain in balance so that I can do the work that I'm doing.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think there's an important link there between and I'm going to go back to because you mentioned the idea of sustainability being sustainable, but in order to perform consistently, people have to be sustainable. In the same way that organizations look at sustainability in other dimensions typically around the environment, financial sustainability but people need to be nurtured and cared for in a way that sustains their performance. So I think all those things sort of link together quite critically in terms of how organizations perform.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, completely, completely. And again, that's about balance as well, because how do you get the balance right between the nurturing and the managing? Having managed lots of people in my career, it's a delicate balance, because you need to be flexible as a leader to be able to know whether a nurturing style is appropriate or whether a more directive style, because both have their place in different contexts.

Speaker 1:

Well, an interesting thing, because we had and I know it's, you're Australian events. You've got JK speaking, who's an ex I think it was a winger, wasn't he? For the first time. But I was thinking earlier today about Simone Biles, the US gymnast, and how she had to sort of walk away from the sport because she was getting these, the wobblers or whatever they were called, where she couldn't manage her balance and needed to take a break and has now come back after a couple of years of performing and is just doing amazing stuff. That is unbelievable. And what JK was saying when he spoke in London was very much around the elite athletes like, in his case, the rugby player or any other sport people involved in there's that need to perform, but you have to be able to rest. You have to have time to rest and restore, whereas we sometimes don't think that about work. We think we should just keep going nose to the grindstone and not stop. So that's, you could talk about that a little bit as well.

Speaker 2:

And I think that that's probably that comes from our Western culture, which tends to be very much around. Let's just kind of keep going, keep going and we celebrate or traditionally we've celebrated people who have three hours sleep and you look to previous leaders and they would be celebrating the fact that they can keep going, we can produce, we can work for 13 hours. Of course, that is very damaging if you look at performance over a longer period of time. That's what I mean around the sustainability. The body needs rest because the body will recover and that's not just sleep but that's also meditation, that's also having power naps. But the body resting and I can say just from my own personal experience I used to be very much of the mindset that I need to be performing every hour needs to be super productive, otherwise I'm, you know, failing. I'm not, I'm not performing at my and my best. And as I've matured and got older, I've realized, when I look back, that if I actually take the time and make rest non-negotiable. You know like I'm a big meditator. You know I meditate twice a day. The afternoon meditation was always hard for me to to, to, to integrate because I didn't want to stop the flow, but I've noticed that it really does impact my energy in the evening when I take that 20 minutes out and because I do a lot of work. I live in Australia, I work with a lot of people in the UK, which means that I'm working outside the normal nine to five or always. But to be able to do that, I need to be able to prioritize my own well-being and so that I can be in the best in the best day, and rest is an important part of that equation for me.

Speaker 1:

So how does that? I mean I'm I'm from the UK but I'm based in Canada now and also do work in the US. I mean, the US has a very unhealthy culture around rest and taking breaks. You know that if you look at the, I remember when I came here, you know 30 years ago, and sort of the first job I had in Canada and it was like, okay, you know you, you work for a year and then maybe you can have a week's holiday or something. Vacation was ever in England you got. You know, you started day one and you got four weeks or whatever. I mean, is the, is the culture very sort of work focused and is that or is that shifting and and how's that sort?

Speaker 2:

of the culture in Australia very well. In in Australia, yeah, I mean it's every time. I'm from the UK as well. I grew up in the UK and worked in the UK for for most of my career and I moved here seven years ago and it is interesting when you live in a different country and you compare. So I would say the it feels and I spent two months in the UK earlier, so and it was interesting being back there because you, you feel there's definitely feels less pressure here than there does in the UK. In that kind of London it feels more frantic when when you're there, mainly because it's busier and there's there's a lot of people. But people here are very industrious. You know Australians are very industrious and work, you know, work really hard. We have better weather and I have noticed that better weather does, you know, give you more of an incentive to go outside more certainly for, certainly for me. So I think that context really does that does make a make a difference and but, you know, but Australia has a, you know, a good work ethic yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

So a couple of big things, that sort of you know certainly big issues on on the events I've been working on lately and just wondered how they're playing out for the for the, for the things you're doing in over to Australian summits. You know one would be around psychological safety, that the an important part again of well-being. You know you talked about sort of the physical well-being and mental well-being. I think so psychological safety, although it's mental, but it's also about you know how, how comfortable you can be sort of expressing yourself and and sort of being. I mean there's absolutely bringing your whole self to work, which I'm. You feel a bit ambivalent about that, but that's something sort of very common phrase here. Is that something that you're going to be talking about in psychological safety?

Speaker 2:

because in many ways Australia is leaving the world because this year we have legislation which actually means that if an employer, if an employer is seen to have is seen to have negatively damaged someone's psychological safety, that employer can be sued. So it's the first place in the world to actually do that, which has meant there's been an enormous focus by employers to understand what psychological risks look like, a lot of education around that, so we're definitely covering that in our in our summits yeah, and one of the other things I know that certainly comes up a lot in conversation here.

Speaker 1:

It's around excuse me, I'm suffering a little bit of COVID here so I've got a bit of a cough there, so my apologies is burnout, you know. And again, which I think links to that, links back to that conversation about you know, performance and rest. You know that sometimes people just get overwhelmed and then you know everything. Everything goes, you know, gets. They're no longer able to perform and deliver and any meaningful way and that comes back to this point around sustainable performance.

Speaker 2:

You know, and looking at the, the stance for burnout, often it's the people who are really enjoying their work and who are at greatest risk of burnout because they don't know how to self-regulate. You know, it's how to take when, to take rest, because, and if you think about it, if we're completely immersed and we're so excited, we just want to do, do, do, do, do. And then, of course, we need to have a break for a period of time to recover. So it's trying to find and again, that's out of balance, because everything has to come back into balance and because if you are super excited about a project and you know we've all been there we just don't want to stop. We just want to keep going, going, going, going until the body says, well, you need to stop, and then often we we can be out of action for weeks in some case. So it's making the people more aware of the signs of burnout so that you can and you know I'm a great believer, instructor and diarising things just as reminders, just so that you can get into healthier rhythms that support sustainable performance but it's also a responsibility in terms of employers.

Speaker 1:

That I mean. Burnout is not necessarily as a function of you kind of you know overworking and you know not taking the rest you need. It might be that you know the employer giving you too much work to do, making unreasonable demands, you know getting emails, you know late at night and yeah, and all that sort of non-stop kind of kind of grind is that something completely?

Speaker 2:

and that's what I mean by this year. What I've seen is that those fundamental topics like job design and resource allocation are being discussed. You know, we discussed it last year in our Australian summit because ultimately, if you've got a wellbeing program that gives you access to all these great benefits, but you have a job which means you need four people to do the job, then that is the system is wrong. You know, it doesn't matter how well your your tools are or how good your habits are. You're going to be at greater risk of burnout if you attempt to do four people's jobs with one, with one person's resource. So we're seeing that a lot and I guess that's about speaking and highlighting training employees. A lot of it is around education, training employees to be able to articulate that there is a problem I can't do this work, I'm not skilled to do this work or I'm not Resource to do this work, so that the managers are able to look at that. So there's been a lot of focus, a lot of work at what is job? How do we redesign someone's jobs? Because if you think about the level of change that we've gone through over the last three years, when the whole thing has shifted. People are working in different locations. People are, you know, people are spread around the globe and there's huge benefit to that, you know, as we experience a well being at work dot world, you know we have people in every time zone, but it's also very stressful because we can't organize a meeting, we can't get together, so we've had to design different ways of communicating to support the well being of of of the team.

Speaker 1:

Another other employers there now trying to say something's happening. You know something to some of the larger employers here in Canada and also in the US Of Encouraging people to move back into the office for longer periods of time, whereas one of the advantages of working remotely is you do you get you get opportunities to balance different responsibilities if you've got Working after all sorts of other stuff that you need to manage around around the workplace when you're, when you're working remotely, rather than being sort of encouraged or forced to go back to the office.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and of course, that that's the big, a big challenge. What is the right balance comes back to balance between working at home and all the benefits that brings with working in an office and different employers. Some are, some are taking a stronger approach, saying that it's important that everybody's in the office because when people are together we get a greater sense of belonging, which is important for culture, and because when everyone's on their own and no one comes together, then we can become disconnected, as as as a team, or we have to, as as we do. We have to think of different ways of bringing people together, using using technology, and, but certainly there has been a shift now with a greater emphasis on going back into the office, at least for part of the part of the week, and different organizations will have different approaches to that based on you know, based on the type of business they are, the type of the profile of their workers, to get the balance right For them and I know this is a debate in Asia, like we do a lot of work in Singapore there's a much greater focus now. I think 90% of the employees there are back in the office in in Singapore, so there's a much greater emphasis on. You know it's time to come back into the office, whereas here it's still a balance. There's a lot of homework in and a lot of people come in into into work on certain days.

Speaker 1:

Yes, is there a move to a four day week?

Speaker 2:

We've seen. I mean here. Last year in our Australian summit, we heard Unilever speak and they've been one of the pioneers when it comes to the four day week. You know there was an experiment in in New Zealand that Unilever did an experiment which went well, and then they rolled that out in Australia as well. So, yeah, it's interesting. There's definitely a listen to them and their experience when you go to that four day week. That brings a lot of benefit but also requires job designs to be looked at differently, because we're really coming back to, you know, one of the pillars in the finding equilibrium model, which is time. It's like where do people really spend their time? If you look at a towers when they're at work, where is that time going? And and how can we make it more efficient? So certainly, and it's interesting when Unilever spoke, they were saying they were looking at the time how can we make it more efficient? So, certainly, and it's interesting when Unilever spoke, there's quite a lot of pushback about the four day week because we can think, oh great, you know, four days, five day pay like who would complain? But there's a lot of pressure on people to actually be more efficient and sometimes that efficient and have a negative impact on well being. So again, it comes back to balance. You know, if we can get people to work efficiently, using technology to automate and and make things more efficient, then of course we free up a whole day, which is then going to have a positive impact on community and and that wider family group. So we're certainly here seeing us and seeing that when I talk about well being is everything that touches a person. Those things are things that of course, impact, impact people, because it's not just the work and the job, but of course it's what happens outside of our work. You know, if we're where we live, our family, which will impact our state of well being and and and our performance. So there's become a much greater well, well being. I would say it's one of the gifts of COVID, if you like is that people have become, or leaders have become, more aware that we're not just a person who comes in and does this role and we leave our personal life at the front door when we walk in, but that our personal lives will impact our professional lives and we need to be more aware and more sensitive to those those things so that we can support the whole person.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so we're sort of approaching our 30 mile, 30 minute sort of targets for the conversation. So I think, a couple of questions before we wrap up what the first one would be. You know, are there any you know a couple of highlights for those two summits in in in Australia. You just want to highlight for those.

Speaker 2:

Sure, I mean like, as I say, it's going to be A day where we were at the very minimum we want people to be, to feel much better at the end of the day than they did at the beginning. So, just from a like, not just talking about well-being but really experiencing it. But we have Gallup and start in. So we have cleared the car today From from Gallup, who will provide that opportunity to really step back and look at the state, the context of Australia in the context of the world, like where are we from a well-being point of view? And that's always a good, a good place to start. And then we, and then we, then we we've got a Great panel in both Sydney and Melbourne looking at well-being in a downturn. And then we have JK speaking, and which will be really interesting, just because there are lots of things when, when we talk about Performance, we can all learn so much from professional sports, because when your body is when, when you are doing a physical Job, then you're much more aware of the importance of supporting your physical well-being. And that concept can be translated into into an office, you know. So I was. I was talking to a big senior partner in a big law firm the other day, and Sometimes when they can be difficult to make the leap between professional sports and being a lawyer. Because being a lawyer, though, the, the performance pressure, is about the mind and therefore the habits that we have and the tools that we talked about before. You know, rest, movement, sleep, food, all of these things and will impact our performance, community connection and the, the information that we consume. All of those things need to be digested by the body and therefore will impact how we feel and will impact our, our, our well-being. So every touch point, from the food, from the environment, we're being hosted in Sydney by in the Commonwealth Bank, which is an amazing venue, in darling, in darling Park. So that is that will really, that will really support the content. And in Melbourne We've been, we've been hosted in United Co, which is a different kind of vibe but but a place which has really emphasised the, the light and the and the different components from to create a healthy physical environment to support performance.

Speaker 1:

So Great, it's going to be a fantastic couple of days.

Speaker 2:

I'm excited.

Speaker 1:

So, before we conclude and you know you ran through a gamma of all sorts of fun, important stuff they mentioned rest, movement, sleep, community food, environment. But we always conclude these, these, these conversations with my guests just ask them what's the one thing that they do that they find best supports their well-being? Is there just one thing that you want to?

Speaker 2:

yeah, I just throw out and I know it's a.

Speaker 1:

It's a bit much put you on the spot, but just the one one.

Speaker 2:

I would say the one thing to do, which I've learned, having been on my own personal well-being journey for a Long time, is support the mind, because if you can support your mind, the mind then supports the whole body. So, and that's my, the one thing I would say is take control of your mind, and that means be very, very Dissern in what you allow into your mind, because that will impact. We live in a marketing world and there's, and our attention is very valuable. So, and I'm Be, be careful where you give your attention.

Speaker 1:

Be very and very discerning would be my, my no, I think that's Very true and I think you know, I think we, one of the things we do, we do suffer, our well-being does suffer from, is the level of distraction in our world completely completely from all over, you know, in all over the place. So so thank you for sharing that, thank you for taking time to, you know, to chat with me today and you can go off and have your high energy day and I'm gonna go. I'm gonna go Binge, watch some Netflix. They go to sleep so, but, thank you, I hope one day, one day, they'll. You know, crystal, let me come to Australia and enjoy your yeah, I like that, not this year.

Speaker 2:

Next year, maybe we're great to see you. Thank you, so okay, thanks.

Speaker 1:

Thank you very much, bye I.

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