• Jane Fordham

The Death of Dolly - My Mental Health Panel

#thewaywework #smashingthestigma #mentalhealth

What a shocking host in that it’s taken me over 10 days to write this up, but, as our event focussed on mental wellbeing, I am happy to say I’ve been at the beach with my family, hence the delay.

On July 5th, I had the honour of presiding over the inaugural ‘The Way We Work’ event. This expert panel series will challenge the systems and structures that underpin our current ways of working, encouraging the sharing of real-life experiences at a personal and business-level AND crucially, facilitate the exchange of best practice and ideas to achieve positive change.

The support for the event was over-whelming so a massive thanks to everyone who came, those of you I knew and the large numbers of new friends. The four panellists were absolutely world-class and all brought something different to the debate; Nicola Millard, Gethin Nadin, Rob Stephenson and Nicky Imrie who will be properly introduced imminently.

It was a free event however I am encouraging support of a related charity, close to Rob’s heart, supporting research into mental health at Rob is currently riding the Tour De France on a static bike through the use of amazing VR and other tech, hosted by various corporates around London and the South East, raising £s and starting conversations as he goes. Please follow his astonishing endeavours here .

Scene Setting – Epidemic of Our Time

So a little scene setting; it is estimated that globally we are losing 12 billion work days a year or £35 billion a year in the UK as a cost to employers due to poor mental health. The stats on male suicide are chilling as is the picture regarding incidence of mental ill health in children.

We hear much talk of a ‘war on talent’ and of the growing skills gap as innovation accelerates and potential brakes on the talent pipeline due to the political landscape kick in. Wages have stagnated, and UK productivity has slowed for decades. As I talk to organisations around the UK, they are ALL expecting more for less and people are STRESSED.

The Bigger Picture

Welsh social reformer Robert Owen, drove the workplace legislation that established 8-hour working day during the industrial revolution and set the tone around the world. Important, worthy but…some 200 years ago. Maybe it’s time for another revolution?! There’s a tome of research underlining the non-linear relationship between hours worked and output – so presenteeism or working harder and longer is flawed.

The Panel

· Rob Stephenson, founding partner at Maven Partners - a finance and taxation recruitment business - passionate campaigner for mental health and ‘unhinged’ cyclist.

· Rob talking movingly and openly about his own battle with depression and journey to ‘come out’ in recent months as bi-polar. Outside of his current physical challenge with Mindcycle, Rob is laying the foundations of a list of corporate role models, open about their own mental health challenges. Watch out for

· Nicky Imrie, co-founder of the PR Network, a highly successful comms business with a dispersed and agile business model, set-up 13 years ago.

· Fascinating insight into the why’s and how’s of the development of her business. Nicky also brought a matter-of-fact clarity to the discussion around ‘how to measure productivity with an agile workforce.’ “Er simple, same way you measure anyone else’s output. Be output not input focussed, hours worked and location are irrelevant.”

· Gethin Nadin, leads the technology team at HR Tech innovator Benefex ( and, author of Amazon HR Bestseller, A World of Good.

· I am an uber fan is Gethin’s book which is a brilliant collection of data-backed case studies of progressive talent strategies and brands from around the world. “Employees are human and they aren’t resources.” During the day before this panel, superhuman Gethin hosted the Benefex Summer Forum, which was a hugely impressive and uplifting collection of inspiring speakers and connections with progressive clients of Gethins.

· Dr Nicola Millard, heads up Customer Insight & Futures in BT's Innovation Team. Nicola insists she isn’t a technologist but combines psychology with futurology seeking to anticipate what might be lying around the corner for consumers.

· Nicola offered a fascinating perspective from a large corporate that has led the way on agile working. Also a wealth of insight to draw on in terms of the latest and greatest research-led theories in this space. Perhaps my favourite quote of the evening was from Nicola proclaiming “the death of Dolly (Parton)”, i.e. the 9-to-5!

So following some 40 minutes of on-stage discussion from the phenomenal panel there was no hesitation from our highly engaged audience to jump in. We heard lots of counsel about how to start conversations at work, both at an organisational level and with individual leaders and managers. I was delighted and not at all surprised to hear blanket praise for the calibre and contribution of our panel and I thank them wholeheartedly for their generous support.

At the risk of oversimplifying the work still to do here, I am buoyed by the considerable progress already seen in starting a dialogue and the education at societal level. In many ways, it really does seem that simple to me; organisations that give their people the incentive and flexibility to determine how, when and where they do their best work - and reward them based on the impact and value created, are the ones with a more engaged, productive and healthier workforce. Onwards, ever onwards!

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Jane Fordham Consulting

Stanyards Cottage, Chertsey Road



GU24 8JE​

Tel: 07500 725102


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