• Jane Fordham

World Mental Health Day 2020: Society has been through a collective trauma

Ahead of today’s World Mental Health Day, I attended a virtual Madworld Summit on Thursday. I know it’s a great event when I’m thoughtful but exhausted by the closing comments. My 3rd Madworld, evidently the first virtual one and of course, first for us all during a global pandemic with all the associated challenges that goes with it. Way too much content to effectively convey here so here follows simply a taster of just some of the poignant parts I noted down.

The first keynote was a conversation with the brilliant John Amaechi OBE. My husband has been raving about his LinkedIn feed for a while and now I know why. Razor-smart, incredibly driven, science-geek and ex MBA player turned organisational psychologist and business leader. What’s not to love?

· “Utilisation culture exhausts me, it misses the point of impact-focussed productivity. Don’t punish people for 15 minutes of emotionally literate engagement with colleague in need.”

· Impact of COVID on UK mental health field? “The pandemic has made mental health more sophisticated which is positive. But honestly, we’ve been seeing an uptick in PTSD because of the virus, society has effectively been through a collective trauma.”

“Society has effectively been through a collective trauma with COVID.”

· “If you ask someone how they are, you’d better mean it or don’t ask. The fact that you notice, that you care, is in and of itself an intervention and is powerful.”

· How do you effectively ‘notice’ right now through the omnipresent medium of the video-call? (great question). “Put as much of yourself on camera as possible, waist up, to give people as much chance as possible to read your body language. We have regular team ‘huddles’ which is avoiding the technical or tactical content, more a conversation about ‘how are you feeling’ and ‘what’s getting in your way today?”

The 2nd keynote was the effervescent (and ex-Unilever HR leader) Geoff McDonald interviewing Unilever’s current Global Chief HR Officer, Leena Nair. Dynamite dialogue from one of the world’s largest and best-known consumer brands:

· ¼ billion people globally are suffering from depression

· Last Monday Unilever gave employers around the world the day off as a ‘Global Day of Thanks.’

· “Staff engagement scores have gone through the roof during COVID. Just last week we saw 85% of staff saying they felt Unilever cares about their wellbeing and more than 90% reported pride in working for us.”

· “We’ve seen a 55% increase in usage of our EAP across our 150+ countries during the pandemic.”

· “In recent times, we’ve refreshed our approach to career development so that the ‘Future Fit’ personal career plans cover four areas including purpose and wellbeing. We are literally measuring people’s energy and wellbeing. For every $1 invested in wellbeing we see a return of $2.5 so it makes business as well as human sense.”

“We’ve lost 29 colleagues to COVID so far. Every time you get that phone call it cuts deep. They are members of our global family.”

And the 3rd keynote was a panel on ‘Thriving at Work.’ Diverse but impressive panellists, insights aplenty naturally but sadly my notetaking abilities were waning. One takeout from me;

· Anne Francke OBE, Chief Executive of the CBI talked about some of the key trends she’d observed since March. She suggested on one level, remote working was a great leveller as we all appear to each other ‘in the same size video box.’ Whilst that’s true, what’s literally outside the box and whether it’s an ironing board or a well-appointed desk might vary somewhat!

Rugby legend from yesteryear, Will Carling closed proceedings chatting with Mark Maclomson CBE, CEO of City Lit. I had to dial off early but what I heard was a compelling insight into Will’s journey as England Captain from the staggering age of 22. Naturally it was a different Madworld but managed to retain the buzz, the quality and passion.

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Jane Fordham Consulting

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Tel: 07500 725102


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