So much has happened in the UK and across the world over the last 12 months, and as the holiday season draws closer there is a great deal of uncertainty.
The implications of Brexit are still far from clear as negotiations proceed. The Trump presidency is creating tensions across the world, there is political and social unrest in a number of regions and many others are threatened by terrorist attacks, conflict and natural disasters.
There is no doubt that the world and the workplace are changing and that technology has increased the pace of change significantly. At our recent Manifesto launch, Martin Temple, chair of the Health and Safety Executive used the following example to illustrate this point:
- It took the telephone 75 years to get 50 million users
- Television had those viewers in 13 years
- The Internet had that number of users in just four years
- Facebook, in 3.5 years
- Angry Birds, in 35 days
- Pokémon Go, in 19 days.
At the British Safety Council, we have been giving much thought to the challenges that the future might bring. Next year we will be publishing a research report that will focus on the future of work and the associated risks and opportunities.
There is no doubt that technology will be a key component of all our futures. It’s easy to focus on the negative effects that this might bring, but there are huge opportunities too. During 2018, we will be developing a new health and safety training portfolio that will utilise technology to enhance the learning experience.
We also plan to use technology to improve the understanding of the impact that air pollution has on outdoor workers, and to promote both physical and mental wellbeing.
Whatever the future might bring, people will remain at the centre of our businesses, workplaces and communities because they are a key asset and are integral to future success on every level. But periods of change and uncertainty can be difficult for people to manage, resulting in anxiety and adversely affecting their mental wellbeing.
Mental health is very much the issue of our time. It affects all of us in different ways at different points in our lives, in just the same way as physical health. Yet, there is still a huge stigma that prevents people from seeking help when they need it.
2017 has seen a significant increase in mental health awareness, through campaigns such as Time to Talk Time to Change, Heads Together, Mates in Mind and some other initiatives in some sectors.
Similarly, a government-commissioned inquiry on mental health has reported, making recommendations for change. However, there is still a great deal to do if we are to dispel the stigma and create an environment in which people feel able to offer and request help when it’s needed.
I’m sure that many of you are now making plans for next year in your workplace. So why not take the opportunity to consider what you can do to promote a positive approach to mental and physical wellbeing?
It’s not just about having mechanisms to provide assistance when something goes wrong, to be really effective wellbeing programmes need to focus on prevention. We have recently published A Handbook of Organised Wellbeing, a book co-authored with Tim Marsh, a leading expert on workplace psychology and culture change. The text considers key lessons that have been learnt over the last 40 years, driving a huge improvement in health and safety across the UK, and looks to apply these to promote similar improvements in wellbeing. It’s designed to be a user- friendly guide for managers and health and safety practitioners and would make a great Christmas gift.
So, as 2017 draws to a close I’d like to thank you for reading Safety Management and supporting the work of the British Safety Council this year. We have lots planned for 2018, and I’ll look forward to sharing this with you as the year progresses.
Have a great holiday season and please do think about reaching out to anyone who looks like they might be having a hard time. A simple, kind word and a conversation can make a real difference, and nobody should have to struggle on in silence.
A Handbook of Organised Wellbeing available here
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