Unworking conference looks at how to elevate employee experience

Improving staff wellbeing starts with creating a brain-friendly environment, says Sean Tolram of HSBC, one of a number of expert speakers at WORKTECH’s Unworking conference in London

Workplace experience will be the over-arching theme of Day 2 of WORKTECH’s annual Unworking conference in London next month. Taking place at The Ministry on 5 June, speaker presentations and panels will focus on such theme as ‘performance redefined’, ‘purpose-driven productivity’ and ‘human-centred excellence’. The two-day event, held 4-5 June, is inspired by the Unworking book, co-authored by WORKTECH’s Philip Ross and Jeremy Myerson.

Among the attractions will be a session on elevating employee wellbeing, featuring Catriona Rowbotham, an expert on workplace gardens, Rhian Windridge, who heads workplace design and experience at Google, and Sean Tolram, Mindfulness Programme Delivery Manager at HSBC.

Ahead of his appearance at the Unworking conference, we asked Sean Tolram to share some of his thoughts on the future of workplace experience:

Can you share specific examples of how organisations can successfully foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within the workplace?
For collaboration and innovation to take place, you need a brain-friendly working environment. When we’re stressed, our brains go into survival mode which is designed to get us out of danger. This is great when you need to dodge a speeding car, but it’s not so useful for our day-to-day tasks. And it restricts access to our higher brain function, making it difficult to perform at our best. It’s important to look for the root causes of stress within an organisation and take steps to address them. Easier said than done, but the results are worth it.

If we can treat people like people, rather than robots, we can achieve great things…

What strategies have you found most effective in promoting employee wellbeing and work-life balance in today’s fast-paced work environments?

Stress is one of the biggest causes of long-term workplace absence. The biggest cause of stress is workload. If we can support employees in managing their workload effectively, this will have the biggest impact on their wellbeing. Senior leaders should be evangelising healthy working habits. Annual goals and objectives should include targets for wellbeing. Manager training should give guidance on wellbeing conversations. Rules should be established around out of hours comms. Annual employee surveys should be used to drive action. If we can treat people like people, rather than robots, we can achieve great things.

How do you see the role of technology evolving in shaping the future of work, particularly in enhancing employee experiences and productivity?

The progression of technology is for many of us a wonderful and exciting sight to behold. And as we move forward, we need to be aware of the human impact in order to get the most out of these new capabilities. For example, there’s danger in releasing the latest new comms tool if people are already overwhelmed with messages. But if the new tool is developed to address the overwhelm, it then becomes part of the solution. We need to ensure the technology serves the people rather than the other way round.

More information on the Unworking conference, London, 4-5 June 2024, here.
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