35. Is wellbeing a complete waste of time?

In this episode we discuss: Is wellbeing a complete waste of time? We are joined by Gethin Nadin, cited as one of HR’s Most Influential Thinkers and author of the bestseller “A Work In Progress: Unlocking Wellbeing to Create More Sustainable and Resilient Organisations.”

3/21/20246 min read

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Bethany and Brandon discuss: 

  • What is the COO’s role in solving workplace stress? 

  • What can a COO do to optimise employees and support their mental health? 

We chat about the following with Gethin: 

  • What is wellbeing? In the context of a company, what are we talking about? 

  • What is the view on the Guardian article that suggests wellness programmes are a waste of time? 

  • What is the impact of DE&I on mental health? 

  • How has the social contact changed between employee and employer? 

  • Where does corporate responsibility end and personal responsibility start?

  • How does an organisation optimise employees to achieve the biggest shareholder return? 



I am a leading psychologist and author with over 20 years of experience in HR tech, employee wellbeing, and engagement. As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of the British Psychological Society, I have been recognised as one of the world's most influential HR thinkers and a top global employee experience influencer. 

Currently, I serve as the Chief Innovation Officer at both Benefex and Zellis, two of the UK's leading providers of employee benefits and payroll solutions. In this role, I leverage my expertise in wellbeing, employee experience, and financial wellbeing to create innovative and sustainable solutions for organisations and their people. I am also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Employability, where I advise on policy and practice for improving the employability of the UK workforce. 

I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and insights with others through speaking, writing, and teaching. I have published two bestselling books, 'A World of Good' and 'A Work in Progress', which explore the best practices and emerging trends in improving the employee experience and wellbeing across the globe. I have also contributed to various media outlets, such as Forbes, The Financial Times, and The Guardian, and co-hosted a UK tour with Ruby Wax OBE to campaign for better mental health in the workplace. My mission is to help organisations and individuals thrive in the changing world of work.

  • Walking in London, exhaustion, and appreciation for the city. 0:06

    • Bethany talks about her recent walk in London, mentioning the Thames and a noodle shop in Greenwich.

    • Bethany quotes Samuel Pepys, saying "when you're tired of London, you're tired of life," reflecting on her previous exhaustion with living in London but now re-appreciating it as her children have grown older.

  • Workplace well-being and its impact on employee mental health. 2:24

    • CEO has significant influence on employee mental health by creating a stress-reducing work environment.

    • Brandon M and Bethany discuss the importance of financial security in creating a positive work culture, with Bethany noting that even with the right policies in place, a fear-based culture can still exist if the CEO is insecure or paranoid.

    • The pair also highlight the danger of CEOs presenting one image and picture for the company while undermining it with their actions, creating a sense of double talk or gaslighting.

    • Bethany and Brandon discuss the five levels of organisational leadership, ranging from a pessimistic view of the world to a transcendent one focused on the betterment of society.

    • They agree that level three, where most people operate, is characterized by ego-driven politics, while level four involves a common enemy and level five is a state of flow and collaboration.

  • Workplace wellness programs and their benefits. 9:33

    • Brandon M and Bethany discuss the importance of investing in personal well-being and mental health support for employees, with examples of successful implementation in their company.

    • They highlight the benefits of using a platform like Slack for on-demand therapy and coaching, and how it can help remove the stigma around mental health support.

    • Brandon M and Bethany discussed the importance of investing in employee wellness programs, including mental health support and financial planning.

    • They agreed that wellness programs are often inexpensive and can provide significant benefits for employees, but may require more holistic approach to budgeting and prioritization.

    • Brandon and Bethany discuss the importance of well-being in the workplace, particularly for line managers, and how it can be supported through coaching and other means.

    • They debate whether well-being is a waste of time, with Bethany expressing skepticism about the effectiveness of training and the importance of coaching for personal growth.

  • Workplace well-being and employee stress. 17:21

    • Gethin Nadin discusses the importance of workplace well-being, citing research showing 90-99% of people experience extreme stress at work.

    • Employers must support employees' well-being, despite not causing the cost of living crisis or pandemic, and must move away from the idea of "do no harm" to create an environment where employees' lives are better off for working with them.

  • Workplace wellbeing and its impact on employee happiness and productivity. 19:39

    • Gethin Nadin agrees with the Guardian article that wellness programs can be ineffective if workplace stress is caused by poor management practices.

    • He believes that wellness initiatives are only effective when companies prioritize employee well-being and address the root causes of stress, such as unclear expectations and too much pressure.

    • Gethin Nadin argues that wellbeing initiatives like mindfulness are important but not a replacement for organizational structure and culture changes.

    • He believes that high performers are at high risk of burnout and that a combination of structural and mindfulness interventions is necessary for effective wellbeing management.

  • Workplace mental health and inclusion. 24:31

    • Gethin Nadin highlights the importance of inclusive policies and structures in workplaces, particularly for marginalized groups, to address mental health issues and promote a safe and supportive environment.

    • Bethany emphasizes the need for policies that address the DI (diversity, inclusion) side of things, including sexual harassment policies, to create a culture where women feel safe to speak up about their experiences in the workplace.

    • Gethin Nadin highlights the UK police force as an example of a workplace where women face systemic barriers and discrimination, with a culture of "laddish behavior" and a lack of support for mental health.

    • Nadin emphasizes the need for institutions to take concrete actions to address these issues, such as holding perpetrators accountable and creating a more inclusive work environment.

  • Diversity, inclusion, and activism in the workplace. 28:12

    • Organizations must create a safe and welcoming environment for diverse employees to thrive, including policies and benefits that address gender identity and expression.

    • Bethany and Gethin discuss the power of the workplace in shaping society, with examples of employers taking a stand against government decisions that negatively impact their employees.

    • Gethin highlights the business drivers for diversity, including increased productivity, innovation, and collaboration, and wonders if more managers understand the impact on their team's performance.

  • Shifting corporate responsibility and investing in employees. 32:29

    • Brandon M suggests the social contract between employees and employers has shifted, with a focus on inclusivity and personal responsibility.

    • Gethin Nadin agrees, arguing that investing in people first can lead to a more profitable business in the long run.

    • Gethin Nadin argues that modern successful businesses prioritize employee well-being and success, leading to increased profitability and success.

    • Brandon M. questions the role of line managers in addressing personal issues of employees, suggesting that companies may need to redefine their corporate responsibility and operational practices.

  • Workplace mental health and responsibility. 36:20

    • Employers should prioritize employee well-being for better organizational results, regardless of personal responsibility.

  • Work-life balance and employee well-being. 38:20

    • Gethin Nadin suggests that people are re-evaluating their priorities during the pandemic, with many questioning the value of their jobs and prioritizing their mental health.

    • He argues that the social contract between employers and employees has broken down, as people are no longer guaranteed financial stability and security in return for their hard work.

    • Gethin Nadin highlights the importance of well-being in the workplace, citing research that shows employees want a commitment to well-being from their employer.

    • Bethany encourages listeners to be more human at work, emphasizing the importance of building real connections and creating an environment where people want to be.

  • Optimizing employees for better wellbeing and organizational output. 43:08

    • Employers are often good at mitigating risk, but they should also invest in their employees' well-being to get them back to performing at their best.

    • A financial services firm in Scotland gave an employee paid time off to deal with personal issues, and he returned to his job as a high-performing employee and eventually became a team manager.

    • Gethin Nadin emphasizes the importance of optimizing employees, not just mitigating risk, to improve organizational output and societal impact.

    • Research shows that improving employee wellbeing through recognition and support can lead to better relationships with children and more community-based activities in neighborhoods.

  • Workplace wellness and employee support. 47:29

    • Employers have the power to create a better work environment and support employees' well-being by offering benefits like mental health support, flexible work arrangements, and health insurance.

    • The speaker argues that employers have a responsibility to invest in their employees' well-being and provide support, rather than leaving it up to the government or individual employees to handle on their own.

    • Gethin Nadin shares his experience with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's and the impact it has had on his wellbeing, highlighting the importance of empathy and kindness in the workplace.

    • Brandon M expresses gratitude for the conversation and encourages listeners to subscribe or leave a comment, demonstrating the value of empathetic leadership in creating a supportive work environment.