Kavitha’s keynote: Mental health matters when it comes to wellbeing

On day one of this year’s Employee Benefits Live, which took place on 2 and 3 October at ExCeL London, Google’s Cayla Kitayama delivered the opening keynote address which explored how to put health and wellbeing at the heart of an organisation’s benefits strategy.

Kitayama, who is responsible for the technology giant’s benefits across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), explained how the business uses data to inform its approach to mental health in the workplace, and the importance of tailoring health and wellbeing provisions to the needs of employees.

As well as undertaking data collection and carrying out an annual, all-staff survey among its 52,000 workers every two years, Google also conducts a people health survey with a specific focus on benefits and mental health.

What became clear during the presentation was how vital it is to ensure staff have easy access to benefits, information and resources to support them with their health and wellbeing issues. And, of course, that data should underpin all policies and programmes, which involves a long-term commitment.

Meanwhile, Damien Hooper-Campbell, vice president and chief diversity officer at e-commerce organisation eBay, highlighted that thinking about the short-term would not work for diversity and inclusion either.

He insisted that employers should consider breaking with convention if they truly want to make significant strides in this area, and his thought-provoking presentation encouraged delegates to take a stand if they wanted to change their organisation’s policies, even if it meant doing something unexpected.

Indeed, many employers see equality and diversity as a tick-box exercise, and think it is sufficient to simply meet diversity targets. But what happens when the benefits package fails to incorporate the needs of certain groups of employees? The only way to make them feel truly included and motivated is to make sure their requirements are also reflected in any HR provisions and policies.

Engagement and motivation was also on the agenda for paralympic gold medallist, BBC commentator and author Marc Woods, who closed this year’s annual conference and exhibition with a talk on how to unleash your inner HR superstar. He strongly believes pay cannot be the sole motivator for employees.

Few would disagree with the argument that poor communication and ineffective leadership can lead to individual team members having different objectives and expectations, which can, in turn, negatively impact on overall team motivation and performance. Today’s employers would do well to keep that in mind.

Kavitha Sivasubramaniam
Tweet: @kavithasiva_EB