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A Little More Conversation with Ruby Wax

19 Sep 2019

blackboard with smiley face in chalkThe IoD’s commitment to its Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace campaign, as well as the #alittlemoreconversation initiative, encourages members to speak openly about their own mental health challenges and foster an open and inclusive culture within their organisations. 

IoD member and contributor Thomas Duncan Bell is working with creators of the Mad World Summit and is pleased to be able to offer fellow IoD members 50% off ticket prices.

In advance of the Mad World Summit, the conference and exhibition that puts mental health at the heart of the business agenda, Ruby Wax agreed to an interview for the IoD’s Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace campaign, which specifically focuses on the mental health of business leaders.

Ruby’s charity Frazzled Café is Mad World’s charity partner. Ruby will be appearing at the event on Wednesday 9 October.

Q1: First question for you Ruby - how are you? 

I’m really good. I can say that because I’m in a lucky position where I only do what I enjoy and that doesn’t burn you out. Not everyone has that in their work so it’s important to have something else in life that feeds you mentally and gives you purpose and meaning.

Q2: We are excited to be collaborating with Frazzled Cafe, a charity that you founded, for this year's Mad World Summit. Mad World is all about helping employers to make a difference to workplace mental health and wellbeing, which sits high on the IoD’s agenda. What are the key messages you would like the audience to take back to their workplaces?

That treating mental health as separate from physical health doesn’t work. It is critical to our overall wellbeing and whether an employee is asking for help or support because of a physical or mental condition, it shouldn’t matter. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, 1 in 4 people experience it, and so reducing that stigma is important. Almost 1 billion working days a year are lost due to mental health issues like stress, anxiety and depression. Organisations that support the mental wellbeing of their employees are ultimately going to be better off and their employees will feel better connected to them.

Q3: You are often invited to speak at organisations on the subject of supporting employee mental wellbeing. What advice do you have for business leaders of both large and small organisations in terms of supporting their own wellness, as well as that of their staff?

As a leader you have to ‘walk the talk’ because the state that you are in sets the tone for everyone around you. There’s a phrase I love: “neural-wifi”. It’s the way we pass on our state of mind to the people around us; family, colleagues, people on our commute... If you’re in that state of ‘red mist’ where you’re so agitated or stressed that you can’t focus – you can bet the people who work for you will be in the same state and no one is at their best. So, you can be the person polluting or enhancing the environment. Find a way to lower your own pressure, it can be mindfulness; exercise; CBT; whatever works for you. Learn to do that and it will help everyone around you.

Q4: In your book "How to Be Human" you provide guidance on navigating the future. What is your wish or vision for mental health and wellbeing in the workplace for 2020 and beyond?

Well, let’s hope there is a workplace… and if the future is a lot of technology, hold onto your humanity because that is something tech can’t replace. Then we’ll have some hope of running it instead of it running us. It‘s going to be even more important for us to develop the ability to control our brains, whether through exercise like mindfulness or wearing a mental ‘fit-bit’ – things like that are being developed! It won’t come automatically, the speed of technological advancement is so fast we can’t keep up, so it’s important that we can be aware and not get caught up in information overload to the point it overwhelms us. If 65% of 8 year olds feel that there will be jobs that don’t yet exist it’s going to be people with the ability to be compassionate and genuinely connect with others, like people do in our Frazzled Cafe meetings, who will be the success stories of the future.

The Madworld Summit is the largest global exhibition dedicated to making a difference to mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. You can register to attend here with discount code IoD50 which gives 50% off both the single and group booking rates. 

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