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April 9, 2015

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Wellness – more than a kaftan and a bit of chanting

by Kate Cook

Some of you will remember the brilliant Yes Minister TV programme born in the 80s and the fictional character at the equally fictional government department ‘Department of Administrative Affairs’ Sir Humphrey Appleby, a master of manipulation and obfuscation who can tie his Minister up in huge reams of red tape to make black look like white if it meets his own career/personal ends.

Fast forward 30 years and a piece in the Independent revealed that in a real government civil service departments there has been a great deal of disappointment as their staff sports day has been cancelled this year.

The reason is unclear but I think it is deemed too much of a ‘Beano’ and a ‘jolly’ in these times of austerity.  Enter master of spin – presumably Sir Humphrey himself, or his modern day equivalent – who has suggested that instead of ‘Sports Day’ the entire day should be rebranded ‘A Wellness Day’ – thereby making it appear as if the sports day might be contributing to the health of the team, and allowable in the budget  – BRILLIANT.

I can’t really put my finger on what annoys me about this most, because I like a good laugh as much as the next bloke.  ‘Sports day’ – where people do the egg and spoon race and the sack race is a staff benefit – it’s nothing to do with ‘wellness’, because it is not strategic – there is no audit of what is needed, the results are presumably not measured (unless you count HR winning the relay race again).  ‘Sports Day’  under these circumstances is just a day off! Rebranding it a ‘Wellness Day’  just entrenches the view that ALL Wellness approaches are just a big fat outing, jolly, a day off, ineffectual and not really worth investing in.  Wellness is therefore a catch-all phrase for anything that is say, a foot massage, a bit of a shoulder massage, magic candles and someone coming into the office in a Kaftan, flapping a magic wand and doing a bit of chanting.

We need to think of better branding for Wellness and the difference it can make to your organisation –  please comment and let me know if you can think of a better way to brand ‘changing the health of your people so that they not only can have healthful lives, but safe and productive ones.’

Perhaps we should get Sir Humphrey on to it.

Kate CookKate Cook is a nutrition and wellness expert and an international speaker. She is also founder and director of the Harley Street clinic The Nutrition Coach. Her clients include the Bank of England, JP Morgan, Network Rail, Abellio, Skanska, Gardiner and Theobald, and EDF Energy.

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In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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Clive Johnson
Clive Johnson
8 years ago

We brought Kate into Land Securities, she is totally inspirational her wellness programme will not only energise the workforce but will make your business perform at a higher level.

Prof. Cary Cooper
Prof. Cary Cooper
8 years ago

Excellent point Kate, Wellbeing is not a ‘soft, good to have concept’ but an essential aspect of enhancing employee health and productivity.It can dramatically positive impact the bottom line as well as meet the needs of employees.

Louise Paszkiewicz
Louise Paszkiewicz
8 years ago

I echo the two previous comments. I heard about Kate Cook through a colleague on a separate Skanska project. We are constantly looking for new, fresh activities and ideas to capture everyone’s attention and raise awareness with regard to health and well-being which is our ultimate baseline to working efficiently! Since Kate first started presenting at our site the interest has heightened quite significantly; not only with staff but our trade contractors. Individuals quite often ask when she will be returning and what subjects she will be educating us about! This can only be a good sign and in addition,… Read more »