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May 16, 2024 | 33 Mins Read

Smashing Stigma Around Mental Health & Prioritizing Well-Being at Work

May 16, 2024 | 33 Mins Read

Smashing Stigma Around Mental Health & Prioritizing Well-Being at Work


Episode 265

In this episode of the Unscripted podcast, host Sarah Nicastro is joined by Rob Stephenson, TEDx Speaker, Mental Health Campaigner, Keynote Speaker, CEO of FormScore®, and Founder of the InsideOut LeaderBoard® for an important conversation during Mental Health Awareness month.

Rob shares his motivation for evangelizing mental well-being and gives advice on how companies can make progress in normalizing mental health topics and promoting well-being at work. Trigger Warning: this episode includes a range of mental illness-related topics that may be sensitive for some listeners, including suicide.

Rob is deeply committed to mental health awareness and actively participates in efforts to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental ill-health in the workplace. He has managed bipolar disorder throughout his personal and professional life and shares his experiences and strategies for change through public speaking engagements.

If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Also, subscribe to our newsletter right here.

Rob: You've articulated the number one point very well there, which is listen. It's talk to your employees and really understand what's going on for them. Because we can often sit at the center in large organizations and make assumptions about what will work for our well-being without asking the people that we're trying to help. So I think ask your employees what's going on at the team level and gathering that information is really important. I think if you would take this seriously, there's a concept of psychological safety that I think is really important to think about. And psychological safety, as championed by Amy Edmondson of Harvard, talks about the belief you won't be held back, punished for speaking out, and missing a mistake. Or coming up with an idea.

Sarah: Hello, welcome to the UNSCRIPTED Podcast, where you'll find discussions on what matters most in service, leadership, and business transformation. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Let's jump in. Welcome to the UNSCRIPTED Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're going to be having an important discussion around smashing stigma around mental health and prioritizing well-being at work. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a topic that is important to me personally, and I think important for all of our podcast listeners in thinking about how they prioritize their own mental health and support their teams in doing the same. So I'm thrilled to welcome today Rob Stephenson, who is a TEDx speaker, mental health campaigner, keynote speaker, CEO of FormScore, and Founder of The InsideOut Leaderboard. Rob, welcome to the podcast.

Rob: Sarah, thank you for having me. Excited to be here.

Sarah: Thank you for being here. I'm excited as well. I found Rob on LinkedIn, and it was clear that this is a big part of your life. And I'm so excited to hear what you have to share with us today. So before we get into the conversation, we're going to talk about what FormScore is. We're going to talk about what the Inside Out Leaderboard is. We're going to talk about a lot of other things. But before we get into that, just tell everyone a little bit more about yourself, your journey, and what you do.

Rob: Sure. Sarah, thank you for that very kind introduction. I'd describe my mission as helping to inspire the creation of mentally healthy workplaces. And this mission really came out of me coming to terms with my personal challenges of living and working with bipolar disorder. And for those that don't know, bipolar is a mood disorder and is characterized by extremes of mood. So I will experience periods of hypomania, where I can take risks, make bad financial decisions, and spend money compulsively. And then I'll also experience periods of depression. And actually, I'm just coming out the other side of a pretty dark period of depression over the last few weeks for me. But I also experience kind of everything in between and periods of creativity, a drive, an ability to challenge the status quo. And I think it's important to recognize that if we can manage some of the challenges we experience with our mental health, we can then enjoy the strengths and the positives of our mental differences. So for the last eight years, I've been on this mission of trying to make change in the workplace by public speaking with the various other things that I do. Prior to that, I've been a CPA, and a chartered accountant. I have been a head hunter in the recruitment sector. And I've also been a long-time DJ and bar owner in my 30s. So I've had quite a varied career, but I actually think that as a campaigner, I've really found my purpose and my mission to help change how we perceive mental health.

Sarah: Yeah. It's such an important topic. And I think I still remember, I will never forget, there was a time when none of this was discussed, right? Openly in any way, right? And it's just, so we've already come a long way in the stigma. There's a long way left to go. All right. But I just want to say, I remember when, boy, I don't remember how many years ago this was, maybe 15 or so. Before social media as well, there were so many downsides of social media. But one of the things that I really like about it for me personally, like I follow on Instagram a lot of content related to complex PTSD because I have that. And. It's such a great, it can be such a great way to understand these topics better, to connect with other people, other content creators who have gone through this, and to feel less alone in that journey. Before social media, though, and in a time where this wasn't discussed as much, there’s a woman, Glennon Doyle, who wrote a book called Carry On, Warrior. And I remember finishing that book on a flight to California and just sobbing. But in a way where I just, words had been put to so many things I had felt for so long that like, I truly did not know there were other people that felt those things. So having these discussions, and doing the work you do is so incredibly important, just for people, for humans, right? But then obviously thinking about how much time we all spend at work and how we bring that humanity into the workplace and really think about how do we allow people to be themselves and help them be their best selves instead of that isolation of feeling like maybe I'm the only one that struggles with this thing or what have you. So such an important thing. And like I said, we've come a long way, but there is still so much stigma to smash. And so can you talk about why that's so important to you and just to the broader world, really?

Rob: Yeah, really happy to do so. And I think linked to that. What you were just saying resonates for me as well. When we experience a challenge to our mental health, because of the stigma, because it's not that widely talked about in society, and certainly a few years ago, it wasn't talked about at all. We feel we're alone. We feel that this really strange stuff that we don't even understand until we start to seek medical help we don't even have a label for, and we feel that this is a problem with us. And I had a similar experience. Somebody gave me a book, I think it was by Elizabeth Wurtzel, if I remember correctly, but it was her experiences with depression. I'm like, wow, there's somebody else out there that experiences this, that I'm struggling to even come to terms with a name. And I think the reason that it's so important to smash the stigma and challenge these misconceptions is at the most extreme end, it's costing lives. People are not getting the help and support they need. They're not comfortable asking for help. And we're losing lives to suicide. But I think, actually, as I mentioned, if we can start to receive help and understand what is driving mental ill health and start to manage that, whether that's with medication or whether it's with exercise, via social connections, whatever it might be, we can then just tap into those strengths that come with being human. But I think if we feel that we can't seek help and we can't talk about this stuff, many of us then spend unnecessary years where we're lost effectively because we're not moving forward. We're stuck and defined by our mental illness. I've made so many questionable decisions in my kind of 20s and 30s that if I'd have come to terms with my mental health challenge earlier, I might have made better decisions. And I think that is changing. We are seeing people being more open. The generations coming through are much more open about their mental health. You're right. Social media is a platform in many cases to spread awareness. We mentioned Mental Health Awareness Month, and that's great for, again, getting people talking. But you're right in that there's so much work still to do. And I think it's a good question to ask employees, do you feel confident in discussing a mental health challenge with your line manager? And that is still an overwhelming no for many people in the workplace. And I like to draw examples with something like cancer. And cancer used to be very much more stigmatized than it is. People would talk about the big C in hushed tones. Whereas now people feel much more comfortable talking about that diagnosis if they're experiencing that terrible condition. They receive the help that they need. They get help as quickly as possible. And they are supported by people. Now we're not there with mental ill health yet, which is why conversations like this, Mental Health Awareness Month, and activities in workplaces are so important. Because ultimately, what is the goal here? It's to help humans thrive as much as possible. And we can't thrive if we don't feel comfortable talking about a challenge.

Sarah: Yeah. You know, the other thing I'm thinking about, so obviously the name of the show is UNSCRIPTED, so here I go. But now that we're talking, right? And I hope you don't mind me saying this, but I think the other thing to think about when it comes to stigma is there's a, I think, a continuum of accepted topics, okay? And so like I this is just my observation. I think anxiety has become a pretty accepted topic of mental health. Maybe depression is slightly less so, but pretty normal, okay? I think bipolar, you're inching further into that continuum where people may react differently to that. And then I was just listening yesterday to my personal favorite podcast other than my own Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. And he had on someone who is diagnosed sociopath. And she is a PhD. She does a lot of work around sociopathy and understanding it better and to the degree, but that's sort of then further along, right? And it was eye-opening to me because considering myself someone who's very open-minded and accepting, it was just interesting to hear her speak about the journey of being a child who had sociopathy, didn't know it at the time, but like what it was like to grapple with that. And then what the response has been to that in the world and think, wow. That it is something where you need to constantly be learning and understanding and challenging your own perceptions and biases as well. So what are your thoughts on there's almost like a stigma continuum that we have to work through?

Rob: I 100% agree. And if you start talking about more stigmatized conditions or challenges, schizophrenia would be another one. And I think... Yeah, depression and anxiety are probably easier for people to get their heads around. And even then, unless you've experienced them, you don't know what they're like. But people would equate anxiety to being overly worried about stuff. People would equate depression to feeling low or sad. For those that experience this stuff regularly, it's much more serious. But it's also much more common. And people are talking much more openly. There's a stat that over a billion people experience anxiety. But I think stigma itself comes from fear. It comes from a fear of what would I do if someone said to me, I'm schizophrenic or I've got a borderline personality disorder. And fears are often countered by knowledge. So the idea of educating ourselves about these conditions is really important. And I think people immediately talk about, if you say mental ill health or mental illness, it's depression and anxiety that this scene is more acceptable. So you're absolutely right. I think this all comes from, though, the way mental illness has been portrayed over the years. It's Jack Nicholson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the Lunatic Asylum, all of these words that have come into common vernacular. And we've got to break all of that down. Yeah, we're human, right? We're human. We're all individuals. We're all unique. We're all on a continuum of something, whether it's neurodiversity, whether it's mental health, whether it's well-being, whether it's opportunity, whether it's privilege. And some of us are just more extreme. That's not wrong. It's just human. And I think as we accept the differences in society, then that comes with understanding. Understanding comes with education and awareness.

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. That's such a good point about how things have been portrayed. And when you start to shift your perspective to think about, what we've all probably encountered in our daily lives, if we're not someone who struggles with this ourselves, we've encountered someone who does, that you wouldn't know. They're showing up in life in a way that a lot of times. So yeah, really interesting.

Rob: I think that's really good because it's an invisible illness, right? I did a panel facilitation. The topic was financial well-being. It was a few days ago. And I looked like I do now. I was a confident man. I was asking good questions. I'm quite good at facilitation. I've done a lot of it. But I made a point to the audience that actually I was experiencing pretty bad depression. And I like to make that point when I am because we never know what's going on behind the scenes because we all put this mask on. And for me as a campaigner, that's one very nice way of challenging those perceptions of people. Because in the workplace, you have to put a mask on. We need to change that. But at the moment, you have to put a mask on because it's still not completely acceptable to be 100% yourself, particularly about your mental health.

Sarah: It's a really good point. My older son has type 1 diabetes, and he was diagnosed when he was three and a half. And if he has his insulin pump and his CGM somewhere that you can't see them, it's also very much invisible. People see him as a healthy, energetic, happy boy. And he is, right? But at any given moment, there's a completely different side of that that people don't understand. And I think I've shared about that before as well. And that's why I think it's so important to be open and honest the way you said you were that day because that's how we help people understand, right? We don't, we're not helping people understand by just hiding behind that mask and pretending we're okay when we're not okay.

Rob: For sure. And I think there's another important point to this as well, that the weight of pretending to be something you're not is a heavy one. It's heavier when that's something you're pretending to be as well as buoyant when you're experiencing something like depression. And what I've found since I've been more open in the last kind of eight, 10 years is actually that if we can lift that weight by being ourselves. So me being able to be open in that situation actually meant the weight I was carrying was lower because even though it was virtual, I was still connected with people and I knew that they knew where I'm at right now. I'm not trying to carry this pressure of being something I'm not. And I think back to the workplace. That's what we want. We want people to be themselves. And we can't do that if people are fearful of being themselves in any environment.

Sarah: Yeah. What you're saying makes me think of when Robin Williams committed suicide, the response to that, because he was someone who was so charismatic and seemingly so happy. And the way people reacted to that was almost amplified because that was his persona, and people that say, I just I can't imagine. And it's well, that's really good that you can't imagine, right? A lot of people can. And I think, you know, to your point, having to pretend that you're not experiencing something like that is a lot of a burden, right? So if you can ease that part, that gives people the space to allow themselves to get the help they need to feel better.

Rob: Yeah, I think that's right, you know. The question I often get asked by people is, what about if someone says that they are struggling to me? What should I do? The loved one, a colleague. And we're fearful of that as well, because as humans, particularly in the workplace, our jobs are generally to fix things, right? You can't fix someone who comes and says, I'm experiencing depression, anxiety, PTSD, or whatever. There are professionals that can help to do that over time to manage and to come to terms with. But as a friend, a boss, or a loved one, you can't immediately solve that problem, and nor should you try. And I often say that we're not qualified to fix people, but we are qualified to listen as a human being. And sometimes knowing that person is there to listen unconditionally and you can be yourself with that person, that's a huge benefit when we're struggling. And it's these little simple things that make the burden easier to carry.

Sarah: Yeah. You think about someone who is, you know, in an executive position, and I know we're going to talk about the InsideOut LeaderBoard, but there is a weight of that as well, of the more prominent you are in the business, the more responsibility you hold, the more people you lead. Let's talk about, you do a lot of work with organizations on making mental health and well-being a priority and helping them understand why and how, etc. So we're going to talk about some of those things. But what do you see in terms of the differences among company cultures that are doing work in this area versus those who are avoiding it or refuse to believe that it's relevant for them to take on or aren't for some reason?

Rob: It's a good question. And I think we're seeing another sort of continuum there of organizations that are not doing anything, organizations that are ticking or checking a box. And then organizations that truly value the well-being of employees. So I like to visualize companies being on a kind of journey through the foothills, and we've got Mount Everest up there. And I think the most forward-thinking organizations are probably just starting to climb the mountain. Some haven't started the trek. Most are somewhere trekking through the foothills, approaching base camp. And I think that's okay that we're all at different stages. What I don't like to see are organizations that are understanding for their employer brand that we've got to do something about well-being. So we'll get an employee assistance program. We'll maybe have a few awareness sessions. We'll have some benefits, and that's well-being done. I think the difference between organizations that are doing that and those that truly get it, the organizations that get it really understand that well-being is not just a benefits issue. It's not just something to offer people when they're struggling. Let's work everybody to the bone, but it's okay because we've got some well-being resources we can give to people. So I think organizations that really understand the work that needs to be done here understand that actually it's about ways of working. It's about fairness. It's about belonging. It's about inclusion. It's about unrealistic work demands. It's about psychological safety. All of these things are not going to get fixed by a gym membership, an app, or anything else. Now, all of those things are useful as part of a wider strategy. But most people-oriented organizations, somewhere in their marketing materials, you'll see people are our greatest asset. So why do we invest more time servicing the photocopier in certain cases, right? It's about thinking, what is the objective of our organization? Now, most organizations, again, will have some objective around the creation of shareholder value, which is right because that's how these organizations are owned. But what about the creation of value for employees beyond the financial? Is coming to that workplace a life-enhancing experience? If not, why not? Because it should be. And this isn't just me preaching and being very woo-woo about things. If we get this right, then those employees will be higher performing. There's a whole bunch of research coming out of Oxford University and other organizations that categorically show that a well-engaged workforce will perform better. It leads to higher personal performance, team performance, even company and stock market performance. So if we get it right, the other performance aspects will follow. But we've got to choose to get it right for the right reasons that we want employees to have that experience, not just to check a box to say we've done well-being.

Sarah: Yeah. I'm thinking of an interview that I did recently with Marco Hugo Gutierrez from Tetra Pak on well-being. Now, he leads a field force, a group of field technicians, I think about 1,100 of them in Europe and around different regions. And they undertook a big effort not too long ago to really try and understand where their field technician engagement was at and where they needed to improve. And they asked, I thought, some really great questions like, what makes you happy at work? What makes you feel proud? What's your biggest struggle? Those sorts of things. And the number one thing that came out of it was isolation. These are employees who are out doing work at customer sites. They're not connected to their colleagues on a regular basis, etc. And they took some really practical steps to change that. So one of the things that they did was take an effort to free up the manager's time to spend more time with those employees. They focused on looking at how they could communicate differently the way those employees' efforts tied into the company's objectives to make sure it was clear to them how they were contributing to the purpose. They worked on reward and recognition to make sure that those employees felt valued, those sorts of things. And it was such a good example of obviously understanding that it mattered and wanting to do that for the right reasons, but also some really practical steps, at least related to our audience, that had an impact. So can you talk a little bit about, let's say you have someone who's beginning the track.  They do understand the importance, but they're really unsure on how to go about it. So what's important? What works? Those sorts of things.

Rob: Yeah, sure. And I think you've articulated the number one point very well there, which is, listen, it's talk to your employees and really understand what's going on for them. Because we can often sit at the center in large organizations and make assumptions with what will work for their well-being without asking the people that we're trying to help. So I think asking your employees what's going on at the team level and gathering that information is really important. I think if you really want to take this seriously, there's a concept of psychological safety that I think is really important to think about. Psychological safety, as championed by Amy Edmondson of Harvard, talks about the belief you won't be held back, punished for speaking out, admitting a mistake, or coming up with an idea. But actually, where our well-being is concerned, I think it's really interesting to understand whether employees feel comfortable in saying, my work demands are negatively affecting my health right now. What can we do about it? And I think if we can get to a culture where that is seen as safe in doing so, I think that's a really good starting point. And the way we create psychological safety is actually by the leader of that team being a little bit vulnerable. Can the leader talk about, it doesn't need to be a mental health challenge, can the leader talk about a time when they've needed to prioritize their own well-being at work? What have they done to do that? Can the leader talk about their well-being non-negotiables? What are the two or three things each week they need to do to stay well? If we start doing that at the team level and asking others what are their non-negotiables, then you're normalizing the well-being conversation. You're giving people permission. You can tell that some of my first bits of listening, getting involved at the team level and creating a culture that is conducive to well-being before we even start thinking about what benefits are required and what solutions are there. Because I think mostly the ways of working and work itself will be the big detractors of well-being within FormScore, which we'll talk about. We ask people what their well-being is with a score out of 10, but we ask what's driving it. The common themes is the negative drivers, workload, work stress, and distractions. The workload and work stress. That's never going to go away. We can talk about resourcing and properly staffing up teams. But so it's ways of working that generally mean people don't take breaks of the day or exercise or have proper family time. Might even skip their vacations or be under pressure to work through the weekend, whatever it might be. These are the things that we can actually influence as leaders and as workplaces, much more so than the genetic makeup as a person and whether they have a particular mental health challenge or not. We can influence work and work culture. But it takes a long time to do so. It's not like a two-year project to change the culture of an organization. So for me, it's starting that process at the team level to understand what's going on, create psychological safety, and bring a culture of permission and well-being into the teams.

Sarah: Yeah, I like the point you made about it. It's it takes time because I wanted to say when you shared those examples about a leader starting to get comfortable, being more vulnerable, talking more openly about how they're prioritizing their own well-being. What I wanted to say is just a reminder that particularly if it's new to your culture, don't expect to share once and a floodgate to open of people sharing back, right? You need to make that a regular practice and give people time to understand that it's genuine, that you're being authentic, that you're open, and it can take time for people to feel safe to share back, right? But. Yeah.

Rob: Yeah. But I think there's also a distinction we really need to make here between well-being, and mental health, okay? So we all have mental health. We all exist on a continuum. Some of us will experience a mental health challenge or a diagnosable mental illness. Everybody will experience mental ill health from time to time, excess stress or difficulty sleeping or whatever it might be. And then we all have well-being and we can all prioritise our well-being. So well-being is a subset of our mental health. So, and again, mental health would be one aspect of our well-being alongside physical well-being, spiritual well-being, et cetera. So often the conversation, particularly with leaders is well, I don't feel comfortable talking about my mental health. Well, that's fine. But recognize that you will do things as a leader to maintain good mental health or positive well-being. You'll prioritize sleep. You'll maybe exercise. You might think about your nutrition. You might socialize with friends. You have time with family. All of these things nourish us, right? So for the leaders that might be a bit uncertain about even speaking out on this topic, you're actually doing it already, but by talking about it, it normalizes it in the teams. So then we're not asking people to share back how they're feeling about any mental health challenge. We're saying, what do you need to do to stay well? Which is why we use the word form at form school, or rather mental health or well-being. Is it taking your lunch away from your desk? Is it putting a micro break in the day? Is it going to the gym? Is it that soccer match? Is it book club? Whatever. We all do different things to look after ourselves, but if we can get people talking about this, then that sends a strong message in the team that it's not only, you don't have permission, but you are encouraged to go and do this.

Sarah: Yeah. I'm also thinking this is a specific thing that comes to mind for me, but I go to therapy once a week for an hour and it's over my lunch break, but I'm driving. And so it's a break in the day. And obviously, you get into different roles, different schedules, et cetera, but even allowing people the time to do things like that as well. Right. And making that normalized is something that can help with reducing stigma and just giving people the space they need to take care of themselves in the ways that they need to take care of themselves.

Rob: Yeah. And look, most people wouldn't, I'm generalizing here, but most people wouldn't feel too uncomfortable putting a doctor's appointment on their schedule. Many more people would feel less comfortable putting therapy on their schedule. And again, if you see a leader putting therapy in their diary, in an open diary, that sends a strong message. And I love to hear CEOs talk about using a therapist, and going to therapy. Because I go to therapy once a week as well, and it's just a wonderful time where you've got somebody that is a qualified, non-judgmental listener who will give you space to work stuff out. And for me, therapy, I don't talk about bipolar too much in my therapy these days. It's more about how I'm showing up in the world as a parent or a business challenge I might be facing or whatever. It's a space for me to talk about what's on my mind, and I think everyone should do therapy.

Sarah: And exactly. And that's what I was going to say is it's not something that is only helpful in a time of well, with mental illness or in a time of mental health challenge. It's it can be a proactive way to prioritize your mental well-being, right? Especially when you're someone that has a lot of pressure, that's busy, that oftentimes, it's the only time I have to process my feelings about things that have happened because I don't slow down enough, you know, in a day to day to do that. So I need that space to think like, okay, well, yeah, I probably didn't react as well to that as I could. Or now that we're talking about it, I should think about things this way or what have you. So absolutely, that's I think an important example of something that to your point, seeing CEOs and executives do that sends a really strong message.

Rob: You used the word space there, right? And I think that's important because we've got to a way of working with very little space for reflection, space for thinking, space for creativity, space for well-being, space for hobbies. And I think the pandemic, whilst has created more flexibility in hybrid working, has also created a more transactional way of working. We'll jump on a Zoom, you're straight into an agenda, you're onto the next Zoom, limited breaks of the day. When we were in the office previously, at least we had to go to a client premises or walk between a meeting room. We're now super intense in the way that we're working. And so therefore, I think as humans, we need to be intentional about grabbing that space back. And therapy is obviously a protected hour in both of our diaries that we have each week. But I think in the day we can do the same. We can build in time for thinking, for reflection, for even just reviewing how things are going. But if we don't be intentional about it, our diaries tend to get filled up for us.

Sarah: For sure. I think that's a good point. And I think for those leaders within our audience, that's probably realistic. I am also conscious that a lot of people are thinking about how to improve well-being for teams that are on really specific schedules because they're providing service. There are a couple examples of that as well. And I've shared this one before, but there's a gentleman that spoke at a conference that we held last year in Birmingham from Bosch. And, I'm sorry, it was from Mighty. And he talked about how they've implemented IFS's planning and scheduling optimization, which just improves the automation of scheduling. So there's a company benefit to that, of course. But what they did was give back to the employees by allowing them, because it will auto-schedule everything, to set their own start and end time every day. And so some people wanted to do school drop-offs, so they wanted to start later. They want to get done earlier, et cetera. So it was a nice way to give back some autonomy to the workforce and allow them a little bit better balance. So I think my point is just there are certain roles where there's a lot more constriction. But I think if companies are committed to this, there's always ways to get creative to make some positive change that works within those constrictions.

Rob: Yeah, I think you're right. And I think there'll be more opportunities as technology plays a role. My hope is that we don't just fill the time with the human.

Sarah: Exactly.

Rob: There's another point. I did a keynote yesterday for one of the world's leading law firms. So a super demanding, high-performance workplace. And I was talking about resilience. But I think a lot of the misconception about well-being is we need to allocate huge chunks of time to receive the benefits. We don't need to go to exercise for an hour to receive benefits from exercise. We can do a 10-minute walk or some squats while we're boiling the kettle. That has a great benefit on our minds and our mood. Similarly, a five-minute break between stressful events, whatever that might be. I've seen brain scans, total relaxation of the autonomic nervous system. So it doesn't need to be big, grand gestures. It can be little micro steps that have a huge benefit on well-being. And those can always be built in if there is a will.

Sarah: Yeah. You mentioned resilience. So I want to touch on that briefly because I loved what you said about resilience, that people misperceive resilience as strength. So talk about why that's a misperception.

Rob: Yeah. So people think that to be resilient, it's strength, it's pulling the all-nighter, it's working 24-7, it's skipping vacations. It's not. And it's whilst some of us will have more innate resilience capacity than others, resilience is, I like to think of it more as a reserve. So the actual definition is flexibility or the ability to bounce back or forward after a challenge that work or life is throwing at us. So again, if we use my law firm as an example. Lawyers will have to work on transactions, and they could work pretty onerous hours through those transactions that will tap into their reserves and they will use their resilience to get through that. But then their kind of reserves will be depleted. Now, after that transaction, there needs to be some time to build up those reserves again. So then when the next busy piece of work comes, there again, they've got the energy and the capacity to handle that. If we go from one back-to-back transaction to the next, that's where we're getting the problem of burnout. So resilience isn't your ability to withstand that transaction. Resilience is actually how you've built up your reserves to be able to do so. And how do we do that? It's by prioritizing our well-being. It's doing the things that nourish us. It's exercise. It's sleep. It's good nutrition. It's social connections. It's stress management. So if we can do all of this, then we've got a reserve. So think of your battery being topped up. Then when that busy period comes, we're eating into that battery. We're then going to top it up again. And then if we do that regularly, actually what we can do is build a bigger battery. So we've got more resilience capacity. We can handle more stress without overload, exhaustion, and burnout. But people think it's toughness, right? And that's why I think burnout is on the rise globally in many industries. Because people, we're trying to do more with less. We're pushing employees. People are responding, but actually they're left with little in the tank and no opportunity to rebuild that resilience. Flexibility, bounce back ability. But it's something for me that we've got to feed and nourish to give us those reserves to then have them when we need them.

Sarah: Yeah, I like that point. So going back to companies that are prioritizing this. So that's in and of itself a great thing. What would you say to those who have the right commitment to this? They're genuine in their commitment. What's the biggest misstep people are making?

Rob: I think treating well-being as a benefits issue is probably the wrong place to start. And I think doing that from the center without that listening I was mentioning earlier. Often we'll see huge investment in well-being programs and benefits that are then underutilized and often will be underutilized because of poor communication, but mainly because people feel they don't have the time or the permission or the psychological safety to do so. And you see a lot of memes out there, you can't meditate your way out of burnout or a 16-hour day, which is true. Benefits have their role, but I think you've actually got to start with ways of working. They're really looking at, are we putting people under appropriate amounts of pressure? Do we have appropriate resources for this job in hand or for this particular team? Do people feel safe in their workplace? Do they feel like they've got a sense of belonging? Can they be themselves? Are we creating an environment that creates a social connection with our workplaces, particularly if we're doing more stuff over Zoom or we've got people on the road, right? Your example was beautiful because you've got to work hard in certain job types to give people that social connection. So I think just treat it like a benefits issue and a discretionary benefit that we can cut when times are tough is probably the biggest mistake I see. Let's start the hard work, which is looking at culture, looking at teams, looking at psychological safety, looking at what's really going on for people.

Sarah: Yeah. Now, I know we said most companies have started the trek, but for those who remain sceptical, cynical, are ignoring the importance of this, what would you say to those folks?

Rob: So it's interesting, isn't it? I think that some organizations still feel that well-being is a soft issue. And they feel that it's something to focus on only when people become ill. I think for the cynics, I'd point them to the research. So indeed, the jobs board have got a great study going on. They've got a happiness index. It's run by Oxford University and they've collected basically about 20 million data points of people ranking their companies on well-being. And what Oxford University have done is taken that data and mapped that against the stock market. And for the top 100 companies on well-being, they significantly outperform the markets, whether it's a ball bear or volatile market. So I think for the real cynics out there, understand that the data will tell you that if you get well-being right, you will outperform your peers at the stock market level. For our big telecom, British Telecom company over here, it's been causally shown that well-being and performance are linked by looking at their call centers, where you can obviously measure output and you can measure well-being. Call centers with higher well-being on average were 13% more efficient, more productive. So all the data will tell you that well-being isn't a soft and fluffy benefits issue. It is an essential component of performance, and it is certainly an essential component of sustainable performance. Now, in a market where there is a war for talent and employees, certainly good markets, will walk on their feet, ignore well-being at your peril. So if you don't believe it's morally the right thing to do and you have a duty of care to create a culture conducive to wellness, understand that actually you're missing a really big performance opportunity by ignoring well-being.

Sarah: Yeah, that's such a powerful message. And I think ignoring that evidence brings us back to stigma, like feeling that it's soft or that it's not everyone's responsibility is faulty thinking. Okay, can you talk a little bit about FormScore and InsideOut?

Rob: Yeah, sure. So the InsideOut LeaderBoard is a not-for-profit that I developed here in the UK. Its mission of smashing the stigma in the workplace. And we do that by showcasing business leaders who are open about the fact they have a mental health challenge. So we've published with over 400 executives and leaders who are publicly open about the fact they've got a challenge. You mentioned Robin Williams. We've got Robin's son, Zach, on there, who's a fantastic campaigner. But we've got CFOs, CEOs, partners in the professions. And the mechanism there is to say, look, if our leaders are talking about this stuff, there's a ripple effect within the organization and in broader society to say it is okay to speak out when we're struggling and therefore seek help. And I'm very proud of that because that was my contribution to get the ball rolling in smashing stigma. We've got a number of US leaders on there as well. It's had a contribution in smashing stigma for sure.

Sarah: Absolutely. So powerful.

Rob: Yeah. And look, our leaders are our role models, right? So if you've got your CEO talking about the fact that they might have had a challenge, then actually you'll feel a little bit safer in disclosing your own. FormScore is a tool that we've developed from a concept given to me by a therapist many years ago who suggested that I track my well-being using a score out of 10 and then just note down what were the things driving it. So today I'm probably a 7 out of 10. I'm coming out of this low period where I've been a 4, 5, and 6 with depression. And for me, what's the positive? Well, I'm feeling a strong sense of purpose. I'm feeling motivated. Music is certainly fuelling my creativity right now. I've got a physical health challenge in long COVID that I'm managing. And I've got a few family relationship issues to sort out, particularly with my children. Nothing serious, but just trying to be a better father. So that's probably pulling me down a little bit. And I could probably do with a little bit better sleep than I had last night. So we've evolved that into a tool that gives line managers an ability to get that information anonymously, very quickly in a survey that we aggregate at the company level. So the team will do a check-in. The manager will understand what's going on for their team and will then, aggregate that up to the work.

Sarah: Yeah, and it's such an interesting tool. I know you have your number on LinkedIn, I think in your email signature. And I was just thinking, what a wonderful way to know when you're about to get into a meeting with someone. If you see a certain number, just to think, oh, yes, we should always be being kind and we should always be giving people grace. But sometimes you don't think about that. You just get into it and it's boom, right? But just taking that beat or seeing an eight or a nine and thinking, all right, let's get shit done today. You know what I mean? I love the idea of that visual and just the way that it could help people remember that we are all human. We all have things going on outside of work. And some days we need to honor ourselves more than we do our productivity. And other days, the circumstances are great, for us to go full steam ahead. So I absolutely love that.

Rob: Yeah. And that's what we find in practice that with companies using this at the team level, they end up talking about it verbally. And I'm a seven today, I'm an eight. Why is that? And then you can often have a very different discussion if someone is struggling. I mean, it opens the door to a bit of peer support or at least a bit of understanding. So it's a simple concept that's very powerful in practice.

Sarah: I love it. Rob, is there any one thing we haven't touched on yet today that you feel is important for people to understand, keep in mind, etc.?

Rob: The other thing that I focus a lot of my time on is the intersection between music and our mental health. As a DJ and music producer in my spare time, I've really started to look into the impact of music on cognitive function, ability to sleep, exercise performance, and ability to manage pain. There's lots of good stuff in the research about how music can impact our brains. And I think music's a really interesting way to engage with our well-being a little bit because we all tend to have a relationship with music. And I think if we can start to use music a little bit more intentionally. What are the tracks that get you going when you're feeling a little bit lethargic? What are the tracks that help you calm if you're feeling a little bit stressed or anxious? What are the tracks that can help you sleep before going to bed? We start using music in this way. It's a beautiful way of engaging in our well-being from a different perspective. So I've got a show that I take into workplaces where it combines public speaking, live DJing, audience interaction. It gets people thinking differently about their well-being through music. So I'd encourage people to think about their relationship with music in respect of different moods.

Sarah: I love that. Rob, thank you so, so much for spending time with me today. I truly appreciate it. It's been an honor to have you on and to have this discussion with you. I love all of the work you're doing. We will go through and link things in the show notes so people can find the resources and find you as well. And I hope you'll come back again at some point.

Rob: Absolutely. I've really enjoyed our time. Thank you for having me.

Sarah: Thank you. You can find more by visiting the home of UNSCRIPTED at The podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at As always, thank you for listening.