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Hanging at the Watercooler - spilling the tea from London 2024

Updated: Apr 28

By Lucy Myers, Founder and CEO, Therapeutic Coaching Consultancy (TCC)



This was my first time attending The Watercooler in London's ExCel centre and I have to say, the general vibe (was it the colours? was it all the free sweets?) felt as refreshing and energising as I remember my trips to the actual watercooler back in the day (with less heavy lifting of barrels, thank god).




The event aims to bring together "the leading minds in mental health, physical health, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, and environmental wellbeing, alongside thousands of employers and employees from FTSE 100’s through to SMEs and start-ups". The line up did not disappoint.


Three main stages were complemented by numerous workshops, and the helpful tech (headphones streaming the session you were watching) allowed you to feel fully immersed in each panel discussion, while also enjoying cosy ears.



  1. The world of work is changing

  2. Many current wellbeing solutions don’t work

  3. Some recognisable themes in the wellbeing community that are working

  4. A spotlight on DE&I and neurodiversity.


Diving in....


1.        The world of work is changing - and understanding these things in depth is vital to the development of wellbeing initiatives that have true impact now, and are sustainable into the future.

  • People are working for longer and retiring later, meaning there are lots of different age groups operating in the same place at same time, which hasn't happened before. There can be generational differences in the ways people communicate and perceive, and differing needs.

  • Within the next 5 years Gen Z will make up 30% of the workforce, and around 42% of them will have a formal diagnosis of either neurodivergence or a mental health condition.

  • Jobs are changing faster as a result of technological advance, meaning people need to upskill more frequently and quickly than ever before.

  • HR teams have the challenge of needing people to be able to adapt to ever evolving circumstances - but we know from an evolutionary perspective most people are hard-wired to resist change (ok, so we know it's a little more complex than that, but most leaders will relate to struggling to get a great new initiative off the ground due to people push-back. There's a reason for the saying 'culture eats strategy for lunch'.)

  • The growth of A.I. - rather than being a threat, the growth of AI can support people to do their work more efficiently, freeing them up to do more interesting work. Arguably, human skills such as empathy, communication, and understanding the complexities of relationships are more important than ever.

  • People are more confident about speaking up about their wellbeing rights, and to make choices to leave potentially resulting in talent retention issues - the Executive Development Network found 86% people more likely to leave a job whose wellbeing support is not sufficient.


How therapeutic coaching can help:


The psychotherapeutic training of TCC associates make us experts in helping people become comfortable in uncertainty. Stopping fighting it and accepting it opens us up to exploring creative and innovative ways to move forwards. Theories suggest our evolutionary instinctive resistance change is due to the activation of a hard-wired threat response - the part of our brains alerts us to danger and threat, which is less often to our physical wellbeing now, and more to our identities, the status quo and our emotional or practical safety (financial or otherwise). But as Peter Senge famously said, “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.”

Our counselling skills provide empathy and compassion leading to the psychological safety that alleviates the stress/threat response, enabling a more balanced and pragmatic perspective to be taken, and curiosity and openness to emerge in its place.

Our individual, team and group therapeutic coaching sessions facilitate calm, trusting, honest, and empathic communication, strengthening existing relationships and creating new bonds between diverse groups of people.



2. Many current solutions don’t work

An impactful quote for me from Dan Robertson (MD Fairer Consulting): a lot of current solutions, including schemes such as Mentoring for Women programmes or Employee Resource Groups, because they can be "like putting on a gas mask in a smoky room". More needs to be done to understand the root causes of wellbeing risks at a deeper level in order to design wellbeing interventions that will deliver impactful and sustainable change. Understanding complex workplace challenges from a biopsychosocial lens with the support of occupational health professionals is key.





The conference highlighted there’s some great internal work being done by many organisations - Mental Health First Aiders, Wellbeing Warriors, and 'Having important first conversations' training, to name but a few. I was impressed by many examples, with the team at Knight Frank Promise standing out as a powerful example of how a devastating loss of an employee led to a host of cultural and organisational changes, including their recruitment strategy, onboarding policies and behaviours, and management and leadership training. These are all important initiatives, and I applaud the leaders and team members who are driving them. But I can't help wondering about the elephant in the room in many of these circumstances - namely, that we know research demonstrates 70% of people still won’t tell their employer about a mental health condition because they fear a negative impact on their career prospects, a lack of confidentiality because there is still a stigma attached to needing to seek therapy (coaching does not suffer from this).


Even if someone is brave (or desperate) enough to tell their Mental Health First aider that they’re having suicidal thoughts – what happens next? If a company does not have a immediately accessible, confidential mental health services ready to go, there’s a risk of it being like an A&E department without any doctors to refer to. EAP providers do great work, but by their own admission were not set up to manage frequency, complexity and severity of referrals as a result of the current UK mental health crisis, risking the person asking for help feeling more vulnerable than before.


How therapeutic coaching can help:


We have a saying at TCC: the deeper the understanding of the problem, the better the solution. Our person-centred psychotherapy skills enable us to help people explore their challenges from multiple perspectives, and grow their self-awareness about how they are thinking and feeling about situations. Our executive coaching skills combined with a systemic corporate understanding empower us to ask the challenging coaching questions that get to the heart of the issue. Building on your existing data points and in collaboration with your wellbeing, HR, OD and occupational health support teams, with the resulting clarity, new and more accurate solutions can be found, saving you time and money in the long run.


In terms of encouraging people to access support, executive coaching does not suffer from the same stigma as therapy, and in fact is traditionally recognised as a way to support emerging talent, high performers and senior leaders. This makes certain groups, including marginalised communities and men, more likely to access coaching than therapy (see here for details). Interestingly, we often find when people work with us, it's the emotional depth and psychological insight they find most valuable, rewarding and resourcing, alongside the the more traditional coaching focus on strategic, actionable change.


Prevention through to cure

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) motto is "counselling changes lives". At TCC we believe integrated counselling and coaching, not only saves lives but works with the individuals to empower them to truly thrive.

Working with the TCC team gives your people quick access to the emotionally healing and psychological insight of a counsellor and the structure and solutions focus of an executive coach. Our TCC associates are all highly experienced and accredited dual-practitioners, who are able to work across the whole spectrum of performance and mental health, enabling us to work ethically and effectively with whatever an employee may bring without the need for clunky and time consuming referrals.


Importantly, therapeutic coaches also help those who are doing well do even better - helping someone at the early stages of challenge and preventing it getting worse can have hugely powerful impacts on the individual, and their teams around them. If mental health and wellbeing is a tall building, you don't have to plummet to the basement to get off and ask for help - pause in the middle when it's feeling wobbly, and regain the strength to aim for the roof garden.

The results speak for themselves. A brilliant recent programme with Lloyds Bank and MHUK (2023) providing a short series of free Therapeutic Coaching to their business customers. TCC team members were involved in the deliver of this, and thrilled to discover after just 3 x 45 minute sessions 94% reported a positive impact on their mental health, and 83% on the business performance.


Find out more about the impact of individual therapeutic coaching here.

 

3. Themes of positive developments noticed by the wellbeing community
  • Data driven insights: data can be helpful in several ways, and there are some great examples (such as in Osbourne Clarke legal firm) of how data driven assessments focusing on the risk of burnout, psychological safety, and stress management helped convince the board to invest in a 3 year strategy with dedicated resource. But as one expert warned, beware of falling into the trap of finding data to prove your hypothesis.

  • There is recognition by Health and Safety experts that physical health and mental health must have parity, and be taken equally seriously in terms of assessing risk and assessing impact. In male dominated industries such as Construction the biggest killer is suicide, and in the farming sector more lives are lost through suicide than as a result of fatal farm accidents each year.

  • Wellbeing needs to be treated seriously as an additional dedicated resource, not an additional temporary measure - there were some great examples of companies investing in permanent staff members, but sadly also stories from the floor about it feeling like a 'nice to have', and a temporary or project-by-project initiative.

  • Leaders are more important than ever - so much to unpack here (a whole other blog!), but an ability to be vulnerable and authentic, to lead a top down/bottom up initiative, and to create and deliver a strategy that turns values into living and breathing behaviours is vital.


How therapeutic coaching can help:


At TCC we believe collecting and analysing data is a vital part of the diagnostic process, but also (rather like A.I.) it can only take you so far when not balanced with high quality qualitative diagnostic measures. Human problems require deeply human solutions, which ultimately means spending time talking, at emotional depth, with the people you want to help. Asking people what they believe the problems are, and what will help them fix it (leadership training, team or group coaching, or 1:1 work?), is part of that, but can be really powerful when you do so in a way that helps people helps them understand themselves and the problem more clearly and succinctly. Rather like when we're called in to do conflict resolution coaching, this avoids the risk of buying in expensive interventions that might only deliver surface level change, and can save a lot of money and a lot of energy for organisations in the long term.


As described earlier, when working with groups who are generally resistant to talking about their mental health challenges for a multitude of reasons (such as men), therapeutic coaching is a particularly impactful approach. You essentially get access to a fully trained psychotherapist whilst coaching and supporting someone to actively create strategies to address to their core underlying problems, whether that be financial issues, addictive or compulsive behaviours, loneliness, or family and relationship difficulties. Read how our clients experience the impact here.


Investing in existing and future leaders is vital. TCC's leadership training approaches strengthen and empower your people to know themselves better, and give them the confidence and autonomy to get what they need from themselves and each other. It gives them gift of self awareness, knowledge of their blind spots and self limiting belief, a psychotherapeutic understanding of patterns in relationships., and an awareness of their deep rooted beliefs about conflict and communication. Crucially, the executive coaching support will enable them to learn and develop strategies to address and supercharge their ability to thrive inside and outside of the office.


Team and group therapeutic coaching initiatives take this individual insight into a group setting to enhance collaboration and performance and address specific challenges. Services such as our Thinking Environment based Transforming Meetings programme, and our Systemic Team Coaching approach, helps empower existing high peforming teams to go from good to great, and helps groups struggling with dysfunction or stuckness as a result of tough economic climate, structural change, or internal conflict, productively find ways fowards. Read more about how our clients experience group coaching here.


4) Neurodivergence, DE&I, and reasonable workplace adjustments - a huge spotlight on this area



  • Important realisation (thank you Lee Chambers) - when it comes to disability or neurodivergence, when we recognise the increasing longevity of our working lives, we'll probably all need or want workplace adjustments at some point in the future. So let's make it as easy, welcoming, and inclusive an experience as possible.

  • Experts suggest most adjustments are much quicker and simpler than you'd think. In fact, most realise after 48 hours the change could easily have been implemented years ago.

  • A 'reasonable adjustments passport' is a document containing all the action that's been explored and agreed for a person, that can be taken with the person during role changes, line manager changes, or even between companies. Avoids the person having to re-explain and renegotiate, and can be reviewed and measured as required - genius.

  • Policies are helpful and important frameworks, but when it comes to talking and working through, try and create goodwill and flexibility around all conversations.

  • When creating initiatives around diversity and neurodivergence, be sure to put empathic experiencing of neurodivergent initatives front and centre of policy developments. For example, don't make the first step in a reasonable adjustments process a face to face conversation that must be instigated by an employee - for many neurodivergent people this could make it distressing and feel impossible to even begin.

  • When it comes to educating organisations use case studies to demonstrate the challenges faced, and how positive outcomes can be created. This creates empathy and understanding, and avoids 'othering' - the enemy of psychological safety.

 How therapeutic coaching can help:


When it comes to working with DE&I and Neurodiversity, we believe in a systemic approach that does not place the problem in the individual, but seeks to educate and empower people across an organisation. We combine our range of services, delivered by a TCC team of employees who represent all areas of diversity, to work with each companies unique challenges. Find out more about our approach to working with neurodiversity here.





Conclusion

One thing that really resonated with me during a panel discussion focusing on how to measure the success of wellbeing interventions was something said by Neil Laybourn from Mental Health at Work. When he measures impact, he always asks 'are people having conversations they weren't having before?' If true company culture is what happens when nobody is watching, people talking openly about self-care, respecting healthy work-life boundaries, and feeling the fantastic benefit of getting the right mental health and wellbeing support, because they want to, they know how to, and they feel safe to do so, is what we're all aiming for.


Working with TCC gives you instant access to a diverse team of highly qualified and experienced solutions-focused counsellors and psychotherapists, with the executive coaching skills and corporate leadership understanding to support the development of actionable strategies to achieve sustainable change. Building on your existing data points and in collaboration with your Wellbeing, HR, OD and occupational health teams, our services effectively address the whole high performance and mental health spectrum from prevention through to cure (with ROI ranging from £6:1 to £3.1, Deloitte, 2020). The breadth and depth of our experience will support you to get you to the heart of the problems, enhancing the accuracy and effectiveness of the solutions, and potentially saving you precious time and money in the long run.



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About Therapeutic Coaching Consultancy (TCC)

Therapeutic Coaching Consultancy was created in response to a recognised need for workplace support that enhances individual mental health and resilience whilst also facilitating the achievement of challenging personal and professional goals.

The TCC model of therapeutic coaching combines the solutions-focused energy and structure of executive coaching with the psychological insight and emotional depth of psychotherapy, empowering individuals and teams to flourish and thrive.

TCC's team of associates are highly experienced and accredited dual-practitioners of both psychotherapy and executive coaching, bolstered by corporate backgrounds of senior leadership roles, HR and organisational development experience, and skills in designing and delivering corporate personal development training and workshops.

We offer a unique combination of evidence-based services that support organisations to achieve both high performance and mental wellbeing for individuals, teams, and groups.

 

About Lucy Myers, Founder and CEO, Therapeutic Coaching Consultancy (TCC)


Lucy Myers is an Integrative Psychotherapist (MA) Executive Coach (PG Cert/ILM Level 7), an Accredited Senior Practitioner with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), a Registered member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), and Chair of the BACP Coaching Division Executive Committee. 

Prior to retraining, Lucy enjoyed a media career spanning two decades in a range of senior leadership roles in UK based on global companies. A certified practitioner in Systemic Team Coaching, Coaching Supervisor for other professionals, and experienced Leadership Trainer, she now specialises in working with individuals and teams across a broad spectrum of workplace challenges and industry sectors.

Lucy is passionate about sharing her own experience of how enhancing self-awareness and self-compassion creates more psychologically safe, diverse, and inclusive workplaces, leading to happier, healthier, and ultimately higher performing individuals and teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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