Review: Workplace Wellness Ireland - November Event

The second Workplace Wellness Ireland meet up took place on November 13th at the Bank of Ireland, Grand Canal Square. Demand was high with all available tickets reserved within 48 hours of release! The atmosphere and energy in the room was fantastic. A huge thanks to everyone for giving up their time on a weekday evening to attend the event.

I kicked off proceedings by welcoming everyone and re-sharing the community values. A quick show of hands revealed there was a fairly even split of those in attendance for the first time and returning attendees. I spoke of all the great workplace wellbeing knowledge and experience that I encounter regularly in Irish businesses. For the most part this is hidden behind company walls and in the minds of individuals. I created the Workplace Wellness Ireland community in order to bring these people and businesses together along with the service providers and those looking to start or improve a wellness programme to share the knowledge, the lessons learned, the ideas, the challenges and the successes.

I echoed the words of Jim Kirwan from our inaugural event and shot myself in the foot by saying that one off, initiative-based wellness activities don’t work. They don’t lead to behaviour change. If there’s only one message that participants take from all of their interactions with the Workplace Wellness Ireland community then I would love for it to be:

‘Think long term about workplace wellness’

Aoife Ní Mhurchú:

‘The Sky Health & Wellbeing Journey’

Our first speaker on the evening was Aoife Ni Mhurchú, the Head of HR at Sky Ireland. Aoife brought us through the wellbeing journey that she has led at Sky since taking up her role a little over two years ago. A question I get asked all the time when I’m working with HR leaders is “How do I sell wellness to the CEO and senior management?” Aoife provided an excellent case study in how she managed this at Sky utilising relevant metrics and information to provide a solid business case for her argument.

Here are some of the main points I took from Aoife’s talk:

  • Sky Ireland has come a long way on their health and wellbeing journey over the last few years but there’s lots more still to do

  • There is strong leadership support and acknowledgement that there is a return on investment with wellness initiatives

  • All initiatives Sky invest in are shaped by employees via the Employee Forum / Employee Networks and people survey feedback

  • A priority area has been to de-stigmatise mental health in the workplace. Sky have rolled out a number of educational initiatives with their charity partner (Suicide or Survive) to support the change in culture

  • Over time the health and wellbeing plan has become more holistic and is now equally distributed between Physical, Mental & Financial Wellbeing initiatives.

  • 3 key learnings for Sky are:

    • Build on existing momentum by empowering passionate people across Sky

    • Disrupt bias and challenge stigma - leadership sponsorship and active involvement are critical

    • A shared vision - with a local focus is creating greater impact

  • Agreeing upfront what success looks with the business from a metric point of view (absence, engagement, attrition, take up of benefits etc) has enabled Sky to build the business case for continued investment.

Following the suicide of a colleague, Sky Ireland have developed a trusted and mutually beneficial partnership with SOS. This tragic event has triggered a culture change at Sky where it is now a workplace where it’s OK to talk about mental health, there’s even a “How do I” guide to help start the conversation.

Don’t wait for the trigger. Pioritise wellness at your workplace today.

Pat Divilly:

‘The Secrets to Building a Wellness Community’

Our next speaker was author, speaker and high-performance coach Pat Divilly. Pat started by speaking about how he bounced back from business failure to build a business and career that has had a huge impact. I’m always inspired when I hear Pat talk about how he went from not being able to afford the bus home to Galway on Christmas eve, to becoming a bestselling author and having over 20,000 people complete his online training courses. As he says himself, he doesn’t say this to brag, just to show what’s possible.

Pat has worked with a lot of Irish businesses in recent years and when it comes to the workplace, he believes that a truly well-rounded wellness programme covers four key pillars which he introduced us to:

Physical Energy: Training/nutrition/sleep/lifestyle etc.

Emotional Energy: Communication and stress management.

Mental Energy: Promoting positive mental health, resilience, perspective and focus.

Spiritual Energy: The purpose, meaning and fulfilment staff feel in work and life (often overlooked but is key).

Pat then talked us through eight areas that he recommends a business focus on if they are looking to create or update a wellness programme at their workplace:   

1. Clarity. Are you taking time and space to plan a long-term health strategy or just going for one off talks and quick fixes? How clear are you as the provider on what you are offering and how clear are the staff on what is available to them? Who will you help, how and why? Look to be pro-active rather than reactive with a calendar of events and programmes throughout the year that complement one another and are well thought out as an overall strategy.

2. 168 Hours. There are 168 hours in a week, not just the 40 hours employees are on site. How are you utilising online tools or e-mail to provide useful wellness resources, support and accountability to your team that is accessible and helps them throughout the 168 hours?

3. The Employee Journey. Have you considered mapping out a 6 month journey that can be systematically rolled out to support employees as they come on board the company wellness programme? This could be as simple as a weekly e-mail with tips and ideas for healthier living. An evergreen approach to this means it can be rolled out on an ongoing basis.

4. Tracking. How are you tracking the success of your programme? Consider brainstorming answers to the statement "We would know our wellness programme was effective if/when...." It can be overwhelming to think of the big changes that need to be made to improve overall wellness, but starting small and tangibly tracking progress will really help build your confidence in what you are putting in place.

5. Leaders and Ambassadors. Are you looking for health ambassadors within the workplace who can champion the programmes you are providing within the workplace? Employees who have seen success and made progress will be incredible assets to building the culture and programme. Consider re-investing in these ambassadors and leaders, sending them on relevant courses and CPD that allow them to up-skill and share their new lessons and ideas. Also, look to your existing workforce to find people who may be qualified personal trainers, yoga or mindfulness teachers. Bringing these people on board with your wellness programme will help them gain experience and provide familiar faces in the workplace to deliver some of the activities.

6. Re-Invest in your people. Is part of your budget going toward employees who are actioning your current incentives? It's worth considering monthly awards, gift certificates or fitness trackers be given to outstanding employees. We all want to be acknowledged and so keeping an eye on those buying into the programmes will massively increase their continuation of the programmes on offer.

7. Environment. What simple steps can be taken to creating a healthier environment? Harvard recently ran a programme in Massachusetts General Hospital in which they made changes in the canteen, making water more readily available and 'obvious' than it had been previously. They didn't remove any sodas or sugary drinks, just added more water. Following this, sales of water increased by 26% and sugary drinks went down 11%. No mention was made of the change to the staff, the environment was just set up in a way that healthier options were made available! What simple changes could you make to promote increased physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy in the workplace?

8. Accountability. How can you add accountability to your programmes? Information is rarely the problem in the modern world, with Google providing millions of results when it comes to nutrition, mindfulness, stress management and training ideas. People want accountability and support, someone to check in with and share their ups, downs, progress and struggles. What tools, people or resources can you bring on board to ensure your wellness participants feel they are appreciated and being supported on their journey?

A key lesson I took from Pat’s talk when it comes to workplace wellness was to start small, measure what you are doing, learn from it and then look to grow and improve.

Our People

The meet up was just as much about meeting new people as it was about hearing from the wonderful speakers. As I said the energy in the room before we kicked off on Tuesday was fantastic and this was repeated during a short interval between speakers and again as we wrapped up for the evening with lots of people staying back to chat and ask questions.

The energy and atmosphere was supported by our brilliant exhibitors: Fiona’s Food For Life, Blendi Smoothies, Kos Ergonomics and Drinkaware.

One of the core values of the Workplace Wellness Ireland community is ‘Make Friends, Not Contacts’ and this was certainly the case at the meet up.

The Plan for 2019

The momentum with the community has been wonderful and I want to build on this next year. I announced on the night that I’m planning a series of Workplace Wellness Ireland events for 2019, five in Dublin and three regional events. I’m looking for sponsorship partners to support me with growing the community and spreading the message so if this is of interest to you or your company and you are aligned with the community values then drop me a line.

Our next event will be in Dublin on January 22nd so make sure the date is in your diary. We haven’t had a whole lot of time for questions at the first few meet ups and I know there is an appetite out there for this so it’s something I will be addressing at the January event. Watch this space.

Thanks everyone and see you on January 22nd 2019!




The Low Down

Brian Crooke is a wellness consultant, speaker and trainer specialising in the auditing, development and delivery of workplace wellness programmes for Irish companies through his Office Worker Health business. He is the founder of the Workplace Wellness Ireland community.

parkHIIT: In his spare time Brian is bringing free resistance training to every county and community in Ireland with his parkHIIT project.

Contact Brian to find out more and to join the community: