Creating a culture that is fearless, resilient and creative

Most of the world’s 3.4 billion workers are unwell. Around 76 per cent report they’re struggling or suffering with their wellbeing. Around 52 per cent are overweight. Roughly one billion suffer from anxiety and one in four experience mental disorders. On top of this the global workforce is ageing rapidly and becoming intensely multigenerational – 18 per cent will be over 55 by 2030, while 74 per cent live with serious economic insecurity.

For the 306 million lucky enough to work for an employer that offers some kind of employee wellbeing initiative, physical and mental stress is at least acknowledged as an important factor affecting a person’s health and performance. Typical support solutions include biometric screenings, classes and counselling to help people cope with stress and its health impacts. But, while they’re a step in the right direction, these programmes do little, if anything, to address the workplace culture that very often contributes to workers’ stress. According to the Global Wellness Institute, when wellness is not a strategic focus, support initiatives are conducted in isolation from the day-to-day operating environment of work and become merely a Band-Aid solution.

One company that keeps culture at the heart of everything it does is Dr Martens. The iconic footwear brand has been a staple of British culture for almost 60 years – alongside the Jaguar E-Type, Concorde and the London Tube map it is a British design icon that is appreciated worldwide.

For a company well known for a rebellious attitude, it was a natural step to support the well-being of its people with a platform that encouraged this culture and allowed creative expression to thrive.

“We spent some time looking at what was great about Dr Martens, and we realised there were some fundamentals that you get with any organisation – that’s being professional, being passionate, and being a team player,” said Helen Verwoert, Global HR Director for Dr Martens.

“But there was something different about Dr Martens that we wanted to make sure people who joined the business, and were in the business, realised. It’s what sets us apart. And that’s being resilient, being fearless, and making sure you’re creative. And we don’t mind talking about the fact that we love a bit of rebellious self-expression.”

Since 2015, the company has been on a rapid growth trajectory on its way to becoming a global business. “Although we were still quite small, we were spread across nine or ten offices and we didn’t really have a good way of communicating. Some of our people didn’t have email, and we were starting to lose our connectivity,” said Verwoert. “We needed to do something differently.”

By adopting LifeWorks – a solution that combines clinical support and counselling with recognition, perks and a company newsfeed – Dr Martens was able to cultivate its unique culture and drive a sense of community among all employees, whether their role was in the workshop, the retail outlet or the office.

“We have guys in the factory who I never thought would necessarily adopt it (LifeWorks), who post a picture every morning, and every morning I go on there to look at what Gary from the factory has posted,” said Verwoert.

Driving social engagement through the platform also solves the main challenge with more traditional wellbeing initiatives that deliver support reactively. Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) are proven to be very effective at reducing time off and reversing low productivity, but they only engage 5 to 10 per cent of the workforce at any one time. Furthermore, people typically engage with such a programme when they are already at crisis point, which isn’t optimal for either the employee or the employer.

Total wellbeing consists of four pillars: physical, mental, social and financial, all of which rely heavily on each other. You cannot impact one without impacting the others. The most common mental health issues are general anxiety or depression and the average spell of clinical depression, if left untreated, can last around eight months. In that time, it can have repercussions on a person’s social, physical and financial wellbeing.

By putting access and control over their wellbeing in the palm of their employees’ hands, wellness and work can and should become mutually enhancing in a virtuous circle. Research by Gallup has found that people who are engaged at work report better health and lower rates of chronic disease than disengaged workers, and they also eat healthier and exercise more.

Employers have a duty of care, not just to their people, but also to their shareholders and national economies, to invest in their employees’ total wellbeing. It’s not enough to support employees in times of crisis alone. It’s time to invest in your culture, your people and your business.


Find out more about creating a fearless, resilient and creative culture

by Jamie True, Chief Digital Officer, LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell