Wellbeing isn’t just a passing fad or the latest media watchword. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been measuring the UK population’s personal wellbeing since 2012, with latest data showing that Dorset sits ahead of the national average in life satisfaction and happiness, while anxiety levels are just below the average reported across the country.

As I’ve lived and worked in Dorset for 30 years, you don’t have to convince me that it’s a wonderful place.  Our challenge as business leaders is how to showcase what we can offer to attract the best emerging talent, safeguarding the future of our economy.

In April, I was elected as Chair of the South West and Wales Regional Assembly of Chambers.  Even in these early stages it’s clear that the region shares many of the same challenges, such as infrastructure, digital connectivity and attracting talent. There are important conversations to be had with our neighbours across those county lines to develop a joined-up approach to tackling as many of these obstacles as possible. In the meantime, what can we do on an individual basis to maximise the potential of our businesses?

In my last column I wrote about the impact of stress in the workplace and how we should be fostering a more open, inclusive approach to discussing wellness. Long hours in the office and a ‘nose to the grindstone’ approach is no longer seen as the route to success. Like me, you may have seen media coverage of the extreme daily schedule of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey;  a cold bath followed by a five mile jog to work , with nothing to eat until 6.30pm. Similarly, Tesla supremo Elon Musk reportedly works a regular 85 to 100 hours a week. Fifteen years ago, these would be upheld as examples of how hard work pays dividends. Today, the media is discussing how these punishing schedules will be impacting upon their personal stress levels, leading to potential burnout. It’s truly a sign of the times.

This major cultural shift, recognising that flexible working and wellness in the workplace aids staff morale and productivity, is also recognised by the medical sector. For example, Nuffield Health Bournemouth Hospital offers an Emotional Wellbeing Clinic with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and online therapy for ailments such as anxiety and depression, supporting patients with issues at work as well as at home.

I believe that this new cultural environment plays firmly into the hands of our businesses. The health benefits of a coastal or rural lifestyle are free assets available to us all which urban hubs just can’t compete with. Our businesses may not be in the position to adopt the much-debated four day working week, but as research has shown that three quarters of employees favour jobs which offer flexible working, it simply makes good commercial sense. But we must never forget that cultural change comes from the top, and so management must be seen to adopt wellbeing policies, too.

Wellness in the workplace shouldn’t be seen as something just for big businesses.  Smaller firms are more close-knit and entrepreneurial and therefore flexible by nature.  Here at Liz Lean PR, we are incredibly fortunate to be just a few steps away from the golden sands of Sandbanks Beach, which makes lunchtime walks one of the highlights of the day. When the weather suits, it’s not uncommon to find me conducting informal meetings outside; if you’re planning to make a visit, make sure you bring appropriate footwear!

Of course, we need to offer more than pleasant places to work if we are to attract the best and brightest talent; job satisfaction, progression prospects and competitive salaries all need to be in place, together with amenities, housing and infrastructure to support a growing workforce.

As Bristol was recently named as the happiest city in the UK, it’s clear that a thriving economy really can go hand in hand with a contented workforce.  So let’s share our ideas on how we tempt Bristol-bound talent to turn left off the M4, because I think you’ll agree that what we have to offer is just as appealing.


(First appeared in Capital Magazine,  2019)