"The wellbeing field is so fast-changing that there is always something new & interesting to discuss."

Day in the life
Paul Barrett
Head of Wellbeing
Bank Workers Charity
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We're always curious to hear how our members and contributors tackle the challenges that the ever-changing world of L&D throws at them. We've got a wealth of experience and knowledge across the site, and what better way to showcase the diversity of our community than to get them to walk us through an average day

Want to tell us about your way of working? Email us at [email protected], or let us know in the comments below.

Paul Barrett is Head of Wellbeing at Bank Workers Charity, and has worked in the wellbeing field for over 25 years, during which time he's seen the shift in organisations starting to take employee wellbeing more seriously.

So, Paul, tell us about your day...

06:00 - Like many people, I love my job. There are so many different strands to what we do at Bank Workers Charity (BWC) that it’s easy to get consumed by it and think about it all the time. But I’m someone with a lot of outside interests and I particularly love to read - especially history, politics and American novels. My way of carving out some reading time each day is to get up an hour earlier than I need to and relax in a chair with a cup of tea and my latest book (currently the wonderful “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari). That gets the day off to a wonderful start, and by the time I get into the office I already feel I’ve got a lot out of the day.

09:30 - Once at work I usually kick-off by scanning what’s new in the world of wellbeing. That means tracking articles and research papers that shed new light on employee wellbeing and its progress in the workplace. At BWC we take a holistic view that sees the psychological, physical, financial and social domains of people’s lives as vital to subjective wellbeing. So I find myself reading everything from new sleep research, to the needs of different generations in the workplace; from mindfulness in the office to the shift towards a “value on investment” approach to evaluating wellbeing programmes.  

I find that the best way to locate new and interesting papers is through a combination of Google alerts searches and the use of Twitter.  Though many disparage it, Twitter is a marvelous way of getting up-to-the-minute information on whatever interests you. I usually tweet about anything that appears unusual or innovative. 

I find myself reading everything from new sleep research, to the needs of different generations in the workplace

10:30 - For a significant part of the day I’ll be writing copy for external journals or for BWC publications, like our blog: The Wellbeing Pulse. I’ve just completed work on a white paper about the financial wellbeing of employees and why UK businesses needs to be doing more in this area; it’s just about to launch and we’re really excited about it. Poor financial wellbeing really damages people’s lives and also has a huge impact on their performance at work, so employers need to understand it better.

12:30 - Regular as clockwork I take lunch at this time. I like to get completely out of the office; a change of space is really important to clear my head. I’m a true creature of habit. I go to the same lunch spot, have the same lunch (soup and a roll) and I read the same newspaper. This completely refreshes me and I go back to the office raring to go. 

13:30 - I spend some time each day catching up on lots of the practical issues we have to deal with at BWC. This could be planning a wellbeing-themed webinar for a D&I network, developing our mental health training programme or meeting with a senior HR manager to discuss their bank’s wellbeing agenda.

Poor financial wellbeing really damages people’s lives and also has a huge impact on their performance at work, so employers need to understand it better.

15:00 - At BWC we always have a number of longer-term projects on the go. And that means I need to attend meetings to move things forward. Right now we’re focusing on the roll-out of our line manager mental health training, and monitoring progress on a CBT based mental health app we’ve invested in. Everyone complains about the volume of meetings in the modern workplace but they remain the best way to get things off the ground. 
 
16:00 - More writing - this time for a public speaking event. We receive lots of invitations to do presentations and webinars, either about the services available from the charity or to explore particular aspects of employee wellbeing. These usually take place within one of the UK banks or at HR-related conferences. 

18:45 - Having arrived home I set to preparing our evening meal. I enjoy cooking and find it the perfect way to switch off after a busy day at work. Finally, meal over, it’s time to watch some TV. These days I find the most involving dramas are to be found on television rather than at the cinema. I think this is because TV series are long enough to allow plots to unfold naturally and for characters to develop and grow. In our household we always have one too many box-sets on the go and with a new series of Homeland about to start we’re going to find ourselves slipping even further behind...

Paul Barrett

Now tell us...

What would you say are the things you champion within HR?

I love to talk to people about workplace wellbeing, whether it’s informally to managers that have responsibility for the wellbeing agenda or through webinars on wellbeing themes like flexible working, financial literacy or mental health. The wellbeing field is so broad and fast-changing that there is always something new and interesting to discuss.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most?

When I first started in my role there were hardly any heads of wellbeing in organisations, but now I meet them all the time. It’s great to learn about the innovative things they’re doing. Everything from introducing mindfulness at work, to developing new approaches to flexible working, or to tackling the stigma of mental health; there’s just so much happening.

When I first started in my role there were hardly any heads of wellbeing in organisations, but now I meet them all the time.

There’s something else I think is really important. We have a great team atmosphere in our office. We are a very productive, but we are also able to find time to share a joke or an interesting story without it detracting from our work. That helps to make my workplace not just somewhere where I earn my money, but somewhere I enjoy spending time.

What keeps you up at night?

I think the dismissive attitude towards knowledge and expertise that we saw recently here and in the USA is very concerning.  Also, as someone who cares deeply about wildlife I hate that in our head-over-heels rush to exploit the planets resources, we are eliminating so many of the species that share our world.

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