Only a month into the new year, issues we all wanted to see the back of in 2022 in many ways just seem to get worse. The war in Ukraine, high prices, labour shortages, strikes, ambulance waiting times and the deficit… the list goes on.
The recent British weather hasn’t helped. Perhaps no surprise, then, why Rory Cellan-Jones’s Twitter feed has gone viral since Christmas.
The BBC’s former technology editor has taken to posting on a daily, if not hourly, basis with updates for us on #sophiefromromania.
Sophie, for anyone not yet caught up, is a dog which Rory and his wife rescued from Romania who has spent much of the New Year hiding behind his sofa. She only emerges he says for ‘essential tasks’, and when she can be tempted to come out for treats. Her favourites being pieces of cheese, sausage, or bacon, which Rory places strategically around the living room.
Gradually, I am pleased to report, Sophie has been getting much more bold, and now goes out hunting for clothes pegs in the garden.
Why am I telling you this? I think one reason this story has grown is it chimes with how we have all felt emerging into 2023.
Let’s be honest, haven’t we all had to tempt, or even goad, ourselves to get back into the world this year, when all around us we see difficulties?
It made me think about our own sense of safety, how the world we live in doesn’t always help us to feel safe, and how it often feels as if this is getting worse. Why is that?
Our safety and wellbeing is much more than just our physical environment. We live in a world that is much more complex, where 90 per cent of all the data that exists globally has been generated in the last two years.
But we remain the same creatures, physically and mentally, we have always been. Our flight or fight responses evolved to help us deal with very different threats to the ones we face today.
Which is why our bodies can now develop auto immune disorders because of chronic stress or anxiety, and why more people are reported to be suffering from sleeping issues.
It’s also why we no longer only talk about health and safety, but also about wellbeing, because it’s not possible to separate them. And as employers we have a duty to ensure that we are creating conditions that are conducive, not counter, to it. Though I do not mean we should wrap people up in cotton wool, the other equally damaging extreme.
What I am talking about is taking responsibility for developing strategies and approaches which take the views and needs of our people into account, having listened to and talked with them first.
I also mean we should acknowledge that, when it comes to wellbeing, we all have our own starting points and, like Sophie, may need to be coaxed with some incentives as well as being challenged.
Rory has said one of the insights he has learned is to be patient with Sophie, and go at her pace. I think there is something we can all learn from this, as the world around us, and particularly new technology, continues to develop at an exponential rate.
I also think the UK government should take note. People will not thank it for rushing headlong towards a deadline of the end of this year to get rid of all our EU-derived rules around health, safety and environmental protections.
It took five years for it to replace EU agricultural policy alone, so why does it think it can deal with the rest in just 12 months?
Such a reckless, some may even say careless, approach is not conducive to the nation’s wellbeing, or quality of life.
Perhaps a bit more care, patience and some actual listening from our leaders would make us all feel a bit more positive this year.
Mike Robinson FCA is Chief executive of the British Safety Council
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