We caught up with Olympic Champion Sally Gunnell who will be speaking at our Wellbeing @ Work event on 6th November in London .
Q. We’re thrilled that you’ll be speaking at our Wellbeing @ Work event on 6th November in London. Our first and most important question is, how are you doing?
Good thanks! Really enjoyed the coverage of the World Athletic Championships. Katerina Johnson Thompson was amazing! I have also recently moved house. I’m lucky to have a great circle of family and friends, which alleviated some of the usual pressures of a house move. We are in now and looking forward to making it a home!
Q. As a successful sportswoman and Olympic medalist, you’ve obviously experienced high pressure environments. Modern day pressures can be just as difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to work – what are the key techniques you’ve learnt that we can use in our everyday lives?
Goal setting/Visualisation; knowing what you want to achieve. When I was competing I set myself goals, long and short term. Coupled with that I needed a plan of what I needed to do to achieve that. The key to executing my goals was visualisation; what it would look and feel like to win and how things would play out if my plan didn’t go exactly according to that plan. Another technique was working smarter. Being a hurdler there was no one else that ran the race with me but I learnt on the lead up to the Olympics I couldn’t do everything myself when looking at the incremental gains I needed to make. Those gains would give me the edge over my competitors. I couldn’t train any more but I could look at improving how I fuelled myself, how I could take care of my body better, how I could repair my body quicker and how I could stay mentally strong when I was feeling low or getting over injury. I put in place a team around me to help with those areas. This strategy is used in my life and business now, and my approach to Corporate Wellbeing.
Q. It seems that mental health and sport goes hand in hand in terms of training and performance, but has that always been the case? What’s changed and what can we take from that?
When I won my gold medal I would say that 70% of my achievement was down to having a strong mental attitude. Thinking that your brain was just as powerful as your body if not more powerful was a fairly new concept. With today’s athletes this is a standard consideration. The parallels in business today is the attention we pay to improving our mental health. Mental health in the workplace isn’t a taboo topic anymore. Organisations are recognising the benefits to having a happier, healthier workforce and workplace.
Q. What are you most looking forward to about our event on 6 November?
I’m really looking forward to hearing all the speakers and seeing how much the conversation around workplace wellbeing is changing. I’m also looking forward to meeting people from different organisations to hear how they are progressing with their wellbeing agendas and what challenges they still face that we as a collective still need to solve.
Q. What’s your vision for the work place of the future, in terms of employee engagement, culture and wellbeing?
My vision for workplace wellbeing is still the same as it was 10 years ago when I set up Sally Gunnell Health & Wellbeing – to support employees, to bring their whole and best selves to work through providing life changing solutions for life changing health. I think the last five years have been very positive in terms of companies starting to get it, but we still have a long way to go to make this more than a tick box exercise and something that is ingrained in every organisations culture. I really believe in the power of workplace wellbeing to improve performance, both at an individual and business level. And most importantly because it’s the right thing to do i.e investing in our people. It’s really encouraging to hear how much things are changing and the journeys that different companies are on to improve the health and wellbeing of their staff.
Q. Any tips on how our delegates can get the most out of this one day event?
I’d just say to everyone to embrace the day, throw themselves into attending everything and speaking to as many as people as possible. Be curious and have an open mind. Whilst workplace wellbeing is definitely not one size fits all, there’s still a huge amount to be learnt from everyone.
Q. Anything else you’d like to say?
I think these events are hugely important. It’s very seldom that we have time to step out of our day jobs and take a look around and see what everyone else is doing and what we can learn from them. It’s great to see such a community and movement building around the workplace wellbeing agenda and the different meet-ups there are to get involved, meet new people, and learn new ideas to take back into your workplace. There’s also plenty of great resources available now too that I’d encourage people to utilise, Future Of Work Insights is a great resource as an example.