The importance of wellbeing in the workplace

By Toni Kent

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Smart Talks: Wellness is on 24 January

“Mrs Kent,” said the doctor, “so many women who work here come to see me about digestive issues, and it’s almost always stress related.”

The doctor in question wasn’t my local GP. And it wasn’t my local surgery. It was a purpose-built wellbeing centre situated within Microsoft’s UK campus. For the time-poor staff that worked there it offered a fantastically convenient way to access the services of a GP, nurses and complementary therapists. It also meant you could go from having your intestines examined straight into examining your performance in one of the nearby meeting rooms.

That wellbeing centre proved to be a valuable resource for people who, like me, were roaring through their careers whilst at the same time starting families. Never mind burning the candle at both ends, some of us were going off like fireworks — during my time at Microsoft I had two children, one ectopic pregnancy, a house move, multiple serious illnesses in my family and the death of a friend.

I went in for back pain, elbow pain, dizziness and those digestion issues. On more than one occasion I just went in for a good cry. The nurses were fantastic, the GP had the luxury of time. He also issued private prescriptions that Iooked more elegant than a Royal wedding invitation.

Having access to that kind of service is a corporate privilege but based on what I experienced and the environment at the time, it was a necessity. Despite what was on offer, people left due to extreme stress and side rooms were frequently used to console colleagues who were struggling to cope.

That was almost ten years ago and in the intervening years I have seen a change — most recently, and significantly, on helping people before they get to crisis point. The introduction of mental health first aiders is one example as well as a broader acknowledgement that hiring diversely means you cannot then force people to fit a corporate mould. We are now encouraged to ‘bring our whole self to work’ and younger employees are demanding greater tolerance, acceptance and parity (at their age I was all about the money and the car — I blame the ‘80s!).

So, it seems fitting that Smart Works Reading, an organisation that helps women return to the workplace, should put on an event that is designed to showcase and discuss a wide range of wellness disciplines. From the power of the great outdoors, to the benefit of good nutrition and functional movement, Smart Talks: Wellness 2020 offers a brilliant opportunity for employers to consider how they can support their people during a time of greater focus on the value of taking proactive steps to improve physical and mental wellbeing.

As the event host, I’m really looking forward to introducing the audience to eight expert panellists and leading a conversation that promises to be frank, funny, practical and uplifting in equal measure. With workshops and stalls on offer, there will be the opportunity to put some of their tips straight into practice as well as a goody bag to help continue the conversation.

To book your tickets, visit For organisations sending 4 people or more, discounts are available — if you want to put wellbeing at the top of the agenda in your workplace, why not treat your team?

Toni Kent is an author, speaker, compere, stand up comedian and proud Smart Works Reading supporter. Find out more about her at

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