Episode 12 – Season 2

Published: November 22, 2021

Kevin McAlister, Founder of Lift Your Wellbeing | The role of exercise in workplace wellbeing

Kevin McAlister, Founder of Lift Your Wellbeing | The role of exercise in workplace wellbeing

Ian is joined by Kevin McAlister founder of Lift Your Wellbeing, an Ex Accountant now supporting employee mental health through exercise & community.

Ian and Kevin discuss the role of exercise in wellbeing. It’s a subject we have barely touched on since our podcast started and an area where a lot of employers stay clear of. Ian thinks that many employers see mental wellbeing as an area they have responsibilities in but see physical wellbeing as something for the individual. Kevin believes the two are intrinsically linked and in this episode they talk about the links between mental and physical health.

Kevin and Ian discuss:

– The relationship between physical and mental health
– The Workplace wellbeing equation
– What an employer sponsored fitness program looks like in a post pandemic world

What is Inspiring Kevin?

Psych Health and Safety Podcast: hosted by Jason van Schie and Joelle Mitchell

How to get in touch with Kevin

https://www.liftyourwellbeing.com/ 

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevin-mcalister-liftyourwellbeing/ 

Transcript

Introduction
Welcome to the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast, the podcast for wellbeing professionals that looks at best practices in organisations that care about their people, and which keeps an eye on the growing number of suppliers in the wellbeing space.

The workplace wellbeing podcast is sponsored by fastP.A.Y.E a financial wellbeing solution that facilitates flexible salary advances. It also provides access to financial education, a benefits assessment calculator, and a host of other financial wellbeing tools. fastP.A.Y.E he is part of the work tech group that includes ShopWorks Workforce Solutions, and SolvedBy.Ai.

ShopWorks offers Scheduling and Time and Attendance tools that improve your workforce management processes. Whilst SolvedBy.Ai provides unique artificial intelligence products that deliver optimum staffing levels and improve employee retention.

Ian Hogg
Hi and welcome to another edition of the Workplace Wellbeing Podcast. I’m Ian Hog Chairman of fastP.A.Y.E. Today I’m joined by Kevin McAllister, who’s the founder of Lift Your Wellbeing Kevin’s an ex accountant now supporting employee mental health to exercise and community. Today I want to cover the role of exercising wellbeing is a subject we’ve barely touched on since our podcast started, and an area where a lot of employers stay clear off. I think many employers see mental wellbeing as an area they have responsibilities in perceived physical wellbeing as something for the individual. Kevin believes the two intrinsically linked, and I want to find out more about the links between mental and physical health. Hi, Kevin, thanks for joining us.

Kevin McAlister
I am Thank you very much for having me.

Ian Hogg
Whereabouts in the world am I speaking to you from

Kevin McAlister
I am in Melbourne, Australia. So it’s it’s our evening. I’ve been here just been back here for about six weeks now. So I’ve been living in London for the past six years, and decided to make the big move back home. So it’s so far it’s been amazing.

Ian Hogg
Well, for once your missing, a decent day’s weather. But initially, I think a good place to start is why don’t you Why don’t you take listeners through a bit about your background? And how you ended up starting Lift Your Wellbeing?

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, absolutely, I’d love to. So Lift Your Wellbeing basically we started through a long process of listening is how I like to say it. So I left university did a business degree and went and got a job with one of the big accounting firms. And thought that was me set and learn pretty quickly that the demands of the corporate world and the modern employee a pretty high and a lot of sacrifices required to meet those demands. And in a lot of corporate roles, I’m sure many people can relate. And what I was looking around and saying was that a lot of people were unhappy, unhealthy, and it was sort of was impacting their work as well as their mental health. So I thought I was there for about four or five years. And it just didn’t sit right with me that there wasn’t wasn’t enough consideration in the employee experience for mental health and wellbeing. So I decided to retrain as a personal trainer. And just really embrace and indulge myself in all learning occurred about health and wellbeing. And I moved to London and got a job as a personal trainer in the financial district of London and worked closely for a few years on a one on one basis with accountants and lawyers. Which I thought at the time, I thought that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to help these people to achieve career success without sacrificing their health and their family life and their hobbies and all those things that are really important. And as much as that I was loving that I sort of realised that the one to two hours a week that I was spending with these people was only sort of putting a bandaid on and when they went back into the workplace that they were still amongst these environments that weren’t supportive or weren’t conducive to, to mental health and well being and all things that we speak about. So that’s what I thought, no, no, if I want to see the change, I believe in I need to get into the workplaces themselves and see the change from inside. So that’s when I started Lift For Wellbeing in 2017. And initially, it was all about really giving that personal training experience to the whole workforce. I was delivering I was doing personal training to the people at the top. But I felt that, you know, the whole employee base deserved that same sort of experience to support him. So yeah, that’s how it sort of came about and we still evolving a lot. I’m sure it’s all explained

Ian Hogg
In terms of sort of engaging with, you know, with people at a company so you know fitness takes a bit of time, you know, you can’t just do it five minutes a day you can you have to do you have to do reasonable amount of fitness in a week to actually make a difference? Well, I do still make a difference. But you know, it’s relatively time intensive, isn’t it? How? How do you fit that in? What how does lift your wellbeing fit that in amongst all the other challenges a day’s work?

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, that and that is one of the challenges that I guess the the modern day employee works big hours and has tight deadlines and big demands. And that’s why a lot of the time health and wellbeing is one of the first things to get sacrificed. Whereas I think we all know it, whether we do it or not, that if you sort of prioritise your health and wellbeing as a foundation of feeling good, it actually support you to work better. And businesses, I think in leaders are really starting to be aware of that. And so trying to fit it into your days. That’s the big challenge. And with our clients, we work with our clients on a weekly basis. And we lock in a time period, same time every week, whether it’s a yoga class, or an exercise class, and a lot of time that’s throughout the workday. And our leaders are really good encouraging employees to hate, you know, everyone take this 45 minutes step aside, get involved in the class have a laugh. So when it’s when it is supported by leadership, it’s a lot easier to get involved.

Ian Hogg
I would say everybody in that class would be from that companies that yes, it’s your teammates, part of the class. There’s presumably a bit of banter and a little bit of like competition in there as well as there.

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, exactly. Right. Exactly. So trying to create an experience. That’s the correct team cohesion. And you want to get involved because your colleagues are there and yeah, there is a bit of healthy competition as well, which is good. So yeah, I think that that’s, that’s the biggest step. But we also don’t want to dismiss this, the importance of the five and 10 minute movements and like just reducing sedentary time is so so important. I think we get used to sitting down all day and eating their lunch at their desk. And so like a big part of what we do in through our app is we’ve got a lot of on demand stuff as well like shorter 10 minute sessions and 15 minutes and just trying to incorporate movement into our day is sort of our is our overarching goal.

Ian Hogg
Okay, so so it would sort of I can imagine it like there’s some setpiece classes that, you know, probably quite time intensive. And then there’s lots of little ideas on the app for like, Get up and walk around the, you know, around the block or something, you know, small, small exercises to sort of break up your day. Is that how you sort of approach it?

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, exactly. Right. So so depending on what your business chooses, there’s there’s multiple longer sessions, which are all recorded. So again, like it’s great, the live one is great, you join your colleagues. But also, if you have a meeting, then you can do during your own time. But yeah, we’re big on the bite sized content as well. So like 45 minutes might not be achievable today, but stopping for 10 minute meditation or 10 minute yoga might be achievable. And that might be enough just to shift the way you feel or just to really give you energy, another boost. And so we try to do a mixture of the both.

Ian Hogg
Yeah, now I find if somebody says, Do you want me to pick up a sandwich when they go shop? You know, when they’re going out at lunchtime? It’s a downside it better for me if I go and buy my own sandwich and just talk to 10 minutes, you know, yeah, it does make an impact. So you’re his you know, his lift your wellbeing is that is your primary aim to support mental or physical wellbeing, or both?

Kevin McAlister
Definitely both, I think that we’d like to say that we’re supporting mental health and wellbeing through physical wellbeing. So I think we all know, intrinsically, the two are connected. We like to say that we’re proactively supporting mental health, blogging, helping people to move more sleep better eat better.

Ian Hogg
And Ember do you do? So you talked about meditation? So do you just see that by doing the physical wellbeing the byproduct is that mental wellbeing improves? Or do you actually have stuff that where you actually work with people on their mental wellbeing at the same time, like separate exercises or separate counselling or anything like that?

Kevin McAlister
Yes, we don’t don’t specialise in the counselling or anything. Like that’s definitely see that is a very important piece. But we are more on CSS on the front end, the proactive side of things when trying to I guess we think of mental health is a continuum of people who are we’re all on a mental health continuum between thriving and striving or between thriving and struggling. And we like to think that if you we support people to regularly look after their physical wellbeing and that they’re more likely to be on that thriving side of the scale. So it’s approach.

Ian Hogg
And when we spoke recently, you took me. So your framework, and you call it at the workplace wellbeing equation, which is nicely named after the podcast, I presume? Yeah, I wonder if you can take the listeners to what this is, and how it forms the foundation for your approach.

Kevin McAlister
Yes, love to love to hear that. The Workplace Wellbeing Equation is a framework that I just I love. And I continue to develop it and talk about it with everyone that I’ll come across. But essentially, I think it’s a really nice way to think about it. And especially like, if you’re a leader who’s new to workplace well being or wants to do more, I find that so many leaders want to do more, but it’s just it’s information overload, I think this is a real nice way to sort of, you know, to think about it. So it’s essentially that all jobs have demands, every single job has a demand. And different roles have totally different demands. But so it’s demand plus support, plus or minus self care equals workplace wellbeing. So essentially, where we fit at the moment with our with our app, and with our focus on physical wellbeing is in that self care part of the equation. And that that’s a lot of emphasis on the employee. So it’s saying to the employee, here is access to an app or his access to a class, the emphasis is on you to participate and engage with this to support your wellbeing. So that’s, that’s one part of it, I think that’s where a lot of workplaces are at that, hey, like we’re providing you this. So it’s up to you now to engage with it to support your wellbeing. But I think that’s where the industry is getting better. And what we’re all learning and doing a little bit better is not focusing just on the employee, but also on the workplace, and the environment of the workplace. And that’s where the demand and support part of the equation comes into it. Because as I’m sure people know, if the demands of your role, whether it’s the the workload, the hours, the deadlines, the actual, you know, roles or tasks you’re doing, if those demands are too high, and you don’t have the support frameworks in place, to counteract those essentially, or mitigate risks, then you’re much less likely to engage in positive self care and more likely to to engage probably in work or negative self care, you know, which things are things that go against us feeling good, and that’s where we get that imbalance. So I think that if we want to take workplace wellbeing to the next level, we need leaders to think about that whole equation.

Ian Hogg
And so in summary, when you first explained it to me, I sort of envisaged that demand was a sort of given an immovable, like it just was the demands of the job. And then the employer gave supports and the employee, you know, in engaged in some self care, but actually, demand can move like an employer could look at it and say, well, actually, the demands are too high. Are there ways we can limit that? Is that how you see the equation working as well? Yeah,

Kevin McAlister
yeah. So I think that like understanding that the demands, some demands can’t be moved, maybe because of the nature of the role. So it’s essentially saying, can we mitigate some of these demands? Or can we eliminate them altogether. And a lot of the time, I think it’s through consultation, that’s what I’ve found, by speaking to our clients is, when you talk about this equation with them, something always resonates. And so a lot of time, if you engage with the employees, they’ll almost fill out their own unique workplace wellbeing equation, and you pretty quickly find out that, you know, using that workload, for example, sometimes it’s that the support that’s needed might be just a CERT training in a certain part. So maybe there’s a certain part of someone’s job that they don’t feel confident in, it’s causing them a lot of stress and anxiety. After work, then maybe they’re working too many hours because of it, or after work, they’re more likely to have a bottle, a bottle of wine and some bad food to deal with the stress. And all that’s really needed on the support side of the equation is a little bit of extra training or to feel safer to speak up to colleagues or leaders. And so that’s it, I say, say it all fit together. And so I like to sort of teach it.

Ian Hogg
Okay. And if, and, you know, you get involved in those conversations, sort of one to one or two people, you know, is that part of the programme, or do people just tell you, you know, and I’m gonna come to you, how’s that action?

Kevin McAlister
Very much that very much that’s our that’s our next evolution. I’d say in like, I think that we’ve become very good at the at the self care part of the equation, but realise that there’s so much more that goes into it. So I think that’s sort of the next step for us is to i sort of, I guess, do more training around this other side of the equation and help leaders to understand how it all ties together. And then the more you can focus on that, I guess, workplace side of it, the better the worker side, the what we do that self care will, will be. So the the more engagement you’ll get in that.

Ian Hogg
Okay. And, and what about sort of intervention? So, do you know, if you spot stuff, if you spot issues are, you know, you must be seeing people where they’re not engaged? Or they’re, that doesn’t look like they’re enjoying themselves? And you might get some signals for the, you know, maybe mental health triggers that you can spot? Do you intervene? Or is there an intervention profile in your programme?

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, I think like, where we’re probably different. And something that I’m proud of is that, like, we’re big on saying that we are a weekly presence with our clients, we only offer a weekly package if you like. So what we do is we build good relationships. So for most of our clients, we’ve been with them for years. So you get to know the employees very well. So like, myself, and the coaches that work for Lift Your Wellbeing, get to build real genuine relationships and, and because that there is a level of trust there, people feel comfortable to reach out to us. So as a step one, we, you know, we do have people reach out to us, and we can either support them, or signpost them where needed. If people go, you know all of a sudden, you see people just not in classes, you see, I guess a breaking a trend where people, someone’s always in the yo class and all of a sudden, then they’re not there, then then we’ll reach out to them and say, hey, just noticed you haven’t been the classes, everything alright? And and then and then the other probably third aspect of that, I guess is we’re coming from internally, where the leaders, the leaders notice the trend, so if you’ve got a, you know, someone who’s a leader who’s in the class all the time, and also notices that people aren’t making it, it’s sort of a good thing for them as well to go, Hey, is everything okay? Or is it something I can do to, to support you to be able to, to be able to make it to the class and, you know, get involved in a lot of time. So those are, I guess, early intervention conversations, which hopefully are now allowing people to have safe conversations and speak up when they need and not sit in silence and just sort of push through.

Ian Hogg
And that can be a good answer. Thanks for that. I mean, in terms of the classes themselves, you know, these, you know, I mean, treats the way that you know, COVID, and pandemic has changed people’s approach. But, you know, presumably, pre pandemic, people would have expected a class to be to talked physically in one place. And it would have seemed pretty strange if everybody jumped on Zoom and done some sort of excess out there in the office. But does this work better from home? Or, or the neutral? Do you go into your deal?

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, it’s funny. Someone said, I remember someone a couple of years ago, proposing the idea to me that I recorded classes and gave people the option to do a recording, and I just couldn’t wrap my head around, it just couldn’t work, couldn’t work. And then overnight, in March 2020, I was forced to make it work with Zoom. It was the best thing that could have happened to us, because what we were found, like from 2017 to 2019, we were physically on site. And we had a lot of barriers. So like we the I guess the facilities is the number one was the share was available? How did they have facilities available for us to run a class? If they did, then maybe it was only eight to 10 people, but then there’s 200, staff members, how does that work. And then the other thing you find in a physical setup is that you’re the people who, who maybe need it most, a lot more reluctant to get involved. And we’ll probably just probably sit out so what we found as soon as we had digital is that we got rid of all those barriers. And we also it just became a more inclusive experience. So he started seeing all these new faces in the classes who was still there today. And it’s become a real habit and part of their part of their weekly routine. And we see because we’re big on saying that you can have your camera on or off on or off. And also that you can do the recording in your own time. So we I we haven’t gone back to physical at all yet. Because we we think that’s the digital is better reaches a wider audience. And then we’ve got now got clients all over the world. So even though I’m based in Australia, we’ve got clients everywhere. So I think that from our perspective, the digital Yes, it’s really good. And as long as the workplace is supportive of some form of remote working, then I think it’ll continue to work. Yeah,

Ian Hogg
I think, you know, one of the, you know, as an employer, you know, as a leader in a team, where we’ve got quite a few people working from home now, actually, you know, the challenge for us has been, you had the keep in touch with reality, do something social and digital at the same time, and people are working from home. So actually, I would imagine that, you know, this has actually filled a need, because in the past, it would have been, like you say, could have organised a class or we could have just gone down the pub after work. Now, people are looking for, for sort of ways to interact with their teams, and sort of support well being remotely when the people aren’t in the office. So I only imagine this is one one thing in the sort of armory that supports employers in that respect.

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, it definitely was, we got told over and over again, throughout the pandemic that like team cohesion is from our clients like DLA. Piper is one of our clients big law firm. And they kept saying to us, like a team cohesion just has never been stronger. And people haven’t seen each other in 12 months. And it was because we’d sort of found a way to bring people together and connect and connect with people, not only who they normally set beside, but these, these sort of companies have got offices all over the place. So they’re connecting with colleagues, and they were inviting clients along. So it was a way for them to connect with clients in a way as well, that wasn’t wasn’t the pub sort of things. So maybe we just replaced the pub for 18 months. And maybe that’s what we’re

Ian Hogg
Yeah. Yeah. Now listen, I think, like, say everything in moderation. But you’re right. It’s, it was too easy. Just walk down the pub after work, wasn’t it? You know? I’m, what about do you see people are, you know, their fitness is improving? Or, you know, are people taking on other things other than the programmes you’re doing? ie they, I don’t know, start jogging or start cycling and start walking? In addition? Yeah, definitely.

Kevin McAlister
Definitely. Yeah, that’s the thing. Yeah, let’s and that’s where we’re big on saying that as well, like, you know, we want people to be moving in a way that they enjoy in a way that’s sustainable. So if we can be the catalyst for people to be more active, I think that’s just amazing. And we will all our clients have group chats in our app. So if your, if your company wouldn’t know, was in the app, you’d have a like an almost like a WhatsApp group. And we see on the weekend, people are posting photos that they’re at bike rides and hikes, and all those sort of great things. So yeah, I think with health and wellbeing a lot of the time, you just need to focus on one element, say it is movement, and other things seem to fall in place, you tend to eat a little bit better and sleep a bit better and sort of thing. So yeah, we hope that it’s sort of visit people improving their all round wellbeing for getting involved.

Ian Hogg
And if some of our listeners are interested in taking up on your services that need to be based in Australia, or that timezone, or

Kevin McAlister
no, not at all, the logo got a team of six in the UK. So we got a full service there. We’ve got an Aussie team now that I’ve just building. And the UK team is able to cater for the American market as well, because of the time there so now we’ve got that’s the beauty of the digital solution is we can we can cater for a really wide audience. So you’re welcome.

Ian Hogg
We will. Okay, well, listen, I’ll make sure, Kevin, the all of your contact details and website everything are in the podcast notes and people can get in touch with you if they wish. But before I let you go, there’s a question I asked everyone. What book or media is giving you inspiration at the moment and why?

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, controversially, I’m not sure Am I allowed to recommend another podcast on this podcast? Now so once you finish listening to this podcast, the one I’m enjoying it’s, it’s called psych health and safety. Have you heard that one? I mean, no, I haven’t. I haven’t cycled and safety said two Ozzy’s, that, run it and they’ve got weekly episodes, but I guess what, what they’re focused on the workplace. And I guess like, going back to that workplace wellbeing equation, that the worker is one aspect of the workplace wellbeing they’re really focused on on the workplace. So they look they begin looking at how do you identify the risks in your workplace to mental health and how do you mitigate them and how do you do assessments and, and things like that? So yeah, they’re, I’m really enjoying listening to their podcast because I think for anyone, probably anyone who’s listening to this podcast, you’d be, you know, you’re really into workplace wellbeing. And it’s it’s a really great industry. But it’s so wide, there’s so much to learn. And so you’ve got to continue your education all the time. I think this is a really nice one at the moment for me is to continue my learning.

Ian Hogg
I should I should listen to the, to the guys and then put a link in the podcast. I agree. I think, you know, the more people cover the subject, you know, I think it’s still fairly fledgling in a lot of workplaces. And, you know, I think that the better the coverage, you know, the better workplace will be will be so good on good on them. I’ll put the link in, and I’ll download in a few.

Kevin McAlister
Yeah, fantastic. Now you’ll enjoy it. Ian definitely.

Ian Hogg
listen, Kevin, that was great. I think, you know, you know, moving your physical wellbeing online sounds like, you know, is very much of our time. I think, you know, I definitely seen it and hearing it that more employers are going down this route. So I think that was a really interesting subject to cover and give people an overview of what it entails. Good luck with a business, Kevin, and thank you for being on.

Kevin McAlister
And absolute pleasure, thank you so much for having me. And yeah, I welcome the opportunity to speak to anyone that wants to reach out to myself or Lift Your Wellbeing and see if we’re a good fit. Thanks very much.

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