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Presentation: Managing for Mental Wellbeing in the Tech Industry

Track: When Things Go Wrong: GDPR, Ethics, & Politics

Location: Windsor, 5th flr.

Duration: 2:55pm - 3:45pm

Day of week: Monday

Slides: Download Slides


How many employees are in your company? Multiply that number by 2,300. Now put a pound sign in front of it. That’s how much your business is losing to mental ill-health annually. Technology is the easy part, it’s the human beings behind the tech that are tricky. The pace at which the tech industry moves and the pressure to deliver, can leave staff struggling to keep up. Long hours and high levels of critical decision making take their toll. A project may be delivered today at the expense of tomorrow. There is a pressure sweet spot that can keep staff engaged at a sustainable level, optimising their performance and wellbeing. You don’t need to be a therapist to influence a person’s mental health for the better. In this session delegates will learn about the impact of mental ill-health in the workplace, how to manage mental ill-health as an employer, and how to engineer occupational psychosocial factors for optimal performance.


What is the work you’re doing today?


I lead the mental wellbeing strategy for the rail industry at the Rail Safety and Standards Board. I’m working towards improving how employers protect the workforce and manage mental wellbeing in the workplace. Traditionally clinical psychologists were stuck in therapy rooms, but I think we have an important role in working with organisations to ensure evidence-based interventions are implemented in the workplace.

We’ve developed a framework for managing mental wellbeing in the workplace which is grounded in research, and considers primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions. There needs to be a much greater focus on prevention, rather than having a reactive approach. As part of my role I’m continuing developing research projects that underpin the framework, as well as supporting organisations implement the framework.

My purpose is to help people thrive at work, achieving the best outcome for individuals and organisations.


What are your goals for the talk?


My goal is to share the lessons we have learnt around managing employee mental wellbeing in the rail industry, and encourage the uptake of evidence-based interventions. I want to get tech leaders thinking about mental health and the impact of good people management. Often when people want to support colleagues, they can be paralysed by the fear of doing the wrong thing. Employee wellbeing isn’t the dark art that it can sometimes feel like. There are tangible things people can do in the workplace, that doesn’t require have a doctorate in psychology or being a therapist. I want to start to demystify mental health and wellbeing, and hopefully get people thinking and talking about a subject that can sometimes feel intimidating.


What do you want people to leave the talk with?


I want people to come away with an understanding of mental health and wellbeing, and what good mental health and poor mental health can look like in the workplace.

There’s no magical algorithm for managing people. Different people need different things. I want to encourage people to get to know their colleagues and direct reports, and to feel more confident in developing those relationships. People should leave with some evidence-based tips on how they can manage mental wellbeing in their teams.


What do you think is the next big disruption in software?


The tech industry is all about sociotechnical systems. A lot of time in invested in thinking about the tech, but it’s the human beings which are the most unpredictable part of the system. I don’t know exactly what the next big disruption will be but I am confident that human factors will play a role.

Speaker: Michelle O'Sulivan

Psychologist & Researcher - Mental Health in the Workplace

Michelle is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist, specialising in mental health in the workplace. She has over a decade’s experience working clinically and as a researcher. Her work focusses on the assessment and management of trauma and psychosocial hazards in the workplace. She is responsible for leading the mental wellbeing strategy for the rail industry, sharing knowledge about what works, and providing consultancy to organisations on mental wellbeing.

Find Michelle O'Sulivan at

2020 Tracks

  • Monday, 8 March

  • Tuesday, 9 March

  • Wednesday, 10 March