Written by Bridget McArthur 

London’s ‘Gareth Southgate’ tube station is the latest in a string of events highlighting the hysteria surrounding England’s football manager. He’s been referred to as the 21st century Churchill and waistcoat sales are up by 35%. And although plastic cups and English flags now lay forgotten, Southgate’s lessons in employee wellbeing should not.

Off and on the pitch, wellbeing can be viewed as a problem for HR, and separate to the success of a team. Southgate has proven the fallacy of this belief, demonstrating that a calm and collected team will be more beneficial for performance and productivity. So how can we bring the Southgate-factor into the workplace?

Southgate transformed from football coach to national treasure when he comforted Columbia’s Mateus Uribe after he missed the spot-kick that cost his team the game. The image mirrored Southgate’s own manager Terry Venables consoling him after a missed spot-kick for England in 1996. Uribe was having a bad day, but it’s not always so obvious in the workplace. Creating a compassionate environment has a resounding effect on stress, employee retention, general wellbeing and productivity.

When Southgate insisted that mid-fielder Fabian Delph return home for the birth of his child, he demonstrated the importance of making short-term sacrifices for the long-term wellbeing of individual players. In the workplace, this is as simple as recognising when a colleague may be needing more attention, which produces more positive and engaged employees in the long-term.

The best thing you can do for employee wellbeing is invest in creating a durable culture of prioritising mental health, something Southgate has introduced with team psychologist Pippa Grange (and regular meditation sessions). In the workplace, this could be achieved through signing a pledge like the Time To Change Employer Pledge, England’s biggest programme challenging negative mental health and stigma. Companies from BP to Lonely Planet to our very own Aspectus have committed to this agreement, joining Southgate as champions of mental wellbeing.

Any business still questioning the importance of wellbeing to company productivity need only look at the facts. Southgate doesn’t just have a team that’s in a better place psychologically than it has been for generations, he has a team that’s also performing better than it has done for as long. If nothing else, England’s expectation-exceeding success in Russia has proven the case for happier and healthier employees. And though football may not be coming home this year, a lesson in employee wellbeing definitely is.

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