Here’s Part 1 of the transcript from WELL’s first Panel Discussion held last year. It’s filled with rich insights on wellbeing particularly as it relates to human resource strategies, how it fits into organisations and also how wellbeing service providers view their roles in terms of increasing employee wellbeing. Belinda Carreira moderated the Panel which had 4 members: Ursula Fear a Talent Architect and Lead Contributor at Talent Talks, Radhi Vandayer who was the Head of Strategic Learning & Development at ICAS and is a Board member for the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, Swami Kamala who is the Founder and Director of the South African School of Yoga in Hyde Park – referred by many as the top yoga school in South Africa – and Hugo Ribatika a Brand Manager, Radio Talk Show Host and TV Sports News Anchor.

Have a read of the full transcript or you can browse to the sections that interest you most. It was a great evening, thoroughly enjoyed by all, jam packed with valuable information still relevant today and for the foreseeable future. If you’re interested in wellbeing this is a great read:

This is PART 1 featuring Ursula Fear and Radhi Vandayer…


Good evening everyone and welcome to our ‘Dynamic Wellbeing Transformation’ Panel Discussion. I would like to firstly start by thanking each one of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend this evening. I hope you find tonight to be both informative and enjoyable.

I have no doubt you’ll learn loads from each of our exceptional, empowering and enormously experienced panel participants.

We’ll be looking at the latest developments in the wellbeing space and what’s going to be happening in it over the next 5 years!

We’re going to look at wellbeing from many different perspectives, in particular around human resource strategies, then how it fits into organisations as a whole and also from a wellness service providers experience. We’ll then explore how we, as individuals, can enhance our wellbeing and how this impacts on both our communities and families.


It is with no further ado, I now introduce to you our first Panel Participant, Ursula Fear.

Ursula and I have known each other for many years, we meet while working together on a Consultancy Project Proposal to set up a Learning Academy for a client … which we won!

Ursula’s an extremely talented woman and has achieved a great deal. She’s a Talent Architect and Lead Contributor at Talent Talks. Talent Talks is a platform which has been set up to be a catalyst facilitating action and change in the dialogue about talent management across the African continent. Ursula’s also an Associate at Catalyst Consulting.

She was a Director at Deloitte Consulting and, her experience has been vast. It includes life changing initiatives such as setting up the Deloitte Graduate Academy in 2005. This is considered to be a best practice Academy by international standards.

Ursula was one of the first women members on the Board of Deloitte Consulting. She’s also sat on the Board of the African Society of Talent Development and assisted in the establishment of NGO TEACH South Africa in 2007. Given her huge commitment to people development and simple desire to see people succeed in life through achieving their best, she’s been involved with NGO TEACH ever since.

Ursula is one Dynamic HR Disruptor! She ensures organisations transform their workforces to become “future fit”.

Welcome Ursula! (All clap)


Ursula, the first question I’d like to ask you is, given all your experience, where do you see Wellbeing in relation to Human Resource Strategies headed in the next 5 years?


  • Firstly, let’s begin with what “wellbeing” means according to the Oxford dictionary – it means “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”.
  • I therefore see wellbeing of staff as a direct correlation to employee engagement.
  • Too much access to information has turned us into “overwhelmed” employees. Nearly every company sees this phenomenon as a challenge to productivity and overall performance but struggles to handle it.
  • Information overload and the always-connected 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement.
  • Sixty-five percent of executives in the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends survey, rated the “overwhelmed employee” an “urgent” or “important” trend, while 44 percent said that they are “not ready” to deal with it.
  • The cost of illness leading to a lack of productivity is costing South African organisations billions of rand’s every year. We have seen a recent report (The Momentum Effective Employee Index) that was launched in September 2018 indicate that SA businesses are losing up to R89 billion a year due to ‘distracted’ employees – a direct correlation to disengaged staff members. We see that organisations are losing up to R25bn every year just on excessive absenteeism.
  • So, the concept and reality of ‘wellbeing’ is no longer a catch-phrase – it has significant ramifications and consequences for organisations, the most important being the cost implications to the bottom line.
  • The pressure that staff, especially critical and scarce skills endure has become a huge priority and concern of CEO’s today. If these people ‘fall over’ – there is enormous business risk that falls on the shoulders of a mere few. The load has got to be spread and hence the development and growth of staff, not only as people but as experts now takes on precedence in most organisations. Learning and development has taken on a new flavour and direction in our businesses.


Thank you for some very informative insights. Now I’d like to look to the future as it relates directly to the workforce. What major changes do you see coming into the Workforce over the next 5 years and why is Wellbeing so important when it comes these changes?


  • I am seeing a change in leadership development. We now see that ‘management programmes’ are not working, and the journey of personal transformation has become the most important catalyst to good leadership and people empowerment. Good leaders ‘bring the best’ out of people.
  • We see some organisations are assisting employees become more productive with their time by creating smaller, more agile teams. High performance teams and how we organise ourselves in this regard have huge implication on the traditional hierarchical structures that we have all grown so accustomed to. We will start to see a reduction in this type of organisational development and effectiveness.
  • Taking time out to ‘reflect and think’ are going to be become more prevalent in our workplaces. When we are rested, we can be far more productive because of the time we have taken to reflect and unpack things in our minds. There’s a lot to be said for taking a step back to observe and reflect.
  • Helping staff to identify their passion is taking precedence today. In the absence of job profiles, passion of staff will lead one to critical thinking and most importantly a drive to ‘problem solve’ effectively.
  • There is going to be greater focus on mental and health related issues of staff. A more determined and resolute approach to understanding staff is going to be an important consideration of fit-for-purpose and relevant organisations going forward.

HR has an opportunity to lead efforts to manage the pervasive communications practices that overwhelm employees, simplify the work environment, create more flexible work standards, and teach managers and workers how to prioritize efforts.


A big emphasis there on personal transformation and organisations not only addressing employee’s physical health but also their mental health, the “invisible illness”.

Mental health is also high on the agenda of the World Health Organisation, in October this year they noted that 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental health issues in their lives. Data from Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions shows that around 25% of all leave applications received at present are due to mental and behavioural issues. Their data continues to reveal a steady increase in the number of South Africans suffering from mental health problems over the past 5 years. As a result, staff are taking more and more sick leave each year.

So, what do you think organisations can do about this?


  • First and foremost, organisations need to buy into the concept of employee engagement, productivity and the impact this has on the bottom line. As more and more research is released and more scientific approaches to understanding employee context is understood, the more advancements we will see with more radical approaches to wellbeing being considered and actioned.
  • ‘Whole person’ understanding and holistic development become a deep consideration when leaders consider the success of organisations today and into the future.
  • It is imperative for organisations to build ‘emotional connections’ with staff. Without this, employee engagement will not materialise.

Companies need to be more considered around ‘growth’ mindsets and the implication this has on performance management and failure. Our changed mindsets are having a very positive impact in our organisations, even in schools for that matter. Our entire traditional set of norms are starting to change and be negotiated so that the ‘felt experience’ of employees becomes far more positive. Thus, resulting in more positive business results and the different positive experiences of staff will be felt and experienced in a far greater capacity than what it is today.


Coming back to your first point, in terms of measuring the impact that employee engagement – which really determines productivity – is having on the bottom line, it will be great when we have a comprehensive set of metrics that does just this and actually ties these numbers into the Financial Statements. This will ensure that Wellbeing metrics are not only audited but they are also easily comparable across different organisations globally. Developing these metrics is in fact one of the key initiatives that my company WELL is busy working on.

And just to wrap up on what Ursula has said, it’s very much in line with the Deloitte’s 2018 ‘Human Capital Trends’ report. This report states that ‘Only 4% of South African organisations currently offer extensive wellbeing programmes and analyse their impact on productivity.’ Deloittes further says that ‘As the line between work and life blurs further, employees are demanding that organisations expand their benefits offerings to include a wide range of programmes for physical, mental, financial and spiritual health.’


I’m excited to introduce to you our next Panel Participant, the incredibly wise, ‘in the field experienced’ and extremely driven Radhi Vandayer.

Radhi is a Board member for the Employee Assistance Professionals Association. This is the largest, oldest and most respected professional Association for persons in the employee assistance field. The Association has nearly 5,000 members in 40 countries and is the world’s most relied upon source of information and support for and about the employee assistance profession.

Radhi is also the Head of Strategic Learning and Development at ICAS. ICAS is South Africa’s top Wellness Service Provider. It provides wellbeing services to over 500 clients in South Africa and they also operate internationally.

Welcome Radhi, it’s wonderful to have you with your depth and breadth of practical international wellbeing programme experience, as one of our Panel members! (All clap)


Radhi, given your experience, where do you see Wellbeing within Organisations headed in the next 5 years? What are the major changes you see coming into this space and how do you advise Organisations to prepare for these?


The future of wellbeing / people engagement is entwined in the 4th and 5thindustrial revolution. Technology and digitaisation are the buzz words of the 4th and 5th industrial revolution. They play a major part in the changes I see coming in. This phenomenon is impacting all industries. It’s forcing us all to look at the current workplace and workforce and question; what professions or jobs will be able to weather this wave of technological change? Wellbeing / people engagement as a profession is facing the same dilemma. There is no simple answer.

Wellbeing service providers are beginning to look more and more at opportunities to harness new technologies. Doing so will enable us to reach more people, especially the people we couldn’t reach before.

We’ve seen that the y generation or millennials, would sooner access an app then go for counselling. So, we’re exploring how we can get to engage with them, when they need our assistance, by initially using apps and bots. Let’s take for example depression. It’s a very common occurrence these days, so how do we get an employee to go for counselling when they have depression via the use of technology such as an app or bot? Firstly, we start by providing some education around depression like what are the symptoms of depression and what happens to the chemicals in your body when you have depression? This creates an awareness. We then perform short quizzes to determine if an employee is showing symptoms of depression and could possibly have depression. We want to identify the people in need of further help via the information we request using apps and bots. Of course, it gets more challenging and not as useful or helpful to use technology, when it comes to the more difficult emotional questions, the ones that require a deeper psychological understanding. This is why, after we have obtained the initial information from our apps or bots, we then contact the person telephonically if we identify they are or may be in need of help. Their first conversation therefore is with us is over the phone and then, if necessary, we make the relevant appointments for them for counselling. This intervention can be life-saving – and it all starts with the use of apps or bots.

I believe, there will always still be a need for a psychologist to provide counselling when required. To deal with more complex, emotional human needs. However, by making smart use of the latest technologies, we can get more people to start interacting, informally, about their wellbeing and also educating themselves on this important subject. It’s vital to their overall health. Technology will help us to ‘catch’ and then assist people in real need.

Let’s look at another example where technology can be and is being applied to assist in employee wellbeing. Many people are stressed at work and they need tools or skills to help them manage their stress, the pressures they face. Some guided imagery meditation programmes can be placed on their apps and they take a ten-minute ‘mindfulness’ break every now and then. Much better than a smoke or ‘gossip’ break!

So, as you can now see, there definitely has to be a blended approach, using both technology and ‘human interaction’, when it comes to effectively addressing employee wellbeing in the workplace. This is what’s required to develop outstanding employee wellbeing programmes that are ‘fit for the future’. This will allow organisations to get the best out of their people, their most important and valuable assets.

I don’t see the human element within the people component of the workplace ever being fully automated. And I’m not the only one, many people are talking about putting the ‘human’ back into HR because automating empathy along with the ability to properly identify wellbeing risk, for example in a staff members texts or in their tone of voice, has not been mastered by machines … as yet! I say it tongue in cheek as the 1st robot is already trying to show empathy and emotions.

However, in South Africa, our culture is not there as yet and I don’ believe it will be for the next 5 years. In my experience, we’re finding many people asking for face-to-face counselling, especially when there are issues that are highly emotional like a workplace restructuring, distress over finances, depression or family issues.

So, the wellbeing industry will need to look more at and understand further what can be automated to get relevant information both to and from the masses around wellbeing. This will enable us to identify and help people in real need. To get them the wellbeing practitioners or preventative classes etc. they so desperately need.

This can not only end up saving a lot of lives and preventing severe medical conditions from developing but, it can also greatly improve the quality of a person’s day-to-day life.


Thank you, Radhi. Wow, so I guess one way to look at the new industrial revolutions is that they are providing us with greater opportunities to in fact extend our lives and enhance the quality of them through the smart use of technology.

Building on what you say, we can also now see this through the advances that are being made in monitoring our medical conditions through using, for example, wireless sensor technology – you can practically see this tonight with Dynamic Body Technology’s offering. The use of fitness tracking devices is on the rise and more and more companies are using big data to both inform and develop smarter treatment programmes.

There’s no doubt that technology’s being fused into our everyday lives, the lines between our physical, digital and biological spheres are being blurred.

I saw a recent IMF blog on what countries should do when it comes to artificial intelligence and the future of work. Some of their research reflects that artificial intelligence may transform jobs more than it’ll make them obsolete. They say that developments in technology, if planned for correctly, can boost productivity and over time create new jobs leading to decreased unemployment.

They IMF says a key way to plan for these developments is to enhance the human capital component within organisations by increasing expenditure on education. Companies should focus on roviding education that’s not only relevant to develop their people so that they can meet current market demands but they should also look to the future and start providing their staff with the relevant lifelong learning opportunities. It’s been found that learning and development have a huge impact on employee wellbeing so it’s not surprising to see “Lifelong Learning” now being incorporated into wellbeing programmes.

Another programme development that’s underway is at Deloitte Consulting in the Netherlands. Deloites, in collaboration with TNO Research and Zilveren Kruis, a healthcare service provider, recently kicked-off a project to realize breakthrough innovations in workplace health and wellbeing. Through the application of complex systems theory research and simulation modelling techniques they want to identify the “defining factors” impacting employee health and wellbeing. Their objective is to prevent employee burn-out and to increase individuals overall physical and mental energy at work. They believe this approach will result in increased employee engagement and performance.

I’d now like to move on to some practical ways in which we can start improving our own wellbeing today.