Growth mindset health and wellbeing

The role of health and wellbeing in developing a growth mindset culture

3 June 2019

For The AXA Growth Leaders Series, we’ve been working with The Supper Club to bring together successful entrepreneurs and thought-leaders to share their insights and experience on how to lead with a growth mindset. As part of this, we are exploring how the health and wellbeing of business leaders and their teams’ contributes towards developing a growth mindset culture. 

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA Health, discusses the importance of health and wellbeing within the workplace and what business owners can do to develop a positive wellbeing culture within their business:

Q. How important is good health and wellbeing in terms of supporting a growth mindset and business success?

A. Looking after your own health and wellbeing – and that of your employees – makes for a robust workforce.

A growth mindset requires a healthy mind in order to develop sufficient psychological flexibility to support mental wellbeing.  Between 1 in 6 and 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem this year1, sufficient enough to detrimentally impact workplace performance.  Being proactive towards wellbeing can help harness a healthy workplace culture. This can help see your business through times of uncertainty and embrace opportunity.

Q. What are the more common health and wellbeing-related issues facing business owners and their employees?

A. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, aside from so-called minor illnesses such as coughs & colds; musculoskeletal problems and mental health issues were some of the most common reasons for workplace absence2.  However, with the stigma associated with mental health problems still having an impact on disclosure, such statistics may only show part of the picture.

The effects of ill health on business are not limited to absence alone. Presenteeism – where employees attend work when physically or psychologically unwell and perform below par – can be a burden too. Recent research shows that this cost businesses twice as much as absence3 and can be much harder to manage.

In regards to managing mental health, it’s important to remember that we are affected by a number of pressures in both our working lives and our personal lives. When these pressures exceed our perceived ability to cope, it can lead to stress, anxiety or depression. 

Stress* is something we all experience; it is a normal and essential part of life. We are very good at managing this sympathetic nervous system response to threat, if we give ourselves the opportunity.  However, in our ‘always on’, busy lives we don’t give ourselves the time to recover from the constant micro-dosing of stress.  Stress can therefore become chronic as it prevents our brain from engaging in flexible thinking meaning we are always ‘stuck’ on alert which can lead to more difficult mental health problems. 

Then there are the insidious habits, traits and characteristics that can affect the performance of individuals and, ultimately, impact the business too. These can include:

  • Perfectionism. This occurs when someone refuses to accept any standard short of perfection. This can pose a significant threat to the performance and productivity of an organisation
  • Imposter syndrome. This occurs when feelings of self-doubt at work result in people being fearful of being exposed as a fraud, inadequate or a failure – despite evidence proving the opposite
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Q. What can business owners do to develop a positive wellbeing culture within their business?


Be open. If business owners want to develop an open, positive culture within the workplace then they should be willing to be open and share themselves and their own vulnerabilities with their team. By doing so, business owners can develop trust amongst their people. Most employees want leaders that they can trust and who have an understanding about what they might be going through. 

Be an authentic leader. As a leader, share your own journey and the challenges that you’ve faced. It’s OK to not be OK and it’s also OK to be open.  An open culture starts from the top. Trust is so important and can be developed in leaders who show their own vulnerability. 

Listen to your people. Never assume that you know what your people want in regards to wellbeing initiatives. Have a conversation with your team about what they feel will work for them. Basing your wellbeing strategy on an assumption about your people and what you think they want can be dangerous. 

Find out your team’s joy. Understand your people as individuals, including what they value and treasure in their lives and what their goals are. The closer they can be and get value from their work, the higher their experience of self-actualisation. You’ll also get to know when they perhaps might not be coping and can then direct them to support.

Walk the talk. Model behaviours that you want your people to see and ‘walk the talk’. If you want to have a culture that’s flexible in its approach to work, then you need to demonstrate that flexibility yourself. If you’re sending emails to your people at 2am, you’re giving a very different message to that of a flexible working culture. Demonstrate the authenticity of the wellbeing initiatives that your business puts in place. People shouldn’t be made to feel bad about going to the gym in their lunch break or choosing to work from home. 

Prioritise mental health. Many of us participate in activities and behaviours that promote our physical wellbeing and see it as a priority in our everyday lives. We need to treat our minds in the same way and make subtle yet significant changes to support our mental health – there is no health without mental health.

The AXA Growth Leaders Series Report

Together with The Supper Club, the founder and CEO network, we’ve produced The AXA Growth Leaders Series Report which features insights and thought leadership articles from inspiring business leaders. Topics range from healthy hacks for work-life balance to making wellbeing work. Download your copy of The AXA Growth Leaders Series Report.

How we can help

When someone in your team is going through a difficult time at work or in their personal lives, it can impact all areas of their life. At AXA Health, our Employee Assistance Programmes can assist your team in getting help with the things that are affecting them right from the start, before they begin to affect their wellness and productivity. 

Alongside a number of other benefits, our Employee Assistance Programme gives you and your team 24/7 access to phone support for psychological and mental health issues, including a fully qualified counsellor over the phone or on email.

Find out more about our small business health insurance, including what we do and don’t cover and get a quote today.

*Stress is not covered under our plans.

Sources and references


2Office for National Statistics, 2018, Thriving at Work: the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers

Small business health insurance experts

Start taking care of yourself and your team today and get a quote for our business health insurance. Or, talk to us about how we can help your business reach their wellbeing goals.