Growth, Growth, Growth or Health, Health, Health?
As we all head back to work and into a brand-new year, we’re probably coming up with new targets and plans for 2023.
But this year I want to ask you a different question.
Just before Christmas I went to the People’s Powerhouse, at The Friends’ Meeting House in Manchester. One of the afternoon workshops was called ‘Growth, Growth, Growth’. This really intrigued me. Mainly because I guessed the purpose of workshop would be to discuss alternatives to the unhealthy obsession we have with economic growth.
After a great workshop in the morning, all about what it means to be northern, I took my seat.
We had a fabulous session. There were four experts who facilitated four different table discussions around this subject. What most participants agreed, was that our current focus on economic growth doesn’t improve the quality of life for large groups of people in our society, it increases the gap between those who have and those who haven’t.
We explored the question
“What if we measured success, not in economic terms, but instead with health and wellbeing as the primary focus – what would our world look like?”
Although this idea wasn’t new to me, having the opportunity to discuss and visualise what our society could look like and how decisions could be made was really exciting.
We talked about how different our cities would look if housing solutions were planned for wellbeing – far fewer high-rise blocks, more parks, more community spaces, more traffic free zones.
If workplaces and working practices were planned around the wellbeing of custom
ers and employees rather than the bottom line, what would they look like? Light, comfortable workspaces, flexibility around hours and time off, playing to the strengths of the employees, an emphasis on quality of work not quantity.
For the customer (or user of a service) ‘no wrong door’ – no getting passed from pillar to post, getting the help you need at the first point of contact. No “one size fits all” service, care and attention being paid to individual needs.
When I imagine a world like this it makes complete sense to me that economic success will follow high levels of health and well-being.
Knowing that our employer cares about our wellbeing, values what we do and that we are fulfilled by our work, would result in; less time off sick, lower turnover of staff, higher productivity, higher quality of work and more commitment to the employer.
In some parts of Manchester, average ‘healthy’ life expectancy ends at the age of 49 for men and 52 for women. If this was improved not only could people stay in the workforce for longer, but the strain on our health and social care services would be reduced.
There has to be a different way.
Forums like the People’s Powerhouse, where we can have these kinds of discussion are really important but to make a difference, we need many more people questioning our model of growth. We should all be asking the question.
“What if we measured success, not in economic terms, but instead with health and wellbeing as the primary focus – what kind of world would we live in?”
I’d love to know what you think and how you would design society, your community and your workplace differently in 2023.