People Management reported that 86% of employees would be more likely to leave a job if it didn’t support their wellbeing, indicating that businesses are at risk of losing talented individuals if they’re not proactive in their approach. But have you truly considered every avenue when it comes to your corporate wellbeing strategy? Because there’s an aspect few include which needs to be added into the mix…self-defence!
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about wellbeing. But with lone working on the rise, the nights drawing in, and fewer people regularly attending the office than ever before, would your teams feel equipped with the knowledge and know-how of how to protect themselves should the worst happen?
If they were in an at-risk position or situation – whether it’s during working hours or not – you’d want your employees to feel in control and able to appropriately defend themselves, right?
All forward-thinking businesses that genuinely care about their team should be encouraging self-defence training and providing it as part of a holistic, well-rounded and all-inclusive wellbeing strategy. This means understanding the theory and legal aspects as well as undertaking practical training, situational awareness and learning conflict management skills.
With a duty of care to meet every aspect of wellbeing, employers must recognise that their responsibility extends to the mental, emotional and physical needs of their teams. And self-defence is an important skill that caters for them all – even the most basic of self-defence awareness can arm employees with the understanding that they need to make snap decisions in any given situation. Decisions that could in fact save their life.
According to the Office for National Statistics, police recorded 2.1million offences of violence, and almost 700,000 stalking and harassment offences in the UK in the year ending December 2022, a 44% rise compared to the previous year. While this outlines there’s an increasing threat of crime, attacks and violence, the reality is that we all hope it will never happen to us or to someone we know. While there’s a good chance it won’t, by gifting employees with information about the actions which are acceptable in the eyes of the law and how to effectively execute them is an incredibly empowering tool. With this knowledge, even if they never need to use it, employees are bound to feel more confident, in control, and above all, safe – enhancing their emotional and mental wellbeing.
At this time of year with the days getting shorter – and inevitably plummeting us into increased hours of darkness – it’s unsurprising that employees may have greater levels of anxiety when it comes to the daily commute or lone working: feelings that can be detrimental to their emotional health. And with more employers adopting flexible working schedules outside of the traditional 9-5, this can mean (especially in smaller businesses) staff members may be more likely to be in the office or undertaking visits to other working locations alone.
It’s also important to identify that both men and women can be affected by crime, assault or unwanted behaviours (and therefore entire teams should be privy to the life-saving skills). A 2021 report revealed that one in two women, and one in five men surveyed felt unsafe walking alone after dark in a busy public area.
Undoubtedly, there’s an increased need for companies to protect their most valuable asset: their team.
Should the worst happen, individuals need to be able to act (and react) in an instant, without putting themselves in further danger or harm, and without breaking the law – unfortunately there’s a fine line between defence and offence that must be clearly understood. Plus, a fundamental aspect of training is learning how to try and de-escalate the situation, such as understanding the trigger words to avoid, how to call for help, and the ways in which you can fight back.
First and foremost, employers should be motivated to arrange self-defence training for their teams to enhance their knowledge and understanding, gift them life-saving skills, and allow them to feel confident when walking back to their car, for example. That said, there are of course less sinister benefits to adopting such training too…
Self-defence is a fantastic team-bonding and corporate activity. Forced to imagine yourself, and your colleagues, in vulnerable positions can allow for effective, open and important conversations to take place. These may even allow employers to identify and recognise further ways that they can protect the team, such as increased security, reviewing schedules, or identifying areas of vulnerability that need addressing. Plus, it can provide positive mindsets, allowing teams to feel strong, prepared and empowered – all fantastic contributors to enhancing their emotional and mental wellbeing. And it’s not exclusive to the workplace. This newfound confidence can be translated into their personal lives, ensuring they feel safe and strong in almost every aspect of life.
The exercise element will encourage the release of endorphins, which when accompanied with the feelings of empowerment, will leave your teams on a high – feeling capable and confident. A big tick for physical wellbeing.
And with this increased understanding, confidence and self-belief, it’s arguably good for business. No longer are employees sitting at their desk, dreading dusk falling outside for fear of having to visit a client after 3pm. Nor are they worried about tomorrow morning’s commute to work in the dark. Instead they can wholly focus on the task in hand, and potentially be more productive and motivated. Making it the ultimate win:win.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. And that’s certainly true for self-defence training too. Very rarely do individuals get it right the first time, and so while under the watchful eye of a trained coach, it can provide a challenging, yet fun, session for corporate settings. While the reasoning behind why it’s important to learn is frightening, it’s okay (and healthy) to laugh collectively at your mistakes, and strengthen that bond between teams.
Safeguarding employee wellbeing goes beyond conventional measures, extending into realms less commonly considered but equally vital. The alarming surge in crime statistics, coupled with the evolving landscape of remote work and flexible schedules, underscores the need for a comprehensive approach to corporate wellbeing. While self-defence may seem an unconventional addition to the wellbeing strategy, it emerges as a crucial and empowering element. Recognising that employees’ safety encompasses mental, emotional, and physical aspects, proactive employers are embracing self-defence training as a holistic solution.
Richard Hilton is the founder of Resilient Defence. Resilient Defence is to help people, in the first response community, with their well-being, looking at the triggers that cause unwanted stress in their lives, and giving them various tools to cope better.