Former England basketball star from Hemel Hempstead is changing attitudes on workplace stress

Cedi Frederick feels working long hours has 'become a badge of honour' for all the wrong reasons
Cedi Frederick feels working long hours has 'become a badge of honour' for all the wrong reasons

A former international basketball player turned business chief executive has made tackling stress in the workplace his new game.

Cedi Frederick was known for shooting the hoops for England in 1981, while he also plied his trade for Ovaltine Hemel Hempstead.

“I often played like I was half asleep,” jokes a relaxed Cedi as he speaks to the Gazette.

The 60-year-old admits that the environment around the court was that of a ‘macho culture’. And he admits that he found a similar culture when he transferred his talents from basketball to business.

And it is that kind of outlook which he is now keen to dispel as he tries to help the people who were once in his position avoid what he suffered – stress at the workplace.

“The issue is that we have a tendency to glorify our long working hours and our working culture means we put our health second,” he says.

“I realised that as a CEO I wasn’t acknowledging how stressed I was or the potential damage it was causing.

“When I did, I tended to be a bit macho about it; working late hours becomes a badge of honour and I fobbed stress off as a normal part of success.”

Father-of-two Cedi, now 60, runs his own La Nova Group business from his home in Leverstock Green, where he now enjoys spending time with his wife.

It’s all a far cry from a few years ago, where working away from home helped contribute to his own battle with stress.

He said: “I worked for a large organisation in Kent that had a portfolio of care homes and employed 2,500 people.

“It was a fairly challenging role, and over that five-and-a-half years I worked away from home, I only really came home during weekends.

“When you combine all that with being away from home it adds to the pressure.

“It’s fair to say I’ve had time to reflect, and I didn’t realise how stressed I was at the time. I was showing all the symptoms, my wife and family could see it, but I couldn’t see it myself.”

Stress increases the chances of dying from heart-related problems by five-fold, studies have found.

Meanwhile, the Health and Safety Executive estimates 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, and that 12.5 million working days were lost as a result of it.

The World Health Organisation said stress at the workplace was the ‘health epidemic of the 21st century’. And it’s something Cedi is determined to put right, saying: “Sleep deprivation, depression, suicide are just a few of the issues arising from modern-day stress.

“It’s time for a holistic approach and an open dialogue on Britain’s health crisis of the century.”

His La Nova Group offers executive retreats in Spain, assembling a team of mindfulness coaches, counsellors, physios and facilitators who work to support people to take a step away from stress but also to enable them to work on themselves.

He adds: “The truth is, the long hours, commuting, the fast paced lifestyle and the mounting pressures on employees to meet expectations and drive change has such an impact on health.

“More than 1,000 people a year are falling victim to stress-related heart attacks. My focus is on wellness and wellbeing for everyone as the real key to greater work success.”