Top tips for embedding a wellbeing culture

Health and wellbeing in the workplace has never been more vital than in the last year.

Health and wellbeing in the workplace has never been more vital than in the last year. Councils and providers have developed varied and innovative approaches to boost support for the workforce during the pandemic, some examples of which we can see on our case studies for wellbeing and positive mental health. However, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Health and Wellbeing at Work 2021 report shows many gaps in support and access still need to be addressed to improve the experience of staff in the sector.

Our vision is that every organisation, employer and individual encourage and promote health and wellbeing, supporting others to be healthier, happier and more productive. To develop a culture of wellbeing, it should be recognised that the responsibility lies with everyone and we can all contribute towards this.

Along with the personal case for wellbeing that improves health and happiness, there is a financial case too. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Health and Wellbeing at Work 2012 found across the public sector, 8.4 days are lost through employee absences per year. Derbyshire County Council found the estimated costs in 2018/19 (excluding schools), to be £7.8 million. Savings made by reducing employee absence could provide investment into wellbeing support.

8.4 days are lost through employee absences per year."
2019 Health and Wellbeing Survey, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

Wellbeing can be considered at multiple levels and strategies need to reflect that in order to create a well-rounded approach to support people with different backgrounds and needs and to create a real culture of wellbeing. Below are some tips for developing and embedding a culture of wellbeing that builds on good practice implemented by councils and providers to date.

We recognise there are provider organisations of all sizes and so some tips may be more applicable than others, however drawing on any will help strengthen the culture of wellbeing.

Taking care of my own wellbeing

  • Taking responsibility around personal health and wellbeing – Everyone has a responsibility around wellbeing for themselves and others,  through having conversations in a comfortable environment, about taking time to address your own wellbeing and ensuring you are taking care of yourself and have the support to do so. 
  • Sharing personal experience with others – Sharing experiences of your own wellbeing, can encourage others to do so and recognise it is commonplace to access support. This could be of wellbeing support that you have used or that you think might support others, as well as improvements that could be made to new offers to support wellbeing. The Centre for Mental Health have their ‘A Year in Our Lives’ campaign, highlighting personal experiences over the course of the pandemic, showing the different journeys experienced around mental health.
  • Speaking with others and requesting support ¬ - Being able to speak with others can provide people with a safe space to share what challenges they might be facing. Making time for conversations and catch ups can help to resolve issues before they become a much larger challenge that people may initially be reluctant to share.
  • Dedicating time to personal care - Setting aside time regularly to relax and make use of wellbeing support available will help manage your wellbeing regularly. With others observing this in diaries and calendars, it normalises the need for them to do the same. Accessing MIND’s Wellness Action Plan can help.

Promoting the wellbeing of my team

  • Visible support from managers – Being aware of what wellbeing support is available and promoting these to people in conversations or team catch ups will ensure that managers are actively promoting wellbeing. Regular and flexible 1 to 1s or drop ins are some ways in which the access to wellbeing support can be raised. The British Psychological Society’s guidance, Protecting the psychological needs of healthcare staff, provides ideas. Some managers aim for a regular daily check in with teams, which enables them to pick up any changes in wellbeing.
  • Considering how management can positively influence work – The way in which individuals are managed and supported in their day to day roles as well as the central role managers have in communicating changes in an organisation means they have significant influence in being able to promote a positive wellbeing culture. This should also cover finding time for people to be able to reflect and support each other when necessary. Through exercising the Health and Safety Executive’s Management Standards which can help alleviate workplace stress, using evidence from people who have used this approach.

Developing the organisation’s culture of wellbeing

  • Involving people in developing all wellbeing strategies – Bringing together people and teams to share their experiences and understanding of wellbeing, will help develop support that is needed by people in your organisation. Some good practice around this can be seen in Derbyshire County Council’s Workplace Wellbeing Strategy (pdf) as well as the London Borough of Southwark’s Culture Health and Wellbeing Partnership. The Isle of Wight were also successful in using this in their multi-agency response towards social care staff resilience.
  • Building a sense of belonging and identity – Managers play a key role in promoting the identity and values of the organisation, both  verbally and through action.  Building  shared values and creating a positive outlook  will help to retain people and their expertise. Skills for Care provide six considerations that can help build a positive wellbeing culture. 
  • Using technology to support workload – Many people report large workloads as a cause of stress, which can also reduce take up of wellbeing support. Using technology to assist in improving productivity and balancing workload can overcome stress as identified in Kent and Medway’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Board (pdf).
  • Review and monitor success – Reviewing the success of new strategies and encouraging people from across the organisation to give feedback and share best practice promotes buy in and satisfaction. See West Midlands Combined Authority Thrive at Work Accreditation
  • Identify need for early intervention and promoting dialogue – A wellbeing strategy should cover actions that can support positive wellbeing, reducing the  need for urgent or high level  support, such as emergency mental health. The Mental Health Foundation covers the importance of prevention and what models can address this. Offering training to help prepare and reassure people is another way to intervene early and an example can be seen with The London Borough of Haringey (pdf), making Mental Health First Aid available to all frontline staff as one such action for early intervention.
  • Promoting access to resources to all people – Not all people will want to or be able to access wellbeing resources in the same way if they are away from home or their usual place of work. Telling people about the support and allowing them to access it in more than one way, as well as online, will allow those who need it to be able to use wellbeing resources as they see fit and around their circumstances. Take a look at our case study on Devon County Council’s wellbeing plan and the offer provided with virtual sessions on using online wellbeing tools

Fostering a community of wellbeing

  • Use of social capital and community resources to improve health, particularly by building relationships with people in social care, which helps develop resilience. Local authorities have a key role in helping to develop these relationships and using community-based assets to improve health and wellbeing. The King’s Fund provides some examples on what local authorities can do including creating health ‘champion’ roles, providing support to volunteering and mapping existing assets
  • Create social connectedness for all – At times, people will be spread across a large area and may work in isolation. Ensuring all people are able to feel like they have a voice in choosing the support they need and speaking to their peers is a key step of enabling social connectedness and interaction, through developing networks within social care organisations. This could be engaged in by new positions such as a wellbeing guardian or champion that might represent an area. Exploring opportunities for people to move where possible or have additional support will also provide a physical element to creating a community approach to wellbeing.
  • Collaborating with local services and service users – Enabling forums and discussion between staff, organisation leaders, local services and service users will help share information and ideas on practicing wellbeing and developing a wellbeing culture that provides the right support for arising issues. Public Health England’s report (pdf) provides some guidance on what approaches can be taken for community-based initiatives from research to area-based support.