Developing A Workplace Health And Wellbeing Strategy

Sue Hazleton, Hertfordshire Growth Hub

Due to the challenges of the pandemic, organisations have increasingly appreciated how important it is to support staff with their health and wellbeing. It not only demonstrates how you value your staff but makes good business sense too.

Developing a workplace health and wellbeing strategy can be daunting. You may already have some ad hoc activities and initiatives that can be incorporated into a cohesive plan, but where do you start? There are numerous examples of strategies that can be downloaded, most of which are from large organisations who have in-house infrastructure services such as HR departments etc., but it’s important to develop a strategy that is pertinent to your particular organisation, industry, size and circumstances. Set out below are some important developmental steps to consider for your strategy to be effective and to be aligned with your objectives.

Step 1 – Getting senior management buy-in

For a health and wellbeing plan to be effective this is vital. You may already have a “champion” at this level who can be engaged at an early stage and drive this agenda forward.

It is also important that senior management agree to sufficiently budget for and resource a health and wellbeing strategy going forward. To inform this process you can:

· Build the business case for implementing health and wellbeing initiatives using relevant data and evidence (see further resources below)

· Within your own organisation use data to identify where health and wellbeing initiatives should be focused e.g. sickness absence records, information from staff surveys, employee demographics etc.

Step 2 – Planning and developing a clear and deliverable strategy

This takes some time, thought and brainstorming. The aim should be to engage with all staff, not just those who are already leading healthy lifestyles. Try not to do everything at once, but set some smaller SMART goals (i.e. they should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) to start with. This will allow you to assess staff buy-in, before expanding initiatives further. The strategy will have greater acceptance and impact for being developed with wide staff commitment and involvement.

Some aspects to consider are:

· What are your main objectives and key priorities for developing a strategy?

· What areas of health and wellbeing will be incorporated?

· How do you engage with staff, assess what their needs are and manage expectations?

· Who are the key people to be involved in driving this forward and what are their roles and responsibilities?

· What initiatives are already in place and where are the gaps?

· What is or has been developed by similar organisations? Can you join forces / learn from each other?

· Are there local statutory or third sector health care providers that can support you?

· How will you measure success and effectiveness?

· How will you engage with the staff who will benefit most?

Step 3 – Promoting the strategy

Once the strategy has been developed and signed off, it will need to be communicated clearly to staff. Communication methods will vary depending on whether staff have access to emails etc. Some potential ways you could do this include:

Step 4 – Evaluating and amending the strategy

This is a continuous process of evaluation and data gathering, so there need to be plans in place to measure effectiveness that is meaningful. The strategy will need to be regularly reviewed to show progress and to measure impact.

· Investigate evaluation methods and tools that link to your objectives and key priorities

· It should be possible to assess what is and isn’t working to try to find out why and to see if improvements can be made

· Don’t be afraid to evolve and change elements of the strategy

Further Resources

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is an independent collaborating centre that develops and shares robust and accessible wellbeing evidence to improve decision-making : https://whatworkswellbeing.org/about-us/

Making the business case for addressing mental wellbeing at work: Thriving at Work’ the Farmer/Stevenson Report 2017 is available here :

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers

A simple way to start thinking about wellbeing initiatives generally would be to look at the New Economic Foundation’s Five Ways to Wellbeing :

https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-yourself/five-ways-to-wellbeing

Business in the Community (BITC) have produced a number of useful, comprehensive toolkits for workplaces which include a general health and wellbeing toolkit and a toolkit specific to mental health :

https://www.bitc.org.uk/toolkit/health-and-wellbeing-at-work-summary-toolkit/

https://www.bitc.org.uk/toolkit/mental-health-for-employers-toolkit/

A Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan ’How To’ guide on developing a realistic mental health at work plan has been developed by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust (CWMT) and includes an example plan :

https://cdn.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/wp/content/uploads/2019/11/04113809/Charlie-Waller-Memorial-Trust-Mental-Health-Wellbeing-Plan-How-To-guide.pdf

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