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Wellbeing at Work

Creating a Wellbeing Strategy

Creating a Wellbeing Strategy

17/04/2019

There is no “one size fits all” approach to creating wellbeing strategy and ideally interventions should be tailored to the needs of each school, college or MAT. Our page on Wellbeing Programmes includes guidance on the range of workplace wellbeing initiatives employers could chose to employ.

The first steps in creating a suitable wellbeing strategy are to understand how healthy your workplace is now and to prioritise areas for improvement. Questions to consider are does your school have an above average number of staff on long term absence due to work related stress? or an unusually high staff attrition rate? What support is available for your staff? When is it offered? How often are they accessing it? Is staff wellbeing recognised as vital priority?

One method of data-gathering is to use a staff wellbeing survey to develop a clear understanding of how staff are experiencing the working environment and any areas they feel are working well or are in need of improvement. Analysis of results should be used to prioritise objectives and develop a strategy for improving staff wellbeing.

Undertaking a staff wellbeing survey is not a one-off exercise and the survey should be repeated at regular intervals to gauge the impact of your wellbeing strategy and inform future wellbeing policies and procedures.

More detailed guidance on strategy development can be found in the step-by-step guide below.

Step 1: Make a commitment to staff wellbeing

For a wellbeing strategy to be successful it needs to be led from the top, starting with the leadership team agreeing to prioritise staff wellbeing and allocating responsibility for staff wellbeing to a senior staff member. It is also helpful if a governor/trustee or appropriate committee is given the task of maintaining a strategic oversight of wellbeing issues (this could cover both pupils and staff). 

There is a strong 'business case' for fostering employee wellbeing. Staff with high levels of wellbeing tend to perform better at work, thus contributing to higher organisational success. There are also general legal duties imposed on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. A failure to identify and adequately control the risks to staff could result in claims against the employer for physical or mental injury, such as stress-related illness.

Step 2: Understand where you are now

Before developing the wellbeing strategy, take time to collect the necessary data to understand the current state of staff wellbeing. Data can be used from a number of different sources, for example:

  • Sickness records to identify how much sickness is affecting your school/college and to identify the key causes of sickness;
  • Employee demographics can be used to identify any key wellbeing needs in each demographic (e.g. whether the workforce is dominated by a particular age group);
  • Existing initiatives – use data from existing initiatives (e.g. if you use an Employee Assistance Programme) to understand what and how people are using the service for;
  • Exit interview data can be used to identify themes or trends related to health and wellbeing;
  • Appraisal information, if data on staff wellbeing is collected via this mechanism;
  • Staff wellbeing surveys provide a useful snapshot of staff wellbeing at a point in time.

 

Data which relates to specified individuals must of course be kept confidential, only accessible to those who reasonably have a need to see it and only processed in ways which employees would expect. Health information carries a particularly high bar under data protection law. In most cases it is possible to collate and anonymise data on wellbeing so that individuals cannot be identified, this must always be the aim. It is only overall trends that you are aiming to understand.

Step 3: Consult and engage with staff

For staff to engage with any wellbeing initiatives it is important for them to feel that they can contribute to shaping its direction. Start a conversation with your staff about wellbeing, encourage ideas and suggestions about initiatives and working practices that could support staff wellbeing in your school or college.

Step 4: Prioritise areas for intervention

Use the data you have collected from different sources and via employee engagement to prioritise areas for intervention. Typically priorities will focus on any trends you have identified from the feedback (e.g. particular reasons for sickness absence, employee perceptions of the workplace) where improvements could be made. Where trends suggest a particular risk to health and wellbeing (e.g. high stress levels) these should be considered the highest priority.

Step 5: Set out your objectives for improved staff wellbeing

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests when setting objectives to focus on the four key people needs:

  • Emotional needs: Resilience, mindfulness, stress management and mental health
  • Physical needs: Energy, health risks, awareness, nutrition, exercise, sleep
  • Financial needs: Security, life planning, retirement, debt management, insurance protection
  • Social needs: Belonging, inclusion, togetherness, community, trust, culture

 

Bearing in mind these four areas of need, you can then consider where your own priorities are and set objectives based on addressing these. When producing your objectives you might want to consider:

  • Whether you need to focus your objective on prevention or cure: are you aiming for proactive measures to encourage staff to improve their own wellbeing or are you seeking to address identified problems (e.g. stress/workload)? Your objectives might be a mixture of both.
  • How your objectives might support long-term cultural change. For example, if you have identified that staff feel unable to raise mental or physical health matters at work, would an appropriate objective be focussed around encouraging a more open and supportive work environment?
  • How and when progress against objectives will be measured. For example, you may wish to undertake another staff wellbeing survey in 12 months' time to measure the impact or review any of the other data you have used, such as sickness records.

 

Starting to frame your objectives, even in draft, will help to determine what wellbeing initiatives might best support their achievement.

Step 6: Agree budget and resource needs

In a time of huge budgetary pressure, staff wellbeing initiatives may feel like a “nice to have” rather than an essential component to cater for in the budget. It is important to consider the clear business case for prioritsing staff wellbeing and the costs to the employer (for example the cost of long term absence or recruiting replacement staff) of neglecting to invest in staff wellbeing. The senior staff member allocated responsibility for staff wellbeing needs to be provided with adequate resources and budget to make a tangible difference. There are a range of low or no cost initiatives that can be introduced to make a difference where budgets are particularly tight.

Step 7: Choose wellbeing initiatives

Once the available budget and resource needs have been agreed, the next step is to select which wellbeing initiatives to pursue. Hopefully the engagement with employees, the data you have collected and the areas you have identified as the priority will all provide a steer as to what initiatives might best suit the identified issues.

Initiatives do not have to take the form of expensive, large-scale programmes. Even simple and cost-effective things such as ensuring all staff take a lunch break and recognising birthdays can make a difference.

If you are stuck for ideas, consider using your wider education networks to find out what initiatives have been successful elsewhere.

Step 8: Search for relevant partners (if necessary)

For some wellbeing initiatives you may need to partner with external providers (such as occupational health services or employee assistance programmes). For other wellbeing initiatives, such as staff volunteering programmes, it may be appropriate to work with local charities. You may be able to find relevant partners by networking with others in the sector to find out what has been successful elsewhere.

Step 9: Launch the strategy

Once the strategy has been developed and signed off, it will need to be communicated to employees. The best ways of doing this will depend on the size and resources of the organisation as well as the culture and what feels appropriate in the circumstances. Some potential ways you could do this include:

  • Identifying wellbeing ‘champions’ who can help to promote the strategy and the agreed initiatives
  • Having a staff launch event
  • Promoting it through emails / staff meetings / newsletters
  • Incorporating references to the wellbeing strategy into appropriate staff policies or resources
  • Reporting back on the success of initiatives to staff

Step 10: review and refresh the strategy on a regular basis

Decide how often you want to measure the progress of your strategy. Results from repeated staff wellbeing surveys and other data collection can measure progress and shape future strategy development.