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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggests when setting objectives to focus on the four key people needs:
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:
Starting to frame your objectives, even in draft, will help to determine what wellbeing initiatives might best support their achievement.
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.
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.
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.
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: