Employee Engagement & Employee Health & Wellbeing: Can you have one without the other? DoH (3) 

This content is part of the Vision for the Public Sector Zone and the Wellbeing Zone

The relationship between employee health and employee commitment and engagement is multifaceted. Indeed, there is research evidence (Bevan 2010) that suggests a two-way, possibly self- reinforcing, relationship: healthy employees are more committed and committed employees are more healthy.

As a member of the EFS health and wellbeing sub group I wanted to share my experiences whilst at the Department of Health leading on their employee health and wellbeing programme.

Picture the scene, walking around the Department the mood isn’t great, staff worried about their job, there’s so much change happening staff aren’t sure if they are coming or going. A real feel of inertia. anxiety, disengagement and if honest lack of direction.
If you have been working in the public sector for the past couple of years I am sure this sounds familiar, most likely not just public but private sector too.

The Department decided more than ever employee wellbeing was the key to getting through this transition and us all coming out the other side in a positive state of mind.

With the focus on making ‘DH (Department of Health) a great place to work’ as one of its’ core values I created a strategy to address reengaging employees through improved employee wellbeing regardless of what changes were heading our way.

Using the EFS Four enablers and the 5 ways to wellbeing model, I had a fabulous framework for building up a programme that had 3 key deliverables:

1. Raise awareness of employee wellbeing in the workplace
2. Provide early intervention for employee wellbeing
3. Provide support for employee wellbeing

Our narrative, quite simply as the Department of Health ‘practice what we preach’ given we write the policy on public health shouldn’t we be leading the way especially when encouraging other employers to take responsibility for their employee wellbeing.

Engaging managers, by setting up a health & wellbeing board we had governance, leadership and commitment to kick off the programme. The board consisted of a mixture of leaders from all levels across the Department including the Permanent Secretary and our Minister for social care as well as senior representatives from our stakeholder population such as EAP, Occupational Health, Sports & Social, Unions, MIND, Rethink, Charity for Civil Service, Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, Change for Life & NHS Choices.

Employee Voice, don’t do it alone, share the ideas, expertise, commitment, passion and energy – let’s maximise our resource and use this to our advantage by involving those volunteers from our employee population work with us.
As with the HWB Board we asked for volunteers who were passionate & committed to giving up their time to support the programme. This network group gave the opportunity for those volunteers with specific skill sets to use their expertise, such as fitness experts, coaches, mental health experts, engagement experts etc. We also included the existing networks such as women’s network, diversity network, disability network, faith networks so everyone could have a ‘say‘ on what awareness and intervention looked like.

Integrity, committed totally to doing what we said we would ‘practice what we preach’ and ‘making DH a great place to work’ and not veering from this, making the HWB board accountable.

The 5 ways to wellbeing model is a review of the most up-to-date evidence suggesting that building the following five actions into our day-to-day lives is important for well-being:

Connect – With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be active – Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take notice – Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep learning – Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Give – Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

So here’s what we did:

The critical difference to our H&WB Board was having a mixture of internal volunteers from HR, communications, facilities, IT & policy and inviting key external stakeholders to join us as mentioned above.
Suddenly, the Board had the makings of something very unique – a group of like-minded individuals all passionate about the wellbeing of our employees all wanting to achieve the same outcome, a win-win to all stakeholders.
We also created a task force, reporting into the Board who’s responsibilities were to deliver the activities necessary to provide employees with opportunities to take personal responsibility for their wellbeing – our employee voice.

Our wellbeing strategy was quite simply to ensure we offered a range of resource and support to all employees whilst recognising wellbeing means something different to each of us.

The focus was on three key specific strands, the common feedback our volunteers provided us when we engaged with employees. This is what they said would make a difference to their wellbeing at that particular time in their life/workplace.
Those strands being physical wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and workplace wellbeing. we therefore incorporated the 3 strands into the 5 ways to wellbeing model. For example most of the physical wellbeing activity sat under ‘be active’ whilst the emotional wellbeing activity sat under ‘connect’ or ‘give’

And here’s some of what we delivered:

Bring your stakeholders together, have a clear purpose, maximise the commitment, passion and energy and here’s what you can do,

• Mental Health Advisory Group set up with ALL partners, supported by Dame Carol Black & Stephen Bevan
• Joint working with HR enabled us to update our HR policies and strategy to align with our employee wellbeing programme
• Joint working with our L&D team to provide the most suitable wellbeing training & development as requested by employees
• Free employee health checks & free flu jabs in partnership with our Occupational Health providers
• Integrated the www.nhs.uk website onto our local intranet signposting employees to their ‘live well’ pages
• In partnership with the Charity for Civil Servants introduced workshops promoting their free support for support with finances, mental health and domestic violence
• Created a knowledge centre & quiet spaces
• The CMO, Permanent Health Secretary & HWB Board all actively involved in the Civil Service physical challenges such as 5k runs and walking challenges
• In partnership with our sports & social club funded our latest HWB space (gym)
• Delivered annual HWB market places in collaboration with ALL partners
• Worked closely with our Communications Team to provide new ways of engaging with employees to raise awareness of HWB and to understand from employees what matters

And here’s what we achieved:

• Signed up to all of the Public Health Responsibility Deal pledges in the Health and Work Network
• Won the Civil Service Award for Wellbeing within the first 6 months of delivering the programme
• Saw a 10% positive increase in the annual staff survey on the questions relating to wellbeing and engagement scores
• Reduced absenteeism from average of 6 days per annum to 4 days per annum in 12 month period
• Reported levels of mental health absence increased (a positive sign of self disclosing without feeling discriminated against)
• 8 staff self disclosed to being in a domestic abusive relationship, all of which are safe, in work and feel supported
• First central government department to sign the TTC (Time to Change) pledge to remove stigma & discrimination of mental health in the workplace. Resulting in a further 13 government departments signing the pledge and following our example
• First government department to create a mental health support group and a domestic violence support group – supporting employees affected by mental health or domestic violence
• In house talking heads video produced by volunteers across the department self disclosing their mental health conditions – helping to remove stigma, this went viral with over 2000 hits
• Provided emotional resilience workshops in partnership with our L&D Team to all employees
• Over 60 employees trained as MHFA’s (Mental Health First Aiders) and 6 employees volunteered to become MHFA facilitators which means the Department can deliver the training in house and sustain the roll out of the training
• Piloted mindfulness training with over 80 volunteers participating

My final words to any employer wanting to kick start their employee health and wellbeing programme is this.
It is a journey and that whilst the outcomes can be said to be innovative and perhaps leading edge in the field of workplace health this is not a formal business case to justify an initiative or intervention.
We started with a specific problem in our case emotional wellbeing supporting mental health concerns high levels of stress, anxiety and poor physical wellbeing and finding a solution.
It is then easier to assess its impact and follow this up with a ‘pilot’ intervention on a slightly larger scale.
The business benefits are derived gradually, and build up over a period of time, thus, your business case evolves.

Health and wellbeing at work can not be a ‘sideline’ which supplements the existing good work to promote the adoption of training, development and engagement practices among employers. It must become mainstream.

And finally here’s what those involved in the programme had to say:

Dame Carol Black Expert Adviser Health and Work

“The HWB is an excellent vehicle for collaborative working across several groups within the Department of Health,all of whom have an interest in the Health and Wellbeing of their staff and all of whom are achieving more by working together through the Board. I have personal experience of the Board’s effectiveness through the Public Health Responsibility Deal where working with them has helped to spread our message”

Judith Smith Director Charity for Civil Servants

“Working together with the Department has meant we have been able to put together a great project – Health on your Mind – which is available to every civil servant and their dependents and which can really have an impact on their emotional wellbeing. Our support of civil servants in an increasingly harsh economic climate gives us an understanding of the difficulties they face and how those difficulties affect their ability to manage their home and working lives which has been very useful to the working of the Departments wellbeing programme”

Aggie Kamara-Kagbo Volunteer for the health & wellbeing network in the department.

“The tools you have shared with us, are helping us greatly in being emotionally resilient both at work and in our personal lives, the workshop was so inspiring and I was not the only one that left on a high, we all did – how wonderful!”

I hope this has provoked some thoughts on what you can do to support your employees wellbeing in 2014 or encouraged you to tell us what you have done in your organisation as we would love to hear what you are doing.

Watch out for our subgroup providing further insight and support in readiness for wellbeing month in March this year.

Julie Fidler – A professional coach, specialising in engagement and well being

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