Better wellbeing? Suffolk makes strides

5th October 2017

Public Health England and the East of England LGA have been supporting a number of authorities with the Workplace Wellbeing Charter, which culminated in a pilot across Suffolk.

Chris Pyburn, Public Health Manager and Chair of the Suffolk Workplace Wellbeing group, explained that:

“With many of us spending a significant amount of our waking hours at work, it is no surprise that the working environment plays an increasing role in influencing health and wellbeing.  Much has changed in the modern workplace, especially in the case of technology, which has opened up new ways of working like never before. Digital advancement also poses a potential challenge with increasing automation likely in the years to come.

“Recent trends have shown increased absence relating to mental health issues, particularly stress, as well as the more traditional physical ailments. A combination of increasingly sophisticated HR data and a greater awareness of the factors that impact people’s wellbeing is invaluable when it comes to ensuring people can return to work sooner, minimising loss of productivity. How you measure these factors across a whole organisation is another matter, and that is where the workplace wellbeing charter comes in.”

Developed in 2009 by Liverpool City Council, the charter has since been fine-tuned and adapted by Public Health England for widespread use. The charter presents eight areas of focus that enable organisations to monitor and benchmark their performance, while addressing the gaps. They are:

  • Leadership
  • Absence management
  • Health and safety
  • Mental health
  • Smoking
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Alcohol

A range of organisations have embraced the charter including local authorities, hospitals, mental health trust and ACAS. Working collectively, they have not only committed to the three-year challenge to achieve “Excellence” status but are supporting each other by sharing good practice and even offering peer-to-peer assessments.

Neil Wood, Health and Wellbeing Programme Manager, Public Health England has been on board in Suffolk from the start. He said:

“In the last few months, we have seen plenty of useful discussion and progress with the charter. It has a built-in flexibility, which means we have been able to adapt it to make sense in organisational terms, while keeping to the important principle of applying a consistent measure of workplace wellbeing. We have made good progress in a relatively short time, and are now at the stage where we can start assessing progress against the standards.”

Margaret Grant, Nurse and Operations Manager at Ipswich Hospital said:

“One of our greatest successes has been introducing a smoke-free campus. We have worked with colleagues around the hospital to bring the policy into place, ensuring they understand what’s required and can offer a consistent message to our patients and visitors.”

Wendy Canham, Service Manager (Human Resources and Organisational Development) at West Suffolk Councils, said:

“One focus has been on building our staff resilience, particularly when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. This comes from the top, with our leadership making a clear commitment to support colleagues. We have promoted wellbeing training throughout the organisation, and have found the charter a helpful gauge to measure our progress, as well as a stimulus to management.”

Suffolk’s Workplace Wellbeing Charter work began in earnest in 2016, with a three-year timescale to achieve a collective ambition to drive better workplace wellbeing. The group meet regularly to update on progress, share best practice and to review achievements.

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