A guide for employers, people managers and HR managers in Leeds.

It’s a question that employers often ask. Adopting a proactive and preventative approach to promoting positive mental health in the workplace can have many benefits for both you and your staff. But where to begin?

It’s a good idea to make one person in the organisation responsible for wellbeing, preferably a member of senior management and to make sure that every level of management is fully committed.

Talk to your staff

There are lots of things you can explore to help improve wellbeing – but what may work in one workplace, may not in another. Before launching a new wellbeing programme and making changes, it’s important to:

  • start by talking to your staff to find out what’s concerning them about their wellbeing at work
  • ask your employees what kinds of wellbeing activities they would like to try

You could carry out an all staff wellbeing survey through your HR department (if you have one). For smaller organisations, this might be an open conversation about staff wellbeing. Whatever approach you take, it’s important that everyone feels listened to and can contribute feedback and ideas. Remember to include remote, temporary and contract workers.

A healthy workplace

It can help to imagine what a healthy workplace looks like. Think about a time in your life when you felt really happy at work.

You probably felt:

  • challenged and energised by your job, without feeling unnecessary pressure
  • supported, trusted and valued by your managers
  • clear about your objectives and responsibilities
  • able to talk about issues affecting you
  • satisfaction in doing something useful and meaningful
  • part of a collaborative team working together towards the same goals
  • engaged in the success of the organisation and involved in its decision-making
  • balance with your life outside of work
  • motivated to do more than what was expected of you
  • connected to your colleagues and wanted to spend time with them socially

In this page:

    20 wellbeing questions to discuss with your staff

    1 – Do we have a positive team culture and inclusive working environment? Do people stop and say hello and ask, ‘how are you today’? Are team members supportive – do they check in on colleagues who seem stressed or anxious and ask if they want a chat and a cup of tea? Do staff eat lunch at their desks without taking a break or sit down to eat lunch together and have a chat. Do managers create a safe space to talk about wellbeing as a normal part of one-to-one meetings? More information on positive team culture can be found on the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit

    2 – Do our policies support staff welfare? Do we need to review our sick leave, annual leave, lone working, carer’s leave, maternity, paternity, adoption/surrogacy, bereavement or flexible working policies, for example? Do we also need to consider how staff wellbeing is part of the Performance Development Review (PDR)?

    3 – Do people feel comfortable talking openly about their mental health and about problems outside of work? Is our organisation a safe place to talk or is fear stopping staff from talking openly with their managers? Do we need to reduce the barriers caused by stigma? Change is most effective when led from the top. Can the CEO lead with the message that it’s OK to talk about your mental health without fear of it having a negative impact on your future job prospects or job security? Can senior managers help to change attitudes and start an open dialogue by talking from personal experience? Can these ‘role models’ lead by showing how success is possible? Could we establish a staff mental health task group and team reps? Step 5 from the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit has information on tackling stigma in the workplace.

    4 – Would you feel confident talking to your manager about your mental health? Do managers know how to listen to and talk to team members about their mental health? Do they know how to detect the signs of stress and anxiety? Does the organisation need to invest in good quality mental health awareness training? Can we create mental health champions and mental health first aiders?

    Take a look at our mental health training page for information on how to find the best training for your team. Step 2 from the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit also has information about raising awareness to create a mentally healthy workplace.

    5 – How well does the organisation support people experiencing a problem with their mental health? Do managers know how to organise support to help an employee to stay in work or return to work after taking leave? For example, could we use a Wellbeing Action Plan (WAP)?

    MindWell has information on what to do if you’re worried about a team member and how to support someone returning to work. Step 9 from the Mindful Employer 10 steps toolkit also has information and actions to support someone experiencing mental health difficulties at work.

    6 – Have you used any wellbeing services or support provided by the organisation?

    7 – What else could the organisation do to support staff experiencing problems with their mental health?

    8 – Do you achieve a good balance between work and personal time? Do you take lunch breaks? Do you have time for hobbies, interests and family life? Do managers lead by example in having a good work-life balance?

    9 – Do working routines and practices support staff wellbeing? Do we need to review working routines and practices to reduce unnecessary stress, for example? Would better processes encourage more effective team working and better job satisfaction? Could different working patterns and more flexible hours improve work-life balance? Do staff have the right training to carry out their roles? Do staff often work late and don’t feel able to take proper breaks or book their holidays? Step 8 from the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit has ideas to help minimise workplace stress.

    10 – Do your team members work together to support each other when work is more challenging?

    11 – Do you have an acceptable work load? How often do you take work home or work long hours? How often do you feel under pressure to meet difficult deadlines?

    12 – Do you have a choice in how you do your job and manage your workload?

    13 – What else could the organisation do to help staff cope with work-related pressures?

    14 – Do you feel that the work you do is valued by the organisation?

    15 – Can you access the right learning and development opportunities to do your job effectively?

    16 – Does the organisation have zero tolerance to bullying? Have you experienced or witnessed any bullying or discrimination? Is discrimination challenged? Do we have the right policies and procedures in place? What else do we need to do?

    Step 10 of the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit has information on how to promote diversity and inclusion and take a zero tolerance approach to discrimination, harassment and bullying.

    17 – Do managers involve staff in decision-making? Do we have staff forums and open discussions for staff engagement?

    18 – Are staff clear about their job roles and have up-to-date job descriptions? Step 6 from the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit has guidance on how to ensure that staff understand their roles and feel valued.

    19 – Do staff need more information about their specific roles and responsibilities relating to staff welfare and mental health? This might cover areas such as workplace health and safety, discrimination prevention and diversity awareness, privacy and taking care of their own mental health. Step 4 from the Mindful Employer’s 10 steps toolkit has information on raising awareness of mental health in the workplace.

    20 – Do the physical aspects of the office support staff wellbeing? Do we have natural lighting, enough space between desks and greenery? Are levels of temperature and noise comfortable and reasonable? Are there spaces to hold private conversations and quiet, calm places for relaxation? Do we have a home working policy to support staff working remotely?

    20 wellness ideas to explore with your staff

    What will work in one organisation will be different in another, according to the needs and interests of your staff and the size and nature of your organisation.

    Support for emotional and physical wellbeing

    • Confidential counselling service – offer access to a free counselling service as a staff benefit. This can often be provided as part of your company insurance – check your policy details.
    • Cash health plan – offering a plan can help staff to pay for a range of preventative care for their physical health. Some plans can also offer access to free counselling sessions and 24/7 telephone support services.
    • Cycle to work schemes – helps staff to spread the cost of buying a bike to get to work. Visit the Cycle to Work website for more information.
    • Free fruit, healthy snacks and herbal teas – ditch the sugary snacks and caffeinated drinks and encourage healthy eating habits.
    • Staff wellbeing area on staff intranet or shared drive – with information about MindWell resources including relaxation techniques, digital tools and help to improve sleepeat healthy and move more.
    • Subsidised gym memberships and other local sports/wellbeing/travel discounts
    • Wellness room – create a quiet calming sanctuary for staff where they can go to chill out away from their desks or read a book. This room should offer a digital detox and could have sensory features like soft fabrics, natural light, plants, water features, essential oils or relaxing music.
    • Child care vouchers – allow employees to pay for childcare through a salary sacrifice scheme.
    • Savings and loan scheme or staff assistance fund – schemes to help staff save each month or apply for a one off grant or interest free loan when facing short-term financial problems.

    Wellbeing activities

    • Mindfulness drop-ins – mindfulness can help to bring our thoughts back from worrying, or thinking too much, to the present moment. Some people find it helpful to manage anxiety, feel calmer and cope better with stress. Find out more about mindfulness and how to give it a go.
    • Monthly wellness hour – staff can enjoy a free hour every month to look after their wellbeing. Staff can choose to come in late or take a long lunch to go for a walk or do something nurturing that they enjoy.
    • Relaxation breathing sessions or guided meditation – taking time out to practise diaphragmatic breathing can help to restore calm and combat the effects of stress.
    • Yoga (or Pilates) classes – yoga can improve strength, flexibility and breathing and relieve the symptoms of anxiety. The NHS website has a guide to yoga.
    • Lunch-time walks – sitting for hours at a computer desk can be bad for your physical health as well as your emotional wellbeing. Get a group of staff together and take time out at lunch to get some exercise and fresh air.
    • Wellbeing weeks/mark mental health events – organise an annual week of staff wellbeing activities and mark key days like World Mental Health Day, Mental Health Awareness Week and Time to Talk day. Join the Leeds Public Health Resource Centre for access to a wealth of public health leaflets, posters and resources, books, DVDs and CDs and health promotion campaigns.
    • Leave for volunteering – give employees time off to take part in different charitable works or volunteering opportunities.

    Social activities

    • Tea and Talks – plan a get-together with tea and cakes and get the conversation going. You can get more ideas and order resources for your Tea and Talk on the Mental Health Foundation website.
    • Get togethers – sports clubs, social outings, book clubs, bake sales, baking competitions and charity fundraising can bring people together and create friendships and connections across the organisation.
    • Team lunches – ask staff to bring in one dish or snack and sit down together to catch up or you could sit down together to take part in a team crafting activity. Or, plan a virtual team time out over lunch.
    • Staff away days – put the emphasis on wellbeing, fun, strengthening relationships and spending time together as a team.

    Next steps – consider ways of embedding and formalising your approach to staff wellbeing

    Adjust existing policies – staff policies may need to be reviewed and adjusted to reflect your organisation’s commitment to staff wellbeing.

    Mental health awareness training – can help staff to develop the skills and confidence to help a team member who is experiencing a problem with their mental health. Investing in good quality training such as Mental Health First Aid training can help you create a happier workforce and increase productivity. It’s good practice to develop a training plan that considers all the different training options available and the particular needs of your workforce. Take a look at our mental health training page for ideas and guidance on setting up a training plan that works for your team.

    Join the Mindful Employer Leeds network – guidance and information in creating a healthy workplace culture is available by joining the Mindful Employer Leeds network. Mindful Employer is a national initiative which supports employers to take a positive attitude to mental health at work. Locally the network has a strong network of employers across all sectors who are interested in making positive changes in their workplaces to properly support staff experiencing mental health difficulties. It’s free to join the network. Members can attend free quarterly network events and receive a monthly newsletter. They can also ask the Leeds Coordinator for support and advice and sign a Charter which shows a commitment to working towards better practice.

    Workplace Wellbeing Charter – employers can sign up to be accredited by this national workplace health, safety and wellbeing award which helps organisations benchmark against best practice standards, or, you can create your own.

    Code of conduct for staff – a workplace code of conduct sets out clear and formal guidelines about acceptable standards of behaviour for all employees. The code should reflect an organisation’s values and should include things like appropriate and respectful ways of behaving in the office and zero tolerance to harassment and bullying.

    Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) – it’s good practice to offer all staff, the opportunity to complete a WAP with their manager, whether or not they have experienced problems with their mental health before. Working together to create a WAP can help to agree:

    • What your employee will actively do to stay well at work and at home.
    • What you will do to support your employee to stay well at work, including making reasonable adjustments (such as working from home sometimes or changes to regular working pattern) and putting other support measures in place. From 6 April 2024, new laws around flexible working requests came into effect.

    The way people thrive and stay well is very individual. Completing a WAP can help to create a better understanding of your employee’s wellbeing needs and lead to more open and helpful conversations in the future.

    Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) – is an employee support programme that can offer staff assistance with personal problems and/or work-related issues that may affect their health and emotional wellbeing. EAPs can offer free and confidential counselling services to staff accessed through a helpline number as well as legal and financial help and advice about employment law. Investing in an EAP can help to reduce staff absence due to stress and anxiety and increase staff retention.

    Integrate your approaches to physical and mental wellness – it’s likely that your organisation already has existing physical health programmes which can be brought together with your new emotional wellbeing initiatives. These could include policies designed to create suitable workstations, build positive team cultures and encourage regular exercise and healthy eating habits which can all help to foster emotional wellbeing as well.

    Create a health and wellbeing strategy

    From the results of your survey and open conversations with staff you can put together a strategy which should set out:

    • Where are you now? What do you currently offer for staff wellbeing? Are staff currently using existing initiatives? Look at the data – are there any particular issues, difficulties or concerns driving the strategy – such as poor sick leave or staff retention rates, cases of bullying, poor internal communications or poor team culture? What were the key findings from the wellbeing survey? What trends emerged? What is concerning staff about their wellbeing?
    • What’s your future vision? Where do you want to be? What are your key objectives and vision for employee wellbeing in your organisation?
    • Budget requirements – what are the financial requirements of the wellbeing programme? What is the business case to gain management buy-in? Gov.uk has an online tool to help you work out the costs of poor employee health.
    • Wellbeing programme plan – create a plan with a timeline and deliverables for the forthcoming year with key milestones like the launch of the new wellbeing programme and key events and wellbeing activities. Set out the changes and initiatives that will be put in place, when they will happen and who is responsible for what.
    • Internal communications plan – it’s important to keep staff informed of what’s happening at every stage of the process from the moment you decide to review staff wellbeing in your organisation. Put together a plan which considers the most appropriate ways of communicating with your employees whether that’s by using your staff intranet, an email newsletter, blogs, posters, staff briefings, video announcements, staff rep meetings or online Slack channels, for example. Find resources to promote MindWell including a MindWell slide for plasma screens, an email signature and printed information you can order.
    • Key evaluation measures – what are your measures of success? Look back and consider any drivers or particular issues like high sick leave or low job retention that may have set you off on this journey.
    • Staff health and wellbeing policy launch – creating a staff policy which clearly shows how your organisation and its leaders are committed to staff wellbeing and work-life balance will be a key milestone of your strategy. This will include working practices like your organisation’s flexible working arrangements, your approach to managing workplace stress and sickness absence and any staff welfare services. The policy should be shared with all staff members as part of your staff handbook and should be part of inductions for new starters. Key initiatives of the policy can also be highlighted in recruitment advertising.

    If you need more help in developing your wellbeing strategy you can contact Mindful Employer Leeds email mindfulemployer@leedsmind.org.uk

    Keep it going! Plan to repeat the wellbeing survey at the end of year one and mark changes over time. Review your evaluation measures. Learn from what works well and what doesn’t and keep adjusting your annual wellbeing plan.

    Celebrate successes! Share achievements with your staff to help increase positive engagement with your wellbeing programme and boost staff morale and job retention.