You are a HR Director or CEO and want to tackle workplace wellbeing but just don’t know where to start.

At a recent conference on mental health in the workplace I saw some great examples of wellbeing done well by businesses.

Don’t just pick an issue and think that’s it!

You might be tempted to choose one or two wellbeing issues and decide to just run some training – and sit back – perhaps even a bit smugly – thinking job done! But this approach to workplace wellbeing is piecemeal and just doesn’t work.

What does the evidence show?

The evidence shows a piecemeal approach is not effective in changing behaviours or attitudes. Why? – because changing behaviour doesn’t just happen from a one-off training, it needs a sustained approach.

Done badly this is likely to be a complete waste of your money!

 Even worse this could really backfire big time!

Employees who have even the slightest suspicion that their leaders are just paying lip service to them become cynical and disengaged. So – with these half-hearted attempts you risk alienating the people you wish to help!

Employees see lots of half-baked ideas that are flavour of the month one day and forgotten the next – this has got to demonstrate commitment for people to believe things can change.

At The Sweet Potato Consultancy we believe there are 7 steps to tackle workplace wellbeing:

  1. Getting started – both companies had a catalyst that got the ball rolling! For one it was the very personal experience of a senior person’s mental health challenges and how when he returned to work it became clear that others wanted to start talking about mental health. And added to that they had a poor employee survey. For the other company – it was the increase in work related absence they had clearly documented and wanted to tackle.
  2. Setting the Tone from the Top – getting either involvement or support from senior leaders within the business.
  3. Utilise specialist advice – it’s easy to think you know what to do or how to do it – but that’s unlikely – wellbeing and mental health are specialist areas. Now’s the time to bring in specialist help and with them work out what is the best way forward for your particular company and its particular needs.
  4. Get others on board to help – something like this needs an active group of people to work together on this. This could be an official team or a group of enthusiastic, committed people. You will also need people to help spread the word in order for your message to spread and embed.
  5. Create a strategy of how you are going to achieve your goal and how the messages will be spread, how you will measure your work and ensure the culture change is sustained. If you have an existing framework – for example health and safety – it would make sense to wrap it up with that.
  6. Decide what your main focus/aim or goal will be. It could be a mental health campaign such as Thames Water’s Time to Talk Strategy or reducing the stigma with mental health as within Coutt’s bank. It needs to be something that works for the needs of your people and your particular business.
  7. Once you start working on your specific focus you need to spread the word extensively. You need to ensure that you and your team keep doing it again and again – for years to come. You will also need to show how you are measuring your impact and share this with your company.

If you would like to talk about any aspect of this or any other mental health and wellbeing issue please get in touch.


Adelle Shaw-Flach is Director of The Sweet Potato Consultancy.

As a health professional she uses evidence and experience to work strategically with leaders to reduce the cost to people and business of workplace stress and mental health.

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