AAL News

Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace – Future Leaders’ Thoughts 

23rd and 26th January 2024

Level 4 Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship
Manchester Metropolitan University

In January, I was fortunate to be invited by Dr Vicky Nowak, Lecturer (Strategy, Enterprise and Sustainability), to be a Workplace Wellbeing Guest Speaker, for students on the Level 4 Chartered Management Degree Apprenticeship at Manchester Metropolitan University.

We explored workplace stress and the impact of mental health and wellbeing on organisational performance. We looked at the value of having a health and wellbeing strategy to create a positive workplace culture.

Apprentices in Dr Nowak’s group were set the challenge to develop a Workplace Wellbeing Programme.  I had the pleasure of hearing these future leaders’ amazing ideas, which included…

A ‘Day for Me’ (I love this title!) where organisations would educate staff on wellbeing techniques and access resources.  Plus training for managers to recognise triggers in employees.

Students talked about improving awareness of wellbeing schemes by having Wellbeing Buddies who are passionate about the role. An innovative idea was introducing incentives for those engaging in the wellbeing programme to receive vouchers to support with the cost of living crisis.

One group talked about their wellbeing programme including relaxation techniques for a nominal salary contribution (for employee buy-in) to access external health services. Another intriguing idea was blocking the use of work devices (mobile phones and laptops) outside of working hours, i.e., evenings and weekends. Plus only having senior managers who are contactable for ‘emergencies’ with a supporting policy and process.

The need to use staff surveys, which are evaluated and actioned, was highlighted. The rationale for setting realistic project deadlines was discussed and weekly ‘line manager check-ins’, so each employee has the opportunity to share any concerns and feel heard.

It was interesting to hear about a weekly 30-minute Breakfast Club, coming out of work time, to discuss wellbeing and access support services with scheduled 121 follow-ups where needed.

The Level 4 apprentices also talked about having quarterly wellbeing activity days, when the business/department is closed so employees would not feel guilty for not working that day.

I was particularly impressed by the groups who considered the whole process, not just the execution of the wellbeing programme.  They considered who the wellbeing programme would be aimed at, actually asking employees what they want to get from it rather than assuming. They explored the communication side of when and how the wellbeing programme is advertised and accessed with a realistic engagement target, through to monitoring engagement (every 6 months). They looked at how to obtain ongoing feedback to measure the impact, which would allow for changes to be made to meet employees’ wellbeing needs.

The two winning groups, out of the seven, each received a Wellbeing Journal from Dr Nowak.

I look forward to hearing how these future leaders develop, as their enthusiasm for wellbeing was engaging!

Marcia Fernandes

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