Departments lauded for staff wellbeing work

Written by Jim Dunton on 22 November 2019 in News
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HMRC doubles number of mental health advocates while Home Office appoints new champions

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Government departments have been praised for their efforts to boost staff wellbeing after a landmark report called on employers to do more to look after workers' health.

The civil service was the first major employer to commit to implementing the recommendations of the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health and employers, titled Thriving at Work, which was published two years ago.

The report said mental health problems cost UK businesses up to £42bn a year in lost productivity, and could see 300,000 people with long-term conditions lose their jobs. It called for departments to be held to account for the quality of support staff received – and the first tranche of updates of their work are now being published.


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In a blog post, Department of Health and Social Care director of mental health, dementia and disabilities Antonia Williams said all departments now had health and wellbeing on their agendas and were accountable for mental health support in the workplace.

“Jonathan Jones, the civil service health and wellbeing champion, and his senior steering group have been the driving force in making this happen,” she said.

“The benchmarking to track our progress is complete. The civil service will fully meet the Thriving at Work standards by April 2020.

“This will not be the end of our journey, but a continuation of a new way of working on the delivery of our mental health at work commitment.”

Williams said the Department for Transport had championed flexible working, and its open culture around mental health and inclusion has made its “Be Yourself at Work” campaign more than just a slogan on inclusion.

“People have invested in it by sharing stories, wearing something that expressed their personality and getting involved in the ‘Be Yourself’ video challenge to celebrate the power of diversity,” she said.

Williams said HM Revenue & Customs had doubled the number of mental health advocates ensuring more colleagues can speak to an MHA face to face, supported the growth of the Mental Health Network, and improved access to mental health and wellbeing support via a new Wellbeing Matters intranet hub.

“The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government received positive feedback on its new ‘Brilliant Manager’ workshop, which covers how to delegate, give and receive feedback, be an effective coach and support employees experiencing mental ill health,” she said.

“The Home Office appointed senior wellbeing and mental health champions to embed its health and wellbeing strategy, introduced wellbeing audits, and collaborated with staff networks to create a wellbeing culture.”

At the Ministry of Justice, a “health and wellbeing dashboard” has been developed to measure the impact of wellbeing interventions and understand how employees feel.

“This analysis can make employee wellbeing a more tangible strategy, as its influence on employee relations and performance becomes easier to gauge,” Williams said.

She added that with global workforces to care for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Trade had adopted strategies that reflected the multiple locations from which staff operated.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office embraces the ‘Who We Are’ values of respect, expertise, resilience, creativity, courage and public service in the way they work,” she said. “It is this ‘globally consistent, locally meaningful’ approach to living the values that enables people to reap the benefits, wherever they are based.”

She added that DIT had wellbeing-confident leaders across the UK and overseas and that “conversations and personal stories, wellbeing advocates and national wellbeing campaigns’ were “beginning to tackle the stigma of mental health in the workplace”.

Williams said her own department was responsible for supporting the entire nation to live healthier and more independent lives for longer, it had to be a leading employer in mental health.

“There is improved bereavement support; new mindfulness drop-in sessions; a network of health and wellbeing advocates and a ‘This is Me’ film to help make it easier to talk about mental health,” she said.

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