Welsh Government civil servants sing praises of new ‘wellbeing hour’
Staff welcome weekly window for healthy activities agreed in deal with civil service unions
Civil servants working for the Welsh Government have given a resounding thumbs-up to a new “health and wellbeing hour” introduced following negotiations with the sector’s main unions.
Under the deal struck with PCS, Prospect and the FDA last year, full time staff get to use 60 minutes of their working week – separate from regular break times – for pursuits dedicated to maintaining or improving their health.
A just published update on the programme, which allows staff to take all of the hour in on go or break it down in any way they choose, found people report using the time to do weekly walks with colleagues, take part in mindfulness sessions, go to the gym or play squash. Time can also be tacked onto designated lunch breaks, used to start work late or to finish early.
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Welsh Government perm sec Dame Shan Morgan said the policy showed the public sector was leading by example against the backdrop Wales-only initiatives such as the Well-Being of Future Generations Act and the Welsh Prosperity for All strategy, which seeks to grow the economy inclusively, spread opportunity and also promote well-being.
“I see our new wellbeing hour as an innovative way of putting strategy into practice in a very practical way that I hope everyone will benefit from,” she said.
Robin Bradfield, Prospect’s Welsh Government branch secretary, said the wellbeing hour demonstrated the administration’s “commitment to the physical and mental health and wellbeing of our members and staff generally”.
Prospect asked members to report how they used their wellbeing time.
“I spent my hour today with colleagues in a lunchtime group walking through a shady wood on the outskirts of Aberystwyth admiring wild flowers in bloom – wood anemones, wood sorrel, celandine and a few early bluebells,” said one. “It left me feeling calm, refreshed and ready to face the afternoon’s work.” They added that they alternated taking part in the group walk with pilates sessions on some weeks.
Another said they split the wellbeing hour into two and combined it with lunch breaks to do two 5 km runs each week. “This helps me to keep fit, gets me outdoors into the park, and actually allows me to get away from the desk and rethink things, which helps to keep focus on work priorities,” they said. “So to my mind it is a win-win for both me and the organisation.”
One staffer confessed to having initially been sceptical about the initiative before coming around to “genuinely” see the benefit. “As someone who worked through lunch more than I should have, I’ve now started to fit in walks in the park, reading in the park and trips to the museum,” they said. “Being able to take the hour in chunks is very good.”
Several other respondents also said they had found themselves making use of the wellbeing hour despite tending to work through lunch and other breaks.
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