The head of the civil service for the Scottish Government has revealed that the government has been in touch with colleagues in the Welsh Government to seek more information a “health and wellbeing hour” for staff has been implemented.
In her weekly email to Scottish Government civil servants on 21 May, Scottish Government permanent secretary Leslie Evans said she was “interested to read about the Welsh Government’s new offer of a dedicated ‘well-being hour’ each week”, as reported in Civil Service World.
Under the scheme, which was introduced under a 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.
The programme allows staff to take all of the hour in on go or break it down in any way they choose, with staff 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.
Welsh Government perm sec Dame Shan Morgan said the policy showed the public sector was leading by example through what she called “an innovative way of putting strategy into practice in a very practical way that I hope everyone will benefit from”.
Evans told colleagues that the Scottish Government had contacted Welsh Government colleagues to “find out how this is working”.
“And I have also asked the chief medical officer to consider how we can support better health and well-being within our organisation – watch this space for her advice and action,” she added.
The update on the scheme in Wales, which was published last month, highlighted how staff were able to use 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.
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”.