Country HSE Manager, ABB UK and HSE Manager for ABB Motion, ABB

May 9, 2019

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Mental health in the workplace

Practitioner’s Guide: Integrating health and wellbeing into organisational culture

The prophetic words of Bob Dylan are often used but ‘the times they are changing’, particularly in the context of health and wellbeing. With health being the focus of HSE’s Health and Work strategy and the UK Government calling on greater action from employers on mental health in workplace, now is the time for organisations to pay greater emphasis to health and wellbeing, says David Day, Head of SHE, Nuvia & Dan Morphew, SHE Manager, Nuvia.

In this article, we draw upon our experience to provide our fellow Safety, Health and Environmental Practitioners with practical guidance of how they can achieve this emphasis through integrating health and wellbeing into their existing organisational culture. (Note: The assumption has been made that your organisation’s senior management are bought into this process and wish to make this change.)

Assessing the organisational culture for health and wellbeing

Before you set off attempting improve your organisational culture, you need to understand where you culture is. It is often recommended that the best way to understand your culture is to do a culture assessment. There are various ways that this can be done, but based on our experience, there are two main methods: developing your own culture assessment tool (CAT) or using a ready-made measure.

accident investigationIf you are going develop your own culture assessment tool, you need to:

  • Clearly define your terms. You need have clarity on what you are investigating in your CAT. What do you mean by ‘health and wellbeing’?
  • Research the cultural aspects that you are assessing. Focus on the key health and wellbeing culture aspects that are significant to your business. There is no point in wasting your time assessing aspects that do not apply to your organisation.
  • Develop an instrument from the cultural aspects. This can be achieved by using an existing culture framework, or simply making statements out of the cultural elements and accompanying them with a Likert Scale, which allow people to grade their perceptions.
  • Then validate the instrument with employees in your business. Ask your colleagues: Is this CAT measuring what people think about health and wellbeing? Get your employees to give you feedback on you CAT; this will lead to improved quality. The best people to give you feedback are the ones who will be completing the tool.

If this method is not for you then you could use a ready-made measure. Select a tool that suits the needs of our business. Ensure the tool matches the geographical and cross-cultural nuances of your business. Also, have a think about how you wish to present your findings and how you will be integrating these into your improvement plan. It needs to be user-friendly and simple to complete, which will increase your response rate.

What we did: We selected a tool that worked for our business and we used the Organisational Health Audit (Tri Fit Incorporated, 2005). The tool is user-friendly and simple to complete. The category headings are in-depth, covering corporate culture, policies, procedures and work processes, programmes and services, and the physical environment.The corporate culture section is very detailed, covering a range of subjects from the organisation’s corporate mission, to management support for health and wellbeing initiatives. The tool is designed to be incorporated with other human resources programmes, which means an organisation could easily integrate the findings into a corporate health strategy.On balance, due to its simplicity, breadth and potential for integration into business planning, the Organisational Health Audit offered us a great way to gain an insight into what people think about health and wellbeing.

Integrate health and wellbeing into your business planning processes

Any good health and safety policy should provide a framework for improvement, which makes it the perfect method to include health and wellbeing at an organisational level. You can do this by extending your H&S policy to include health and wellbeing as a corporate objective. This supports the setting of KPIs specific to health and wellbeing. Assess the areas for change and identify some high level KPIs that your Business Managers can contribute toward. Sit down with your colleagues, during the planning process, and help them to make sense of how they can contribute towards improving the culture of the business.

What we did: We reviewed our health and safety policy and we extended one of our strategic aims to include the elimination or reduction of health and wellbeing risks. To achieve this, we started to set corporate simple health and wellbeing key performance indicators (KPIs) several years ago. We did things like increasing the number of daily messages on health and wellbeing; we extended our processes to include health and wellbeing risks; and sent out health and wellbeing newsletters. As awareness increases, you can set more elaborate objectives.

Integrating health and wellbeing into existing risk assessment processes

Take the risk assessment processes that people use and extend them into health and wellbeing. Take the definitions of hazards and risks and ensure they include health and wellbeing phrases, for example ill health, reportable diseases, mental health etc. This will ensure that people are thinking about the health and wellbeing risks related to their work. Furthermore, as you are building on pre-existing processes, people will not have to work in a different way.

What we did: We are in a quite fortunate position as risk assessment is an inherent part of the nuclear industry, therefore, consequently our risk assessment processes are embedded into everything we do. So, it was quite easy to make a big change with little tweak. We took our standard risk assessment proforma and separated health from safety and included more health-related terminology in the guidance.Also, traditionally, industry has been primarily focused on injury prevention, often neglecting the management of health and wellbeing risks. To further integrate, we developed an online platform for producing construction phase plans, where users must think about construction-related health and wellbeing risks, which is helping to shift our risk perception away from injury prevention, instilling health and wellbeing into everything we do.

Integrate into existing communication processes

Whilst you may feel that this is the easiest to achieve, it’s probably the most important. You need to find the communication method that reaches the largest audience. However, not everyone reads every email or newsletter; try different methods. Be inventive – use all the communication methods at your disposal. Visual: screensavers, emails, messages of the day, etc.; verbal: toolbox talks, staff briefings, training sessions, inductions etc.; and written: posters, notice boards, risk assessments and notice letters. As the adage goes: “sell, sell, sell!”

What we did: We use a legion of communication methods to promote health and wellbeing, on site tool box talks, daily on screen messages, monthly team briefings, themed Senior Management Walkrounds, monthly health and wellbeing newsletters, a health and wellbeing intranet site rich with information, onsite health awareness campaigns, lunch and learns, trade union-led wellbeing programmes and on and on…Relentlessness is the key to communication of health and wellbeing issues, get the message out there, everywhere!


What we have given you here are just a few ideas – use the methods that best suit your organisation. But, hopefully, we have given you some ideas to help you make a change to your organisational culture – good luck!

Read more from David Day, here.

Related Topics

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
4 years ago

Mmmm, can’t help remembering the tongue in cheek article from a little while ago – Then there was the piece on employers not knowing what to do about DSE presenteeism and RSI’s to their vision and other MSD’s – It’s all very well as many Professionals very good at the politically correct talking the talk just not so good at walking the walk when it comes to the huge gap between professional and personal ideologies when going “beyond the standard solely physical model” of elf-an-safety and getting into the less tangible but, directly work related experience based Biopsychosocial… Read more »