Author Bio ▼

Heather Beach is Founder and Managing Director of The Healthy Work Company and has been running businesses in health and safety for over 20 years. Having run Barbour, SHP and Safety and Health Expo, she is now running her own business. The Healthy Work Company provides solutions which drive the wellbeing agenda to enable thriving in the workplace at all levels. Offering more than simply training, it delivers strategic support for your wellbeing programme. "We are driving the mental health agenda towards how human beings thrive in life – often through work, not in spite of it!"Heather can be reached on [email protected].
August 1, 2023

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What problem are we trying to solve with our wellbeing strategy?

Heather Beach draws on the findings from her new book and asks why workplaces sometimes struggle to implement a workplace wellbeing strategy.

For the last few months, so much of my work with senior teams, health and safety and HR has all been around getting to grips with wellbeing strategies and everywhere I go I find a familiar pattern. When we look at whether we are winning or not, well it’s difficult to know when we hadn’t defined the goal – see how you are doing by taking this 5 minute quiz which will give you a score and give you some thoughts on what you could be missing.

What we do know is that in the UK right now, as well as other issues to do with supply of people, which risk me embroiling myself in politics, the UK risks a shrinking workforce with the number of people out of work due to long term sickness rising by half a million from 2million in 2019 to 2.5million in 2020.  Much of that is mental health-related issues.  With one in eight of us in the UK currently taking a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (prescribed for anxiety or depression) which suggests that we have issues with our mental health as a society right now.  

Workplace issues

I have just finished writing a book, “I’m a boss not a shrink”. In that I look at some of the societal reasons why this might be so, and we can’t entirely place the blame at the feet of workplaces, but if we are looking at where we have some influence then as health and safety people, our workplaces are a good place to start. So what am I finding? 

  • Firstly, there has been little definition of the problem they are trying to solve, or the opportunity they are trying to exploit with a wellbeing strategy.  So we can’t measure nor can we say if it is working or not. 
  • Secondly, wellbeing has often times been now moved entirely to HR and to a relatively junior wellbeing person. At the same time, health and safety people are waking up to the importance of human factors in health and safety and how poor wellbeing contributes to accidents (and many are looking at learning from failure, just culture, which tie ). 
  • Thirdly, the senior team just signs off the budget and doesn’t get involved in problem solving around some of the stress risks in the organisation 
  • And finally, most people are not doing an organisational stress risk assessment.  Actually, that isn’t entirely fair – many H&S teams are now trying and it’s not an easy thing to do in a meaningful way – and you need HR and senior team involvement! 

So what can we do about this? 

Firstly, of course I don’t think that wellbeing should sit entirely with health and safety.   

Occupational healthI think if you map out a jigsaw puzzle of all the things which need to sit inside it, then a lot of it does belong to HR and some might of course be given to a more junior wellbeing person.  But don’t make that person head of wellbeing unless they are genuinely going to have access to problem solving with your senior teams.  And don’t entirely shut out your health and safety team who should be involved as a minimum in: 

  • Manager and supervisor training – wellbeing impacts safety, they should be collecting wellbeing and human factors within accident investigation, spotting signs of someone struggling before they go to do dangerous work and knowing how to conduct those empathetic conversations. 
  • Stress risk assessment or ISO 45003.

If we look at what broadly sits within a wellbeing plan (HSE calls this primary, secondary and tertiary but I find that terminology can be confusing when it conflicts with healthcare so I have used slightly different words), we can divide it into three areas:

  • 3. Interventions for when people get sick or need support ( Employee Assistance Programmes, Occupational Health, physiotherapy, counsellors etc.)
  • 2. Training and health promotion.
  • 1. Stress prevention strategies.

I have deliberately put these back to front because that is the order in which organisations have been tackling this and let’s face it, buying in third-party interventions and coordinating training is on the face of it a bit less complicated than looking at the BIG number one – stress prevention strategies.   

Manager training by the way sits in one and two – and I think it will make the single biggest difference to your culture (we know that almost 70% of our wellbeing at work is down to our manager). And don’t forget your senior team! I have successfully trained huge groups of managers only to find senior team behaviour scuppers that. I do enjoy asking them questions such as, “What do you personally do which you think undermines the wellbeing of your teams right now?  I have been in their shoes. I know what I did – retrospectively!

Constant learning curve

I am conscious though that I have been banging on for years about stress prevention through stress risk assessment and what we now need to do is make this more straightforward for people. I myself am on a constant learning curve here, so I haven’t always made it simple myself. I have changed my approach quite a bit recently having run this webinar with Tim Sismey about work intensification – top stress risk!

So, I have done two things:

Firstly, partnered with Peter Kelly, formerly psychologist at HSE to run a 3-hour course on ISO45003 and stress risk assessment. It will attract a CPD certificate and will equip you to fulfil your legal requirement to do a stress risk assessment or to move forward with 45003.  This we can run for your whole team in-house or you can book yourself onto our open course on 18th October, here. 

Secondly, Tim Sismey and I have partnered on a one day conference with SHP on 29th November in London from 10am-4pm. This day will be highly practical. It will not be like our first one (2017!) where we had celebrity gurus on the stage, it will be a combination of expert advice and workshops to tackle the following: 

  • How to create a meaningful wellbeing strategy.
  • How to problem solve around stress risks.
  • How to negotiate workplace charters and workload issues – also using forum theatre so you can get a flavour of our manager training too. 

There is a cost associated with it, but again there will be a CPD certificate and what we would really like is for you to bring your wellbeing person, your HR person and anyone else who has impact on your strategy with you so we have put a hefty discount in for you to bring a friend.   

Heather Beach runs Healthy Work Company which supports organisations with wellbeing strategy and training programmes. She comes from a health and safety perspective but has substantial experience with HR too. She is author of a new book, “I’m a boss, bot a shrink: practical guide to manager wellbeing conversations” and works with organisations such as ITV, The Telegraph, Mace, Vertex, Bayer, Luton Airport. 

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.

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Nigel Evelyn-dupree
Nigel Evelyn-dupree
8 months ago

It’s what used to be called pro-social interpersonal communications or “Having a Positive Regard for Others” versus anti-social, approval deprivation of everyone else – hahah

https://www.judithcarmody.com/post/survey-on-workplace-psychological-violence-harassment-2023