Leadership Academy

Wellbeing Conversations – case studies

Wellbeing Conversations – case studies

Rolling out wellbeing conversations across the NHS

Here we present three case studies that share examples of organisations who have rolled out wellbeing conversations across their patch and what the challenges and benefits were. 

Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent CCGs

What was the aim?

In order to support the health and wellbeing of their NHS people, and in-line with the intentions outlined in the NHS People Plan and People Promise, Staffordshire and Stoke -On-Trent CCGs explored how to use wellbeing conversations to support colleagues to work from home in a safe and ergonomically suitable environment, where necessary reasonable adjustments had been made.

What was the solution?

At the start of the pandemic and when staff were being encouraged to work from home where possible, Staffordshire and Stoke -On-Trent CCGs encouraged all line managers to have wellbeing conversations with their staff, to explore what new approaches would need to be considered to support staff to be well when working from home.  

Using wellbeing conversations to explore how the organisation can support staff to be well at work encouraged solutions to come from within the organisation and encouraged a people centric approach, where line managers had a greater understanding of the needs of their colleagues.  In turn this created a shift in the organisational culture, in which staff health and wellbeing was considered a priority. 

What were the results?

Staff wellbeing conversations were also implemented in team meetings, and colleagues were encouraged, where comfortable, to raise concerns or issues.   Colleagues felt that this approach would enable them to informally resolve issues in a collaborative manner, rather than needing to formally report concerns. 

Additional weekly interventions were developed, including a wellbeing Wednesday communications and monthly virtual development days. Staff engagement and wellbeing conversation check in questions were devised to share with managers to support them having conversations with colleagues, and several videos on the new ways of working were produced by staff, including videos on topics such as how to look after your health and wellbeing, flexible working and the role of wellbeing guardian.  

All this ongoing work to support the health and wellbeing of staff has led to a new level of openness and inclusive working across the CCGs, and whilst it cannot be directly attributed to the change in culture, it has been noted that sickness absence and leaver rates have reduced since the launch of this support.    

Sickness absence rate3.2%*1.77%1.02%0.27%0.18%
Calendar days lost to sickness2651331013824
Leavers in a month (FTE)4.933.04.491.01.0
Turnover rate1.97%*1.22%*1.98%*0.4%0.4%
% days lost attributable to long-term episode62.26%69.92%68.32%78.95%12.5%
How sickness absence and leaver rates have reduced since the launch of this support. Cells marked * are “red”.§

What are the next steps?

All CCGs have agreed that these new ways of working will continue to be rolled out through ongoing wellbeing conversations, where line managers explore the needs of their staff going forward.  A consultation to change the language around “office based working” in contracts to “home based working” has taken place and an agreement has been reached so that working from home will now be the norm for the majority of staff.

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Northern Care Alliance NHS Group

What was the aim?

In order to support the health and wellbeing of our NHS people during the Covid-19 pandemic and in-line with the intentions outlined in the NHS People Plan and People Promise, the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group (NCA) has been exploring various inclusive and compassionate ways to empower our staff to confidently discuss how they are feeling, through information conversations with their colleagues or during a confidential, wellbeing conversation with their line manager.

What was the solution?

A task and finish group was set up to design and develop a wellbeing conversation and compassionate toolkit that aims to help support colleagues and their line managers to have more meaningful conversations about health and wellbeing.

The toolkit uses coaching techniques and tools that have been specially designed to help guide conversations and tips to encourage line managers to actively listen to responses.

The approach, supported by Health Education England and NHS England and NHS Improvement, encourages strength based conversations and health coaching to be considered as key interventions to equip staff with additional skills, techniques and the mind-set to support and empower people toward their own wellbeing goals.

Alongside the development of the toolkit, our organisation implemented an open-door policy that aims to encourage open and honest conversation about health and wellbeing, offering staff an opportunity to speak to someone, in confidence, at any time.   

What were the results?

Since the launch of the wellbeing conversation and compassionate toolkit, staff members have anecdotally shared positive stories about their line managers using the toolkit to support them during a wellbeing conversation. 

One example of this is from a staff member who approached her line manager asking to speak in confidence about her health and wellbeing.  This staff member had identified that she needed additional support with her mental health, due to various stressors in her home life affecting her work.  Her line manager felt equipped and able to reflect on the skills and tools identified in the toolkit, and used these techniques to hold a wellbeing conversation with her colleague, where they talked, in a confidential space, and explored the current situation and considered support options that could be accessed.  Since this initial wellbeing conversation, the staff member has felt supported at work and has been able to access further support and make changes to her life that have improved her health and wellbeing.  She is continuing to have regular check-ins with her line manager and has since used the personal wellbeing plan to develop her own, personal wellbeing plan.    

What were the learning points?

Buy in from senior leaders is key to the implementation of any initiative within an organisation.  Our Chief Executive and Executive Peoples Group have been involved in the development of our resources and have fully supported implementation throughout.

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Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust

What was the aim?

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust reviewed their NHS Staff Survey results, where it was indicated that there were some inconsistencies to how line managers approached appraisals, and whether supportive and meaningful wellbeing conversations were taking place.

As a result, the Trust co-designed and developed a conversation workbook which would sit alongside and complement their current system, with the aim of ensuring meaningful wellbeing conversations took place during staff appraisals.

A soft launch of the workbook began in April 2019, reminding colleagues and line managers that meaningful health and wellbeing conversations should be taking place and were aligned to the organisation’s compassionate values.

What was the solution?

Using staff feedback to shape the design, a conversation workbook was drafted and developed to sit alongside the current appraisals system, with the aim of ensuring meaningful wellbeing conversations took place during staff appraisals. 

What were the results?

After launching the workbook, staff were invited to share examples of what they think worked well, and where there were areas for development.  Some suggestions included:

“The workbook itself provided a good structure and framework to help guide the conversation with useful prompts and questions and easy to read. It also allowed for preparation time and how to organise these thoughts and ideas. Afterwards, it also helped guide reflection on the subject raised.”

“In regards to the actual conversations, it was agreed that the structure also helped prompt two way conversations to flow and staff stated that the conversation felt person centred, they felt valued and supported.”

“On reflection, meaningful goals and objectives were clearly visible thus helping staff understand their place within our organisation.  This also provided a clear structure for further check-ins and conversations.”

Suggested areas for development included shortening the workbook and offering an electronic version.  One final key reflection was a request to ensure colleagues are offered dedicated, protected time to have wellbeing conversations and appraisals. 

Staff were also invited to share any final free-text reflections:

“The workbook helped in focussing conversations on my health and wellbeing and ensure that I have a wellbeing goal. It helped me to reflect on the contribution I am making to the care of our patients. It focussed my thoughts on the Trust values and the behaviours that I demonstrate and where there may be room for improvement”.

“This was a completely different experience to the PDR. I felt me as a person was the central point and that I was valued as a staff member for my contributions without added expectations”.    

What were the learning points?

The Trust outlined five top tips for any organisations wishing to follow a similar process and introduce a wellbeing conversation workbook.

  1. Senior leadership support – it is essential that leaders are supportive, cited on the work and are briefed on how the work aligns to strategic objectives and Trust values.
  2. Engage and co-design – consider the use of creative staff engagement workshops to develop and design together.
  3. Establish a staff led group – identify key people and passionate advocates to support the work.
  4. Communication is key – secure support from the Communication Team, be prepared to cascade, brief and promote at all levels.
  5. Review the work – build in reflection, audit and review to ensure the desire outcomes are being achieved.

What are the next steps?

The Trust have now set up an “Appraisal Task and Finish Group” to support the delivery of an internal staff survey to seek feedback from colleagues on their appraisal experiences.  All staff will be encouraged to complete the survey once a year (following their annual review and compliance recording).  Data from this internal survey will be downloaded locally and used to facilitate reporting and progress updates. 

The Trust is committed to improving employee experience and the quality of appraisals, understanding the links there are to performance, wellbeing, and continuing development. All of this is vital as our organisation seeks to develop a more compassionate and inclusive culture and continuously improve our services.

Download this case study (PDF)

Want to know more?

If you have examples of best practice or wish to contribute your case study to the development of this national work, please email us at [email protected]  

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© NHS England and NHS Improvement 2020