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Let Healthy Living Week be the beginning of better workplace health

26th September 2016

Sarah Price, Chief Officer at NHS Haringey CCG, writes about why she wants Healthy Living Week to be the beginning of better workplace health in the NHS.

We’re really excited about Healthy Living Week in my CCG. We’ve got lots of fun activities and events planned during the week for our staff — and our hope is that we can encourage everyone to take part in at least one thing.

We’re going to be trying some standing meetings and a ‘bring and share’ healthy lunch; we’ve got local people coming in to run a yoga class and a mindfulness for stress session, and we’ve discovered some staff with hidden talents, who are going to be running knitting classes and meditation sessions.

Making your staff believe that your organisation takes their health and well-being seriously needs to led from the top.

We’ve also got every member of our senior management team leading a daily lunchtime walk — something I think is really important. Making your staff believe that your organisation takes their health and wellbeing seriously needs to led from the top and senior managers are often the worst culprits for setting good examples about taking breaks!

Build it into the routine culture of the organisation

I think Healthy Living Week is going to be great for giving workplace health a focus, but organisations need to also think about how they build it into the routine culture of the organisation. It’s something we’ve been focusing on for about 2 years now in Haringey. It started with lots of small things which really didn’t take much to organise, and now I feel that we have a really good approach to staff health and wellbeing embedded within our organisation.

We do things like promoting regular lunch time walks, yoga classes and discounts at local gyms. And we’ve spent a lot of time making sure people know that it’s OK for them to take the time to do these things, trusting them to manage their working day so they have the flexibility. We set up a cycle to work scheme and promote free cycle training. We make sure everyone knows about our employee assistance programme and the free access to counselling for anyone who needs it. We got trainers from a local gym to come in and do health checks for our staff which was taken up by almost everyone in our office — which shows people’s interest in their health is there. And once staff know you’re open to it, they start to suggest things — that’s how the lunchtime knitting club started which has proved to be extremely successful and very ‘mindful’!

A lot of our focus has been on making opportunities for people to increase their physical activity, and we’re now looking more at what we can do to support people’s mental wellbeing. One of the things we are planning is to offer staff some mental health training to help people to look after their own mental health as well as spot signs and look out for others — mental health first aid.

86% of our staff now exceed their 10,000 steps a day

For the past two years we’ve paid for staff to take part in the ‘Global Corporate Challenge’ — a 100 day team-based walking challenge, with online access to a range of support and information to support improved health and wellbeing (things like nutrition, sleep and mental wellness). We’ve just had the results back from this year’s challenge: 86% of our staff now exceed their 10,000 steps a day vs 19% when the challenge started. 78% reported feeling less stressed and 74% say they are concentrating better and feeling more productive. Those figures speak for themselves in terms of the positive impact for both individuals and organisations. And if you’re looking at staff survey results, 92% of our staff said they felt we took positive action on health and wellbeing in last year’s survey, and we’re hoping for 100% this year!

We all have a responsibility to take steps to look after our own health and the health of those around us

Everyone in the NHS is busy and we don’t need staff surveys to show us that people are feeling under stress at work. It’s so important that we do something about it — and we all have a responsibility to take steps to look after our own health and the health of those around us. Enjoy your Healthy Living Week and I hope it’s the start of lots of focus on workplace health going forward. It’s well worth it.

About the author

Sarah Price is the Chief Officer at NHS Haringey CCG and has spent the majority of her 25 year NHS career working in Public Health.

For more information about our Prevention programme contact Jemma Gilbert, Senior Lead, at jemma.gilbert2@nhs.net

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