Wellbeing starts with our people

Our charity’s core focus is to support people going through health and social care processes. We don’t deal with widgets or products. Our business is people. People that are going through some difficult and upsetting things.  That’s why wellbeing and a safe workplace environment is a key focus of ours.  Our team can’t help and support others if they are not well themselves.  Or are struggling at different times in their lives. So wellbeing starts with our people.

We began our wellbeing journey in 2014. We looked at ‘normalising the conversation.’  Letting our team turn up as their whole selves, however they were feeling, without fear of being judged. After all we are an advocacy charity, so being non-judgmental is central to all we do. But change, even of the good kind, is still change and things didn’t happen overnight. However, it worked, because we were fully committed to putting wellbeing at the heart of our people offer.  It was too important not to, failure was not an option. We started with little things at first, bitesize sessions on topics such as stress, ‘time to talk’ days and random acts of kindness, like an early finish workday. 

We set up a Wellbeing Team who were there to support their colleagues when needed, but also planned activities for our  team meetings.  Origami one time, a pop quiz the next.  Little steps towards a culture that cared about its people. The Wellbeing Team then developed and rolled out ‘healthy self’ toolkits for both our team and the wider community.  Because wellbeing isn’t something that should be contained or kept secret.  It should ripple beyond the walls of any organisation and benefit family, friends, communities. So that is what we did.  We went into colleges, walked around Accrington town centre with signs around our necks asking people to talk to us about how they were feeling.  And they did that in their droves. Because people want to feel something, anything.  They want to feel connected and be a part of something.  They want to be seen, heard and listened to.

Today we have a safe and positive workplace. We have people that can turn up with anxiety, depression or struggling with their menopause symptoms and know someone will listen to them. We have birthday days off, one wellbeing hour every week, fully flexible working and extra ‘life leave’ for special occasions such as weddings or moving house. We have a wellbeing room in our head office in Accrington that the team took ownership of. Our people can go in there to read, rest, relax and even have a power nap if they are feeling tired. A workfree zone just for them.  We go on regular wellbeing walks – dogs included – and we celebrate success together at team meetings or work parties.  Because we are successful.  Our charity has grown beyond its Lancashire borders into Salford, St Helens, Trafford and the wider North West.  Because wellbeing is not just the right thing to do, it reaps huge rewards when it comes to a productive, happy workforce that get their difficult job done and deliver best practice advocacy.

Wellbeing isn’t complex.  It isn’t something to overthink.  It is simply being human and allowing your people to be human too.  It helped us weather the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.  Our team, although they have their own personal challenges, are looked after and valued.  That cannot be understated.  Here’s to wellbeing and to being human first, employer second.

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