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Developing a Staff Wellbeing Policy

22 Aug 2019

Staff wellbeing is an increasingly relevant and necessary consideration in the modern workplace.

Wellbeing at its simplest level is about personal happiness in the workplace - feeling good and living safely and healthily. In this respect wellbeing is a hugely significant aspect of people’s work and careers.

It is also important to remember that companies have certain legal responsibilities to their workers and the following legislation must be complied with:

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Employment Rights Act 1996
Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Working Time Regulations 1998
Equality Act 2010

Companies should develop wellbeing policies that fit their particular work environment. There is no one size fits all. This factsheet includes a list of factors to consider but these will vary in importance from company to company.

It is important to consult staff to see what their needs are as the staff wellbeing policy may need to be adapted as new information becomes available.

How can the IoD help?

IoD members can contact the Business Information Service to request a template Stress at Work policy or Health & Safety policy (please note this will count as an enquiry against your annual allocation):

Request template policies

We have also developed an IoD Mental Health hub which provides information and articles on this topic, alongside the IoD’s report A little more conversation.

For questions on employment law and obligations to employees, tailored to a member’s particular circumstances, contact the IoD’s free Legal Helpline or book an appointment with the Directors Advisory Service.

In addition, the following guidance explores the various issues you should consider when developing your staff health and wellbeing policy.

Key considerations in your policy

Promote Health and Safety

This is the most important issue not just for the company’s employees but for contractors, consultants, volunteers, interns and casual workers. In other words this applies to anyone who enters your working area or uses your equipment.

Consideration must be given to the following:

  • Continuous assessment of Workplace Risk by consultation with Trade Unions and/or Staff Committees
  • Training in Accident Prevention 
  • Development of Accident Prevention Procedures
  • Maintenance of a safe working environment
  • Emergency Procedures for Fire and major incidents
  • Enforcement of a ‘No Smoking’ Policy

Staff should be selected to monitor and supervise the above. Their contact details should be communicated to all staff. 

Reduce Stress in the Workplace

This is being increasingly recognised as a potential problem leading to lower productivity, poor staff morale and increased staff turnover. Stress occurs where people have an adverse reaction to excessive pressures placed on them. This can result in accidents if safety procedures are not followed due to unrealistic performance deadlines. 

To reduce workplace stress it is advisable to do the following:

  • Promote a culture of open communication
  • Ensure that staff have the right training to perform their work.
  • Train staff to recognise the symptoms of stress
  • Ensure staff are free from any form of harassment or inappropriate behaviour 
  • Monitor staff workloads
  • Set up Confidential helplines, stress and lifestyle advice clinics if practical.

Ensure you have adequate Training and Development programs

Training and development opportunities add value to both the workplace and the individual. This may be observable directly through increased performance, sales and/or improved customer care.

Training also demonstrates to the member of staff that they are valued and worth investing in for the future.

Induction Training (for new starters), also offers excellent opportunity to establish expectations and awareness among staff about stress and wellbeing, and to explain relevant organisational policies.

Achieve good Pay and Remuneration, Working Hours and Conditions of Employment 

People working overtime should be compensated fairly with either overtime payments or be given time off in lieu. When employees are expected to work longer hours with no reward, this can lead to increased stress, lower performance and staff fostering resentment towards the organisation. Over a period of time, this can lead to talented and experienced staff leaving an organisation.

Rewarding long hours or extreme efforts is however no safeguard against risks of stress and damage to wellbeing. Stress levels which are which are ultimately unsustainable, can lead to very serious problems such depression or 'burnout'.

Consideration should be made of the Psychological Contract which refers to the actual but unwritten expectations of an employee or workforce towards the employer, discussed in this CIPD factsheet (register for access). The Psychological Contract represents, in a basic sense, the obligations, rights, rewards, etc., that an employee believes he/she is 'owed' by his/her employer, in return for the employee's work and loyalty.

Create a Positive Work Culture

A positive work culture is one with clear vision and purpose where staff are aware of their individual contribution. This enables staff to be engaged with the success of the company. 

Offer Confidential Counselling where necessary

Counselling can be offered to employees when there are particular issues arising in the workplace that might initiate stress. Counselling can be particularly useful for those who have reported conflict situations within their job due to manager/colleague relationships, also for those who may be under threat of redundancy or who are not coping well with changes in the work environment. However, Counselling can also be offered for all employees as an additional benefit.

Consider setting up Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) which can include financial and legal services and can extend to support for family members. Many firms specialise in providing EAPs. Such providers tend to be used by larger organizations. EAPs can be an efficient way of supporting staff in all aspects of their work/life. The inclusion of family members within schemes is naturally an additional benefit. 

Further considerations for your business

Recruit the right people

Hire people who fit the job role as precisely as possible; ideally they should share the culture and vision of the company.

Revisit your recruitment and interviewing methods. Ask yourself whether you are doing enough to protect people's wellbeing at the very beginning of their relationship with the organisation, by ensuring we get the right people in the right roles?

For those already employed in the business, ensure that their job is suitable for them. People may change. Job Roles certainly change over time.

Where employees are struggling to work happily and effectively, discover the reasons for the discord and develop remedies, whether addressed through additional training, or perhaps a move into a more suitable role within organisation.

If opportunities exist for moving people into more suitable roles, especially good quality staff, the benefits for both the organisation and the individual may be remarkably positive.

Improve Communication between Management and Staff

Aim for good communication between all levels of the organisation, between departments, managers and staff, and between individual colleagues. This fosters a culture of trust and cooperation, which results in less conflict and more efficient working.

Good communications encourage a positive work culture, which helps to promote wellbeing.

Try to achieve a Work/life balance for your Staff

Encourage staff to take time off after working long periods of overtime to give them chance to rebalance and maintain a healthy home life.

Offering job share, part time working, flexi-time and weekend working can also be highly beneficial for wellbeing, particularly for those with a long commute, onerous family commitments, young children or elderly relatives.

Time in lieu or overtime payments for additional work allows staff to be suitably rewarded for their efforts, which improves self-esteem and feelings of personal value, and encourages commitment and job loyalty.

Manage Job Security and Organisational Change

Job security, especially the feeling that the job itself may be at risk, is a significant source of stress for employees and tends to impact far beyond job performance to the home and their family lives. Where possible reassure staff and in the case of potential redundancies, visibility and good communication are essential. Keep staff informed of developments wherever possible and consider specialist support packages or services for those involved in redundancy.

Transparency and honesty are vital especially if news is bad. People need care and reassurance, but they also need openness and clarity from leaders and managers, so as to plan and prepare mentally and practically for personal and sometimes very difficult change.

Staff Appraisals are also closely related to job security and the feelings arising from employment continuity concerns.

Exit Interviews are particularly useful in discovering hidden sources of stress and discontent.

Have a flat simple Organisational Management Structure

Flat simple management structures enable better management of staff wellbeing and stress prevention/reduction. However, striving for a flat simple management structure must be balanced against other needs of the business/organisation (strategy, international operations, for example) which typically act in an opposite way, i.e., increasing the depth and complexity in management structure.

Where an organisation has lots of management layers, and/or complex reporting structures, this can create unhelpful separation between leadership/management and staff, and gaps where responsibility for managing stress and wellbeing can get lost.

People like to be involved in decisions which affect us, our work environment and future. Keeping management layers and reporting complexities tight and minimal enables better management and communication of stress and wellbeing issues.

Develop Mind/body therapies and Stress Reduction/prevention activities

Consult staff to discover what your staff would enjoy and find helpful.

Bringing helpful mind/body activities and therapeutic experiences into work can dramatically improve people's mood and feelings about themselves, each other, and also about their work and the perceived quality of the employer. Yoga and Meditation are the most common activities for stress prevention. 

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