Becoming a leader in workplace wellbeing

Learnings and advice from the People team at Simplyhealth

How we're 'All Together Healthier' at Simplyhealth

At Simplyhealth, we're proud to be strong advocates of workplace wellbeing, building a workforce that's proactively engaged and encouraged to focus on their everyday health. We call it 'All Together Healthier', and it's a value we live by. Operating in the health industry has given us an advantage when delivering on that message, with access to services, tools and expert knowledge, but the results speak for themselves:

  • 90% of our employees agree that the 'All Together Healthier' campaign positively impacts their wellbeing
  • 83% agree that their manager cares about their mental wellbeing
  • 77% agree their wellbeing has improved due to the balance of hybrid working
  • 76% agree that 'All Together Healthier' boosts their confidence to make positive habit changes

We believe every company can have and promote a value like 'All Together Healthier', which is why we've created this article to share our recommendations. Read on to discover how you can become a leader in workplace wellbeing.

Data source: 2023 Simplyhealth All Together Healthier survey - 627 colleagues responded

Why does wellbeing matter at work?

Healthcare in England is facing considerable pressures at present. Whether that's down to access or cost, there are struggles across the board, and your employees won't be immune. The effects on their wellbeing will be felt daily, including when they come to work. 

Accessing healthcare in the UK isn't easy

Over 7.6 million people in the UK are on NHS waiting lists1

A third of NHS patients are struggling to get an appointment with a GP2

1 in 8 people in the UK are going private to get the care they need, with 1 in 4 considering going private but avoiding it because of costs or other reasons3

And that's impacting both employees and their employers

2.5 million people in the UK are off work due to long-term sickness4

Levels of absence because of sickness are at the highest in a decade, at 7.8 days per employee per year5

£1,131 could be saved annually per employee through improved productivity and reduced absenteeism by having early access to mental health and musculoskeletal care6

Many employers are bridging the healthcare gap by offering support to their teams, helping provide access and encouraging a proactive approach to health and wellbeing. This doesn't just help keep employees healthier; it also boosts their engagement and productivity.

What can you do to become a leader in workplace health and wellbeing? 

A woman wearing a hijab, speaking into a microphone to audience

Create a culture of wellbeing and leading by example

Encouraging your employees to take care of their wellbeing starts with the culture within the company.

For most people, health and wellbeing is only a focus if something goes wrong, but by providing health benefits and adopting wellbeing philosophies within the workplace, you're putting the topic front and centre.

At Simplyhealth, not only do we offer our health plans to all staff, we actively promote wellbeing values through several initiatives.

How we've placed wellbeing at the heart of what we do at Simplyhealth

Colleague panels

Life experiences and stories are shared to help others open up and learn from each other, building a culture of psychological safety

Core values

Placing 'All Together Healthier' as a core value, focussing on wellbeing and achieving this through colleague challenges hosted on our internal social channel, like 30-minute movement and cooking challenges

External support

Providing access to external support, including offering the Joe Wicks and financial wellbeing apps to all colleagues

Wellbeing webinars

Hosting monthly wellbeing webinars with industry experts on a variety of topics, catering for the needs of a diverse workforce

Colleague groups

Creating specific colleague groups to encourage inclusion and open discussion on important topics like Menopause, Neurodiversity and more

Feedback surveys

An annual colleague survey helps us better understand the effectiveness of our efforts and improve our initiatives year-on-year

Organising these initiatives is only the first step. For us at Simplyhealth, getting employees interested and participating is achieved through leading by example and having a People team that drives engagement. We pride ourselves on having an active Senior Leadership Team that's vocal about their efforts, with that enthusiasm filtering down through the company.

How leaders play a pivotal role in wellbeing strategies

Our Chief People Officer, Angela Sherwood, has shared why having engaged leaders is integral to the success of an internal wellbeing strategy:

Why is leading by example beneficial when deploying a health and wellbeing strategy?

Leadership role modelling is pivotal when deploying your health and wellbeing strategy. If leaders don’t take time out for their own self-care, it’s unlikely they will develop the personal resilience or have the energy needed to effectively lead their teams. When colleagues see and experience leaders proactively looking after their own health and wellbeing and sharing their stories and experiences it encourages others to do the same. Leadership role modelling in this area means colleagues are far more likely to take the health and wellbeing strategy seriously, which ultimately is what we’re trying to achieve.

How do Simplyhealth senior leaders showcase leading by example?

Simplyhealth leaders have a toolkit to help them lead by example which includes Mental Health First Aiders assigned to their function, signposting colleagues to our EAP, respecting our Meeting Free Wednesday afternoons for all colleagues and conducting wellbeing check-ins as part of one-to-one’s with their team. 

We also encourage leaders to have walk and talk one-to-one's and have recently introduced the Joe Wicks app for all colleagues to help them achieve their health and wellbeing goals. Leaders also encourage their teams to complete our annual Health & Wellbeing survey, which gives us insightful data on the wellbeing of our employees.

Colleagues tell us they really enjoy some of our leader panel sessions where leaders openly show their vulnerability by sharing their personal stories. We’ve been told these are inspirational, informative and relatable. We also use our Facebook group for charity-focused health and wellbeing challenges, and it’s great to see leaders sharing their stories – whether that’s a 5k run or a long dog walk out in the sunshine.

What tips or advice do you have on how to implement it or get buy-in across our senior leadership positions?

Data, both internal and external benchmarking, is key to getting buy-in to a health and wellbeing strategy. We ran a Health and Wellbeing survey, which reinforced the wellbeing areas our colleagues were most interested in addressing. We then aligned our strategy to address these needs. It also gave us data on emerging topics such as presenteeism. 

In terms of implementation, a clear plan is needed to ensure every pillar of wellbeing is reinforced and addressed from physical, mental, financial, social and spiritual. One of our biggest wins was the introduction of our 'All Together Healthier' value, as one of our three core values, which means health and wellbeing is part of our everyday and the way we do things around here, not just the next initiative. For us, this is about living our brand inside and out and everyone in the senior team has a responsibility to deliver on this.

Man wearing headset at a computer and smiling

Provide a supportive ear with EAP and mental wellbeing resources

Employees don't need to struggle in silence when it comes to their mental health.

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) provide a space to talk openly, share freely and actively prioritise wellbeing with access to mental health tools and support.

Topics can range from health concerns to financial worries to legal guidance, and counselling sessions are also offered in some cases. It's an impartial, confidential support tool that can enhance employees' happiness and boost productivity and retention. 

As well as an EAP, there are a number of other things your company can do to improve the culture around mental health:

  • Ensure the workday isn't encouraging overwork 
  • Create an open culture with space for talking freely
  • Give people confidence in their capability and capacity 
  • Increase transparency and accountability with internal and external reporting
  • Have internal Mental Health First Aiders available to provide confidential support and spot early signs of poor mental health  

Why you should offer a Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) programme

At Simplyhealth, we have a team of MHFAs available when anyone needs support. We asked Sian Evans, our Head of Leadership and Development, why MHFAs are so essential for us as a business and how you can set the programme up at your company:

Why do we have Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) at Simplyhealth?

With our 'All Together Healthier' value, we take every aspect of colleague wellbeing seriously. Over recent years, the stigma around mental ill health has been slowly lifting, and mental wellbeing is getting more focus, accelerated by COVID and SMART working.

We have MHFAs assigned to every function because we think it’s important that colleagues know they have someone they can talk to who will listen without judgment if they are struggling and need emotional support. This is a key role for us as we are an organisation going through a lot of change, which can impact levels of personal resilience and, therefore, wellbeing.

What can MHFAs help with?

MHFAs are trained to listen without judgement and be present, and they signpost those in need to the most appropriate support. The type of things an MHFA helps with are initially being the first point of contact for anyone experiencing emotional distress, such as stress, anxiety or depression. They will signpost colleagues to bereavement support, EAP support, and apps and resources covering a variety of topics.

Our MHFAs are a community of support to each other too, meeting regularly to refresh their qualifications and learn from each other. 

How did we set up our MHFA initiative, and how can other companies do the same?

We initially advertised the opportunity for colleagues to put themselves forward to be an MHFA through our internal channels. We were inundated with requests and trained around 40 employees initially. Colleagues then attended a 2-day Mental Health First Aid England training programme to be accredited as an MHFA.  We then aligned an MHFA to every function, and they ran sessions within their functions, sharing why they wanted to be an MHFA, what the role covered and how people could get in touch with an MHFA. 

They attend refresher training regularly and meet quarterly to share their experiences. Some of the group have gone on to volunteer at the Samaritans and Listening Place to further give back to society and a few have attended a Suicide Awareness programme this year to continue to grow their skills. It is usual for those who put themselves forward to be an MHFA to have a backstory themselves and a desire to give back to others, which means they are usually passionate and committed to the role.

Woman using her smartphone whilst sitting at a desk

Offer easy access to services like a virtual GP 

Access to digital health services like a virtual GP allows your employees to speak to registered practitioners when they need to, either through an app or a website.

With the virtual GP service we offer through our Simplyhealth health plans, our employees can book appointments at times that work for them and get advice, peace of mind, and private prescriptions if necessary without sitting in a waiting room or having to go into the practice. This helps lift the weight from their shoulders, and their worries around both health concerns and getting an appointment in the first place are alleviated.

How a virtual GP can work for your employees

  • Cut out the morning queue to speak to a receptionist 
  • 24/7 appointments so employees can be seen around their schedule 
  • Gives quick access to specialist treatment and referrals
  • Reduces sick days and time spent travelling to the doctor's surgery
  • Stops the spread of infectious illnesses by getting a diagnosis sooner
  • Employees can get private prescriptions and pick them up from their local pharmacy - Repeat prescriptions are not included in the Simplyhealth virtual GP offering
  • Some employees may feel guilty taking time out of the day or put off visiting a GP because it's a hassle getting an appointment - a virtual GP increases anonymity and provides quick access.

24/7 GP access

Learn more about our 24/7 GP service, available as part of our health plans

Woman wearing headphones and waving at laptop during video call

Encourage talking and signposting to resources within teams

Providing the opportunity to have comfortable conversations in safe spaces is an excellent way to promote a positive wellbeing culture.

Line managers should be encouraged to promote openness through one-to-ones and regular check-ins - A simple 'Are you okay?' or light touch check-in with an employee can go a long way. Managers can also use those opportunities to signpost to available resources like guides, apps, webinars, and the MHFAs.

As well as having those conversations, modelling good behaviours is a technique that can influence employees. It's important to set a precedent by: 

  • Setting boundaries at work
  • Keeping up self-care
  • Checking out when on holidays
  • Logging off on time at the end of the day
  • Making use of health benefits

It's time to make wellbeing part of your purpose

For us at Simplyhealth, being a leader in workplace wellbeing starts by placing our employees' health and wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, integrating it into our purpose. Developing initiatives and following up on them, as well as encouraging engagement through our leaders, helps create buy-in across the business, and that's evidenced through our internal survey results. 

Your company can become a leader in workplace wellbeing by:

  • Creating a culture of wellbeing, integrating it into your internal strategy and having your leaders lead by example
  • Providing a supportive and confidential ear through EAP services and mental wellbeing resources
  • Offering and encouraging the use of services that provide easy and quick access to healthcare
  • Promoting honest and open conversations through one-to-ones and regular check-ins, as well as providing easy access to resources

If you want to learn more about our workplace wellbeing initiatives or their effect on our employees, contact your account manager today. 

Client success story

The Maria Mallaband Care Group (MMCG)

Maria Mallaband Countrywide logo

Discover how one of our clients, Maria Mallaband Care Group, became a leader in workplace wellbeing, improving colleague engagement, retention and talent attraction through initiatives led by their leadership team.

We are truly committed to placing colleague wellbeing at the heart of everything we do, and striving to make Maria Mallaband Care Group (MMCG) a great place to work.

Farouk Mangera, HR Operations Director of MMCG