Hello PPMA members and friends

Last year employee wellbeing was high on everyone’s agenda and our blog post this week has been written by Natalie MorrisonWellbeing Specialist and Victoria Lee, Assistant Director of HR and Organisational Development, at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, who’ve been doing some fantastic work across the Council to support their staff. Below they share their journey with us.

At Sandwell we, like many councils, have provided our colleagues with a wealth of wellbeing support and have for many years led the way in flexible working. The Covid years saw society as a whole have a greater appreciation for the importance of wellbeing and, in turn, have greater expectations of their employers when it comes to their work.

We knew we had some great work from various departments across the council all playing a part in our wellbeing agenda but we recognised in 2022 that we needed a more joined-up approach to ensure our work was coordinated to benefit all of our 4,000 members of staff. Sandwell Council therefore invested in a dedicated wellbeing resource which made 2023 a year that truly put staff wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. Launching our physical wellbeing space was the first step and had a positive take up so further physical hubs have been created demonstrating that physical interaction is key especially with our return to the workplace.

Whilst we had wellbeing champions in the organisation, they were made up of predominantly desk-based employees from a small section of the organisation. 2023 saw the engagement in our champions increase immensely. Dedicated work to inform our colleagues of our wellbeing agenda and promote the support available to them has increased awareness and champion numbers have not only increased by 70%, but there is now representation from front line, ‘hard to reach’ staff from across the breadth of the council. This engaged, diverse group of volunteers is crucial in ensuring our wellbeing strategy is employee-led and is lived and breathed by all our colleagues. Increased inclusivity and employee engagement were also achieved at our first ever dedicated men’s health event.  We know from research around suicide rates, physical health prevention and mental health, that it is difficult to get men to participate in wellbeing initiatives yet this event saw our male colleagues not only attend in high numbers but also gain awareness, support and recognition.

Sandwell Council was one of the first organisations to have a menstruation and menopause policy in place to support staff. As we all know having something in place is very different to it being ‘lived’. Strides in our work with our Menstruation to Menopause Champions and dedicated menopause events have resulted in demonstratable increased awareness and evidence of reduction in isolation and increased retention of key talent within the council. Working in large, multi-faceted organisations, creating a cohesive narrative can be difficult but when our whole organisation is talking about the menopause; we know that our goal here was achieved.

Like all local authorities, we are working in a time of extremely tight public purses which means we are not at liberty to purchase the latest market-leading wellbeing solution but what we do know at Sandwell Council is that when we get the basics of employee voice, inclusivity, involvement and one team ethos right then we can achieve a lot.

Victoria Lee, Assistant Director HR and OD

Natalie MorrisonWellbeing Specialist