Wellbeing Guardians and Healthy Workplace Allies

For the NHS to be the best place to work and to provide the best care we can to patients, we need to constantly consider the impact of organisational actions on the health and wellbeing of our NHS people – so that it becomes part of our normal operations and workplace culture.

We want all NHS organisations to have a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and, where this isn’t routine practice already, we consider the Wellbeing Guardian and Healthy Workplace Allies to be a pivotal enabler in helping to create such a culture. Below is an outline of these roles – you can find the full guides here.

Wellbeing Guardians

The Wellbeing Guardian takes an assurance role at Board level, in which they look at the organisation’s activities through a holistic health and wellbeing lens. Their purpose is to:

  • question decisions which might impact on the wellbeing of our NHS people
  • challenge behaviours which are likely to be detrimental
  • challenge the Board to account for its decisions and their impact on the health and wellbeing of our NHS people.
  • remind the board to consider any unintended consequences of organisational actions and review them with a view to mitigating these.

The role is considered best suited to a Non-Executive Director who does not need to have specialist knowledge about wellbeing, but should be confident and competent in their ability to check and challenge the executive team on behalf of the board.

Operating in an inclusive manner, the Wellbeing Guardian will actively encourage a dispersed model of wellbeing leadership which engages ownership and advocacy across the organisation, valuing and building upon existing internal resource. As this becomes routine practice for the Board, the requirement for the Wellbeing Guardian to fulfil this role should reduce over time.

Healthy Workplace Allies

A Healthy Workplace Ally has a practical role in ensuring the continued safety and health and wellbeing of our colleagues. The role requires them to check in with colleagues, for example by:

  • asking how they are and having conversations about their own wellbeing
  • reminding them to take breaks, eat and drink water
  • making sure they are taking time to reflect and be aware of their physical and mental health.

The role is designed to be very flexible in order to suit the individual needs of each NHS organisation. The components that make up a typical Healthy Workplace Ally may be split between several roles to suit the team, department or organisation’s needs. If the responsibilities are already being carried out in other roles, the Healthy Workplace Ally may be introduced to support these.

We would hope that Healthy Workplace Allies can be identified from a diverse range of colleagues, including diversity of profession and seniority. The latter may be particularly important when carrying out some of the components that may require more weight behind them e.g. insisting staff take regular breaks. We trust that the right decision will be made with regards to this by the health and wellbeing leads implementing the role.

Having Healthy Workplace Allies in place to support colleagues should become part of the ‘business as usual’ informal support structure for everyone within a team or working unit in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of health and wellbeing within our teams.