Faced with the challenge of rising mental health absence rates, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) wanted to understand how to pro-actively support the wellbeing of its workforce. Jessica Easterbrook explains what the council did. This case study forms part of the wellbeing and inclusion resource.
In 2014/15 ESCC was faced with a challenge; the requirement for further savings loomed large and a resilient, reliable and engaged workforce was pivotal to the council’s ability to respond to these savings pressures whilst continuing to provide essential services to residents, yet staff absence rates were on the rise. The primary cause for this increase in absence was stress, a common narrative that will ring true for many local authorities facing the challenge of ever reducing resources and increasing demand for services.
We recognised that we needed to rethink our wellbeing strategy; developing and implementing meaningful and measurable initiatives to decrease absence rates and improve employees’ wellbeing and resilience.
We set to work organising a ‘Wellbeing Summit’. We wanted to hear from ESCC employees; we needed meaningful engagement with our council colleagues, and for the ideas and changes to be driven by employees, ensuring the implementation of tangible and desired initiatives. To secure senior management sponsorship, the event was attended by Becky Shaw, Chief Executive of ESCC, and manager and employee representatives from all departments.
The summit provided the opportunity for staff to explore and identify effective wellbeing measures and focus on areas that would bring quick improvements in attendance and engagement at minimal cost. The day also included mindfulness taster sessions and on-site support from our employee assistance provider. Delegates added their ideas and suggestions to a Wellbeing Tree, highlighting what ESCC did well and what we needed to do differently. The predominant area of improvement identified was in relation to stress and mental health support and awareness, for both individuals and line managers.
One of the underpinning actions to come out of the Wellbeing Summit was to launch our ‘5 Weeks to Wellbeing’ campaign. The five-week campaign focused on the core ‘pillars’ of wellbeing:
- be active
- take notice
- keep learning
We successfully promoted the campaign council wide through the:
- staff intranet
- employee forums
- departmental newsletters
- our Human Resources Management Board.