Improving staff wellbeing

There are many free or cost effective solutions to improve staff well-being locally. Explore the following lifestyle areas on this page to make a difference to supporting your staff to be healthy.

Mental health 

Good mental health is the mental and emotional state in which we feel able to cope with the normal stresses of everyday life. It includes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act.

If we are feeling good about ourselves we can interact well with colleagues, work productively and make a valued contribution to our team or workplace.

Mental health is an integral part of how we feel about our jobs, how well we perform and how well we interact with colleagues, customers and clients. With 1 in 4 employees currently experiencing mental health problems, mental health is an essential business concern. There is a strong relationship between levels of staff wellbeing, motivation and performance.

Mental ill-health can range from common disorders (including anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder).

The effect on your business

worklife balance

Mental ill health is one of the biggest causes of sickness absence and health-related productivity losses in UK organisations. Mental ill health represents almost a quarter of all ill health in the UK and is the largest single cause of disability.

Mental health issues are important in the workplace because:

  • They are extremely common
  • One in four adults will experience mental ill-health each year, and there are very likely to be people living with a mental health problem already working within your organisation. Fear of stigma and discrimination means that conditions are not always disclosed.
  • They cost workplaces a lot of money

The cost to the economy in England of poor mental health is estimated to be £105 billion annually with treatment costs expected to double in the next 20 years (Department of Health, 2011).

The reality is that mental ill health costs business the equivalent of £1000 per year, per employee.

Promoting good mental health can boost productivity and lower sickness absence, improving the workplace culture. The majority of people living with a mental health condition are able to work productively.

All employers have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of their employees. This ‘duty of care’ includes responsibility for minimising the risk of stress-related illness or injury to employees. Mental illness can be classed as a disability and covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Stress can cause many workplace problems, including:

  • Increased sickness absence
  • A reduction in productivity
  • High staff turnover
  • Poor workplace relations.

Organisations that are proactive about Mental Health can benefit from:

  • Attracting the best talent
  • More engaged and motivated staff
  • Retaining staff -less turnover
  • Reduction in absence
  • Improved professional reputation
  • (BITC 2016)

Here are a number of things you can do to help maintain the mental health of your employees: (and put the link to the leaflet here)

  1. Promote the 5 Ways to Wellbeing amongst staff 
  2. Produce, implement and communicate a mental health at work plan that promotes good mental health of all employees and outlines the support available for those who may need it.
  3. Develop mental health awareness among employees by making information about local services, tools and support accessible.  
  4. Encourage open conversations about mental health and the support available when employees are struggling, during the recruitment process and at regular intervals throughout employment, offer appropriate workplace adjustments to employees who require them.
  5. Provide employees with good working conditions and ensure they have a healthy work life balance and opportunities for development.
  6. Promote effective people management to ensure all employees have a regular conversation about their health and well-being with their line manager, supervisor or organisational leader and train and support line managers and supervisors in effective management practices.
  7. Routinely monitor employee mental health and wellbeing by understanding available data, talking to employees, and understanding risk factors.

Maintaining good mental health is also assisted by many factors, including having clear job roles, responsive line managers, a healthy approach to diet and exercise, and many other factors. Learning about mental health can enable managers to support and reduce mental health problems in employees.

There are a number of things you can do to help maintain the mental health of your employees:

Create a Positive Culture

Promote 5 Ways to Wellbeing in your workplace

A review of the most up-to-date evidence suggests that building the following five actions into our day-to-day lives is important for well-being-: Connect, Give, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning

5ways main logo2

Evidence suggests there are five steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. If you give them a try, you may feel happier, more positive and able to get the most from life. Further information can be found here. 

For more detailed information on:

Tackling Stigma - Time to Change is England’s biggest programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems works with organisations, engaging them on this issue and generating tools and resources for them. Over 260 organisations have made a public commitment to tackle mental health stigma by signing the pledge, including BAE Systems, British Gas, BT, Channel 4, E-ON, Lloyds TSB, and PepsiCo.

Mental health toolkit for employers - produced in May 2016 by Forster Communications for Business in the Community in association with PHE this toolkit has been designed for employers and provides a wide range of information relating to mental health. The toolkit provides eight steps and covers support and training, managing mental health, providing the right support and helping people recover. Case studies are provided at the end of the toolkit.

Workplace Health Management Practices has guidelines covering how to improve the health and wellbeing of employees, with a focus on organisational culture and the role of line managers.

Mental Wellbeing at Work offers evidence-based recommendations on promoting mental wellbeing at work.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is an educational course which teaches people to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, provide help on a first aid basis, and sign post for further support. More on this information can be found under the further support and guidance section. 

Mindful Employer is a UK-wide initiative run by Workways, a service of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. Developed, led and supported by employers, the Mindful Employer initiative is aimed at increasing awareness of mental health at work and providing support for businesses in recruiting and retaining staff. Tel: 01392 677064

Local Support

Mind BLMK is a mental health and wellbeing charity for Bedfordshire Luton and Milton Keynes, providing community support and service, training, consultancy and information, including Mental Health First Aid.

Rethink is a local community support service to aid recovery and improve wellbeing in the community. For people with longer term or more significant needs. 

Milton Keynes Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is a free, confidential NHS service providing psychological treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. Referrals can be made by a GP. This is accessible by self-referral too here. The site also gives access to the Mind BLMK Counselling provision.

The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts. Tel: 08457 90 90 90 (24 hours a day)

Suicidal feelings can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, at any time. See the Signs Training is available for workplaces. To find out more about this and how to access please email :

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Smoking and tobacco

Smoking is Milton Keynes’ biggest killer with significantly higher than average rates of premature mortality for cancer, heart disease, and lung disease; indicating high levels of historical smoking however. (JSNA 15/16)

The effect on your business

The British Heart Foundation states that cigarette breaks cost employers £1,815 a year for each full time worker who smokes. This significantly impacts on the business and the health of an employee as smokers generally have poorer health and on average take 4.4 days off sick more than non-smokers due to the increased risk of health related sickness such as colds and flu, asthma and lung conditions.

What can you do?

  • Establish a smoking and e-cigarette policy in your business place
  • Promote Milton Keynes’  stop smoking service to your employees and allow time off for appointments
  • Alternatively provide a support group on business premises for 7 weeks in partnership with the Stop Smoking Service

Support available

Evidence shows that people who receive support from a Stop Smoking Service are 4 times more likely to quit and Milton Keynes Council offers a free service to support smokers to quit, with well over half of those setting a quit date managing to quit. 12 week programmes are available in the community on a one to one basis or at workplaces in groups or one to one clinics. Free Nicotine containing products like patches and mouth spray are available for 12 weeks or prescription medication, Champix, is available on prescription.

For further help check the ONE YOU smoking page.  

Further information                                                                                     

Stop Smoking Service – 0800 013 0553


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Healthy eating

In Milton Keynes the estimated prevalence of excess of weight (overweight or obese) is 69.1%
On average, obese people take four extra sick days per year (Harvey et al, 2010) and there are clear implications for the workplace.

The effect on your business:

healthy lunchbox

Being overweight or obese leads to an increased risk of many additional health problems such as; diabetes, heart disease, back problems, respiratory complaints, cancers, eyesight problems, low self-esteem, social exclusion and stigmatism.

What can you do as an employer:

  • Provide a Shape Up 4 Business course in-house for your staff to learn more about healthy eating.
  • Have healthier snacks and lunch options available in the workplace.

 What you can do as an employee:

  • Sign up to a Weight Management programme
  • For help & advice on healthy eating visit ONE YOU healthy eating page

For further information:

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Physical Activity 

The effect on your business

The facts are that employees who take part in physical activity in and around their working day are 27% less likely to take time off sick, and are likely to be happier and more productive. The British Heart Foundation states that employers who promote physical activity report the following effects on their workforce: improved health and concentration, a positive impact on stress, back pain and mental health, increased productivity,  lower rates of absenteeism and quicker return to work after illness,  greater staff retention, improvements in communications, morale and working atmosphere and a positive corporate image.


What can you do?

  • Review your facilities; identify opportunity for showers, break out rooms where activity can take place or lunch can be taken away from the main office area lead by example; let staff see senior managers taking the stairs, have walking meetings, taking regular breaks to hydrate or simply move around
  • Subsidised gym membership alone isn’t enough to get employees more active. Encourage groups to attend lunchtime classes, identify leaders to set up running/walking groups
  • Raise money for your designated charity through active challenges. A spinning bike to clock up miles, team run/walk/swim etc

Workplace Challenge

Everyone needs to move more. Leap can help you to achieve this for your business in the following ways; Sign your business up today to the free online Workplace Challenge in Bucks and Milton Keynes. A place to log activity levels, challenge colleagues or pitch yourselves against other local businesses.

The Sports Development team supports and co-ordinates a range of sporting and recreation opportunities for everyone across Milton Keynes.

Health Walks

Everyday activity health walks to enjoy the parks and open spaces of Milton Keynes. These volunteer led health walks will help you meet new people, improve your health and have fun. A full list of walks, more information and walk leader contact details are available here. 

Active Travel

For most people, the easiest and most acceptable forms of physical activity are those that can be built into everyday life.  Examples include walking or cycling instead of travelling by car.  ‘Active travel’ means walking or cycling as an alternative to motorised transport for the purpose of making every day journeys.

  • Write a travel plan for your organisation.
  • Encourage employees to cycle or walk to work – ensure appropriate facilities, such as showers, secure storage facilities are available.
  • Provide opportunities for active travel for staff by introducing flexible working policies.
  • Introduce work-based walking and cycling programmes.
  • Make available information to employees advising them of the benefits of active travel.
  • Provision of local area routes, maps and advice.

Modeshift (Sustainable Travel Accreditation and Recognition Scheme) is the national travel plan rating scheme that is available to support workplaces to deliver initiatives in walking, cycling and other forms of sustainable transport:

  • Promotion of national events like ‘Walk to Work Week’, ‘Cycle to Work Day’ and ‘National Bike Week’
  • Cycle Scheme – tax free bikes for work.
  • Adult Cycle Training
  • Learn to Ride Courses
  • Health & Ladies Rides
  • Ride Leader Training                                                             
  • Bike Maintenance courses/Dr Bike sessions

Further information



Telephone: 01908 252248

For further information on moving more visit ONE YOU

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Alcohol and substance misuse

Drug and alcohol misuse has a big impact on the workplace, with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) estimating the cost of alcohol-related absenteeism in England at £1.7 billion per year.

Work problems resulting from hangovers or being drunk at work include difficulty concentrating; reduced productivity; mistakes and workplace accidents.

Drinking alcohol is never completely risk free.  Regularly drinking more than the advised levels increases the risk of ill health.

  • Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is the same as 6 pints of average strength beer a week.
  • If you do drink, spread your drinking out over three or more days.
  • Don’t ‘save up’ your units to use in one or two days.
  • Always aim to have a few drink free days each week.

What can you do?

There are a number of positive steps that employers can take to raise awareness and tackle problems related to alcohol and drug use including:-

Make information easily available, including about the effects of alcohol and substance misuse and local support services and how to access them support.

Our local alcohol and drugs support service in Milton Keynes is run by Compass. To make a referral or to speak to someone for support or advice, call Compass on 01908 250730.

Develop a policy around alcohol use in the workplace, including guidelines on policy use at business functions:

  • Train managers to recognise the signs of substance misuse and how to support staff appropriately 
  • Signpost staff to anonymous online assessment tool which is evidenced to support individuals to recognise how much alcohol they consume and  prompt a reduction, as well as offer tips and support where needed
  • Promote initiatives such as Dry January.

Further information

This article in Personnel Today (2016) gives further information about testing and supporting staff and Health and Safety Issues. Useful tips and further information can be found here.

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Last Updated: 17 February 2020