Westminster City Council: It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

westminster

Background

Westminster City Council employs 2,500 staff, including home care workers and social workers on the front line, as well as office staff. Their vision is to be a world class organisation and in early 2019 they put in place an ambitious cultural change programme – The Westminster Way – to achieve that. At the heart of this are three pillars, including ‘Everyone is Valued’, which commits support for employees’ health and wellbeing. The [email protected] Strategy was created to support physical, mental and social wellbeing at a time when the staff survey showed only 56% of staff felt the council cared about their health and wellbeing and only 52% felt valued. Although these figures were above benchmark, they were inadequate to deliver the overarching ambition.

Approach

The council set out to overhaul every aspect of their health and wellbeing vision and created a dynamic staff engagement programme and resources. Sponsored by the CEO and Executive Leadership Team (ELT), policy improvements were made to parental leave to enhance occupational pay to full pay for the first 6 months and half pay for the following 6 months; annual leave was made equitable across the organisation; and employees were encouraged to work in an agile way to suit personal circumstances. The engagement programme “It’s Okay to not be Okay”, involved the recruitment of more than 60 Wellbeing Pioneers; an innovative programme of speakers and the development of a new Wellbeing hub and resources. This has helped break through taboo subjects, especially around mental health. Further momentum was gathered when the Government announced lockdown in March, with the CEO and ELT regularly hosting live Q&A’s with staff and the Virtual Westminster Games establishing light relief and team collaboration.

Outcome

The focus on employee health and wellbeing at this time has reaped dividends. By putting trust in people and giving them the flexibility to work when they can, they have delivered at a time of enormous pressure. In the May 2020 pulse survey, 71% agreed the council cares about my health & wellbeing and 62% believed they are valued by the council. The all staff survey conducted in September showed 70% of staff agreed that the Council cares about their health & wellbeing, which is up 14% from the 2019 results (when it was 56%). The health and wellbeing hub has been visited almost 68,000 times since launch with over 3,000 unique visitors over 3 months in 2020; practically the entire workforce. Each of the wellbeing speaker sessions has run at 80%+ capacity, with 2 sessions on the menopause totally sold out. The council are in the process of revisiting all their wellbeing priorities to factor in critical challenges such as caring responsibilities, fighting isolation, and establishing mental health first aiders, as well as re-mobilising their Wellbeing Pioneers.