The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) guideline on Mental Wellbeing at Work (March 22) reviews how to create the right conditions for high wellbeing at work.
It describes how to promote a supportive and inclusive work environment, including training and support for managers and helping people who have or are at risk of poor mental health.
This builds on previous guidance on Workplace health: management practices and quality standards on improving employee mental and physical health and wellbeing that recommend prioritising staff health and wellbeing at the leadership level (including board members and directors) to ensure that employee health and wellbeing is promoted in all policies and procedures.
Prioritising wellbeing at board level
The non-executive director (NED) role is primarily to give advice and enhance strategy discussions. Research suggests that non-executive directors and executive directors have different roles and interactions within board meetings. For example, executive directors are more likely to focus on tangible, practical aspects of service provision, whereas non-executive directors attend more to broader service outcomes, stakeholder relationships, clinical ethics and clinical outcomes.
The presence of NEDs on UK company boards has increased substantially during the past three decades, and past research demonstrates that this increase has been associated with generally higher standards of governance in the UK.
As such, NEDs have the opportunity to make a real difference in their organisations, placing staff health and wellbeing at the heart of what they do, providing an assurance that:
“Wellbeing is about much more than health. It describes our perception of the quality of our lives in their entirety as influenced by a range of physical, emotional and psychological factors. Work-life is a key element of good wellbeing for most people.”
Quote from Guidance for introducing the role in healthcare organisations (NHS).
NEDs are in an ideal position to support, influence and seek assurance from senior leaders, creating a culture of wellbeing where the organisation cares for its people, who care for others.
The role provides a lens on staff wellbeing in organisations, and an opportunity to question decisions which might impact on staff wellbeing, both positively and negatively, for example:
- Challenge behaviours which are likely to be detrimental for staff wellbeing;
- Challenge the Board to account for its decisions and their impact on the health and wellbeing of staff;
- Remind the board to consider any unintended consequences of organisational actions and review them with a view to mitigating negative wellbeing impacts and maximising wellbeing enhancing opportunities;
- Ensure sufficient information is being provided to the Board, so it can benchmark performance and impact; and
- Set organisational expectations and monitor performance of job quality and staff wellbeing.
One example of an organisation that has strengthened Board Level oversight of staff health and wellbeing is the NHS. In January 2021, the NHS introduced the recommendation and national requirement for all NHS acute trusts to appoint a board-level, non-executive director Wellbeing Guardian. By March 2022 92% of trusts had appointed Wellbeing Guardians. The role aims to assure and continue to reassure the board that their organisation is a wellbeing organisation and a healthy workplace in which NHS staff and learners can work and thrive. The role is at the heart of the NHS health and wellbeing framework, and provides a high-level culture change toolkit.
Things to consider