Back to basics for a healthy working environment: guidance

The rising cost of living makes it more important than ever to prioritise and fulfil staff wellbeing needs.

10 April 2023

There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to supporting the wellbeing of your staff, and NHS organisations may be at different points of their health and wellbeing journey. We also appreciate there are often several barriers to fulfilling your staff needs, so this guidance highlights some ways to overcome them.

As well as the organisation, individuals have a personal responsibility towards looking after their own wellbeing. Collectively, organisations should work closely with their people to ensure the workplace environment fulfils all needs.

Advice and recommendations for employers

  • Review our back to basics for a healthy working environment infographic, which provides a range of up-to-date key statistics and facts about the impact of hydration, nutrition, sleep, breaks and facilities on workforce wellbeing.
  • Identify how your current wellbeing offer meets your staff needs. You can use our NHS staff wellbeing needs poster to help you identify the wellbeing needs you do well or need to improve.
  • Assess whether you have safe and secure on-call facilities to allow staff to sleep, change and store their belongings.
  • Involve your staff. Listen to employee feedback on what they feel their most important needs are. A consultative approach can positively impact on engagement and help overall staff experience.
  • Formulate a sustainable plan to bridge gaps in staff needs, by using evidence and data to formulate an action plan to meet basic needs as a priority.
  • Get your board on board with a wellbeing agenda that prioritises basic staff needs using our guide. Demonstrate to your board how gaps in meeting the basic wellbeing needs are barriers to achieving the overall organisational strategic goals, and impact negatively on patient care.
  • To understand what is working well and areas where you may need to change your approach, it is important to evaluate the impact of your interventions where you can.
  • Encourage and allow your staff to access and implement their basic needs, such as taking sufficient breaks and staying hydrated. Build this in as part of someone’s shift, so staff are more likely to take their break instead of trying to squeeze this in.
  • Empower staff to speak openly about their needs through a transformational leadership approach, which aims to embed honest conversations into organisational culture.

Emerging practice and case studies 

  • Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust introduced a rest, rehydrate, refuel project to understand any barriers to employees accessing sufficient hydration, breaks and refreshment facilities and how they could resolve them. After evaluating a staff survey, interventions such as setting break times as a team at the start of shifts, increasing restaurant food choices and opening hours, and increasing the number of ‘rest areas’ were implemented and well received by staff.

  • Read how Gloucestershire NHS Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust use a locally designed survey to get a more regular snapshot of their staff’s views.

  • Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Foundation Trust encouraged their people to put their needs first by giving nurses the confidence to ask for flexible working opportunities for any reason.

  • North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust has replaced its annual appraisal with quarterly discussions between managers and staff, covering a range of topics including wellbeing, learning and development and performance. For each quarterly discussion, managers are given prompts to discuss elements of wellbeing with their staff members. For example, a discussion about factors which have a positive or negative impact on their wellbeing and identify things that would improve their wellbeing.

  • North Bristol NHS Trust made a bold statement to its colleagues that ‘your health is as important as our patients.’ The organisation created a comprehensive wellbeing programme and ensured they listened to their staff when formulating this. They adapted their approach to influence hard to reach groups such as junior doctors, to engage in self-care and interact with newly introduced wellbeing champions. Within a year, the trust saw a reduction in staff sickness by 3,923 days saving the organisation £301,015 a year in sickness costs.

  • South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) Since implementing a wellbeing guardian, SCAS has said that the visibility of health and wellbeing has increased on the agenda at board level, they have found that there has been more opportunity to share good practice and greater discussions about of health and wellbeing within the trust have taken place, for example, showing leadership on webinars such as 'What's Normal Anyway?' and 'Time to Talk Day'. Read more about how you can use wellbeing guardians.

Further tools and resources

Welfare facilities for healthcare staff

Read the guidance from the NHS Staff Council’s Health, Safety and Wellbeing Partnership Group (HSWPG). It was developed to support NHS organisations to improve their provision of staff welfare facilities. 

NHS England's national standards for healthcare food and drink

These standards describe the methods by which organisations must ensure the quality and sustainability of their food and drink provision for patients, staff and visitors, and how they should be applied and monitored, as well as recommending future improvement aspirations and actions.

CoCCo study - towards a model of psychological care in frontline doctors.

The study above is supported by this animation that highlights the key programme of research into mental health of frontline doctors and a model of psychological care, both in response to the pandemic and beyond.

Back to basics for a healthy working environment infographic.

Statistics and key facts about the impact of hydration, nutrition, sleep, and regular breaks on workforce wellbeing.