Line managers and people managers: the voice of wellbeing

Sophie Money, Group Protection Workplace Wellbeing Manager at Aviva, explains why winning at wellbeing starts with managers.

Managers – line managers, team managers and people managers – have always played a key role in getting things done in businesses of all sizes’. Being closely tuned to the needs and views of the people who report to them, they’re an important link in the process of turning leaders’ strategies into actions that others can take on board and turn into results.

Wellbeing is no different from any other strategy. Of course, senior leaders need to recognise the benefits it offers – but the real voice of wellbeing will come from your managers, the people who define what the strategy means to employees.

It’s never been more important for that voice to be heard loud and clear. More and more employers are recognising that, when it comes to wellbeing, their staff now expect more from them than simply taking care of health and safety. So how can you make sure your managers are in the right place to play their key role effectively?

The strongest link in the wellbeing chain

Firstly, make sure your managers are aware of your business’s wellbeing strategy. This can be done by hosting awareness sessions and allowing for regular follow ups. Your strategy may flex and grow with time, so it’s important that leaders on all levels are fully on board with this journey.

We can’t expect that all managers will be comfortable with discussing wellbeing with their staff – so it may be necessary to offer further support where this is the case.

By investing time in explaining the benefits to line managers, we can ensure that they become advocates of wellbeing.

They don’t have to be experts to fill this role.

Managers need to be aware of their ongoing responsibilities. This means supporting the wellbeing strategy, allowing time for staff to engage with activities and promoting available resources. Another key aspect of their role is keeping an ear to the ground: line managers and people managers are closest to your employees, so you need to be able to rely on them to notice changes in behaviour; picking up on signals of stress and ensuring that employees get support when they need it.

Learning to read the signs

Doing this successfully may require some training. For example, what are the warning signs of mental health issues? Managers can learn more about the specific challenges which may face staff at different life stages – such as menopause or carer responsibilities – and how these may affect their working day. Don’t expect them to recall everything; awareness is enough as long as you provide a central reference point to source information when needed. This could be in the form of a wellbeing intranet page, posters, handouts and emails.

But performing this role effectively isn’t entirely down to specialist knowledge. 

That’s why we need to encourage team managers to get to know their people.

It’s worth making time in meetings to allow the team to get to know each other, share stories and experiences. Encourage them to talk about their home lives if they’re happy to share.

For homeworkers in particular, it’s a good idea to book in time just to catch up on a personal level – not talking about work. Home-based workers are likely to miss out on chatting at the drinks machine in the office. Maybe their managers could organise occasional coffee mornings as a substitute.

Making sure the voice is heard

Finally, it’s important to encourage all managers to get feedback from their colleagues, which can then be used to then review and adjust your wellbeing strategy appropriately.

Time invested in helping your managers to embrace wellbeing will repay itself by supporting you in implementing a wellbeing strategy into your business, one that really works. Remember, these people are the voice of wellbeing – so let’s give that voice the best possible chance to be heard!

After 10 years working in group income protection, Sophie Money is Aviva’s Group Protection Wellbeing Manager. Her role is to support our group protection customers in embedding wellbeing practices for their staff. Sophie has a BSc in Sociology and is currently studying an MSc in workplace health and wellbeing at the University of Nottingham.

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