- What is a wellness action plan?
A wellness action plan is a personalised and practical tool/document containing confidential information, of which it typically consists of intervention/prevention strategies, as agreed between the employer and employee, to protect the employee’s mental health.
Containing information regarding preventative measures that will serve to protect their employee’s mental health, the purpose of a wellness action plan is to help all parties preserve their mental health in what can often be a stressful environment (the workplace.)
Every employee should have a wellness action plan, regardless of whether they have an existing mental health problem or not.
2. Why are wellness action plans important?
The stigma surrounding mental health is gradually being diminished, with people rightly viewing it as being of equal importance to physical health (at last!) This long-awaited and much overdue positive shift in attitude means that wellness action plans have never been more important. Why? Because they help to propel this positive change forwards at an even quicker rate by encouraging more conversations to be had regarding mental health.
By not only encouraging employers to openly discuss mental health with their employees, but also by equipping employers with the knowledge and insight they need to understand mental health more, wellness action plans undoubtedly have a vital role to play in the modern-day workplace.
The fact that all wellness action plans set out the expectations of both employers and employees means that, in turn, all organisations are encouraged to adopt a proactive approach to the management of mental health at work, as opposed to a reactive approach. To put it simply, this means that all organisations should anticipate what could go wrong and put adequate safeguards in place to prevent/reduce the risk of such a thing happening, rather than waiting until an issue arises to deal with its impact, the latter costing organisations valuable time, effort, and money that could’ve otherwise been saved, if only a wellness action plan was in place.
The overall impact of a wellness action plan, if implemented appropriately, should see a decrease in reported stress levels of the workforce, with fewer cases of mental ill health being present. This would not only benefit the employees of an organisation who would notice an improvement in their state of mind, but also the employers who would benefit from an improved reputation, since wellness action plans provide evidence of their commitment to workplace mental well-being, something that local authorities, and potential future employees alike, would be interested in.
3. What are the key components of a wellness action plan?
A wellness action plan consists of several different elements, with those elements ranging from a detailed overview of the signs and symptoms associated with mental ill health (anxiety, changes in behaviour, absence, etc), to the identification of any triggers in the workplace (lack of control, lack of communication, etc.)
Other components of a wellness action plan include an overview of the approaches that an individual could use to support their mental well-being in the workplace (e.g., taking regular breaks), identification of the potential impact(s) that mental ill health can have on performance within their job role (e.g., lack of motivation), as well as an outline of what action should be taken in the event of an employee presenting with signs of mental ill health at work (e.g., meeting to discuss workloads.) A wellness action plan should also contain a ‘review’ date at which an assessment should take place to determine if any amendments/additions to the plan are required.
Whilst the components described above are necessary for all wellness action plans, the fact that such plans are very much personalised to everyone based on their circumstances means that any other actions that might support an individual’s specific situation, aiding them in the preservation of their mental health at work, should also be included in a wellness action plan. Such actions might include changing the office design to transform it into a lighter/more spacious environment for employees or allowing for a period of quiet reflection time before or after meetings. Ensuring that each plan is tailored to each employee will give it the greatest chance of succeeding in reducing stress/improving the mental wellbeing of staff, therefore meetings its objective and overall purpose.