This Occupational Health and Wellbeing Week, we are discussing the vital role of supporting the health and wellbeing of healthcare professionals.

Here at the AHSN NENC, we have a dedicated Growing Occupational Health and Wellbeing team, which is leading on a pilot programme to create a wellness culture for staff working within NHS foundation trusts.

We recently hosted a regional Health and Wellbeing Symposium, which Head of Organisational Development and Growing Occupational Health at the Integrated Care System, Rhiannan Rubin, spoke at.

Rhiannan believes that health and wellbeing affects everything we do. For a staff member to be happy and fulfilled in their role, everything needs to align with the right foundations and support in place.

We caught up with her about her role, the importance of health and wellbeing in the workplace, learnings on the Health and Wellbeing Framework and her top tips for employers.


Tell us a bit about yourself, your role, background, and experience?

I joined the NHS straight out of University into a junior HR role and held several different types of HR roles such as HR Advisor, Senior HR Advisor, and then went into Organisational Development in 2016. During this period, I held various system roles such as leadership and coaching roles, and most recently in the last few years entered into a health and wellbeing remit which I have been lucky to continue within Southern Health (which is a provider organisation) and then out in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICS too. I really enjoy the role and working with lots of different people whilst having a system impact, and that’s why I feel passionate about health and wellbeing at the ICS Level and doing things at scale to benefit the staff.

What did your talk cover at the recent Health and Wellbeing Event?

During my session, I discussed the Health and Wellbeing Framework and how as an ICS, we have used it for various programs such as Enhanced Health and Wellbeing, Growing Occupational Health, and mapping out our Employee Assistance Programme services as well. This is based on the principle of the framework, rather than transferring all elements, so I talked about how you can flex the document to fit other areas because it can be useful to have one example to anchor everything to. It’s also important to establish how to make the tool work for your organisation, at a localised level then break this down as the detail can be quite substantial and it is used to benchmark organisations health and wellbeing support.

The framework isn’t intended to be a tick box exercise. It can be used to map out what health and wellbeing you plan to embed over a 12 month period and then following this exercise, prioritise what needs to come earlier and later to establish what areas of opportunities may be present within the organisation.

Why is health and wellbeing so important in the workplace?

Health and wellbeing affects everything we do, it doesn’t matter what element of an employee’s journey it is, health and wellbeing is threaded through everywhere. In reference to the updated framework, it is now much more of a holistic tool that covers new areas such as referencing a sense of fulfilment, belonging and purpose within a role which links to staff engagement research and how comfortable someone is within their role.

This includes a staff member knowing what they’re doing day to day, the purpose of the tasks they are completing, clear objectives, and the awareness of how their role impacts their team. As well, there’s evidence that shows if you are in a role that supports staff to have what they need then they provide better patient care.

Leadership and relationships with one another have an influence on a workplace too. You will have a happier team if they have a good relationship with each other, and with their manager. Even small things, such as rostering, can affect an individual’s health and wellbeing because it may impact childcare, a carer’s responsibilities, or even the social side of life. If a person is experiencing long days of back-to-back shifts or night shifts which don’t suit that particular individual, then that can impact their wellbeing.

There’s a wellbeing link pretty much to everything we do which is why the Health and Wellbeing Framework is helpful as it brings all these elements into consideration, and it covers an array of areas that can be linked back to a person and their needs.

It’s a ripple effect, if you don’t like where you work and you are consistently unhappy and unfilled at work, then you are going to come home, moan to whoever you are in a household with and this may have an impact on the relationships outside of work too. Whereas, outside of work, you should be enjoying yourself and having a nice time whatever you choose to do.

In reference to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, an organisation can be exemplary at putting things into place such as wellbeing programmes, initiatives, and staff benefits. Equally, if they haven’t got the basics at the foundation of wellbeing, then the really nice perks just become unattainable to access so it’s important to focus on this. Sometimes the issue can be really local within a team so the focus may be around getting the foundations right and putting the support in the right places to help leaders and managers to be aware of how to boost team morale, form relationships, and keep relationships strong.

What are your top tips for health and wellbeing?

  • Tip one would be to focus on getting the basics right, so making sure that there are good relationships at a team level and ensure managers feel empowered to have wellbeing conversations by obtaining skills that can develop them as leaders.
  • My second tip would be to use data and information to inform your wellbeing agenda and initiatives, as on occasion it can be easy to be enthusiastic about what an organisation is doing in terms of a wellbeing initiative elsewhere but on reflection, they might have a need for that initiative and your organisation might not have the same needs for whatever reason. It’s important to use data and information to identify if there is a gap within that area before potentially spending lots of time, resources, and funding for something that will not actually be utilised.
  • Finally, my third tip would be to demonstrate to yourself and others how you look after your own health and wellbeing and continue to apply this in day-to-day situations. For example, if other people see that their manager is working late into the night, then their team may be influenced by this behaviour and think that there is an expectation to work outside of their working hours or work evenings/ weekends etc. Therefore, a leadership approach is to make sure you are demonstrating that as an individual, you take your wellbeing seriously and hopefully that will influence others, and permeate through an organisation. It is quite a utopian way of thinking about it, but people are influenced by what they see, so we need to make sure it is positive.

Find out more about our Growing Occupational Health and Wellbeing pilot, which aims to create a wellness culture across NHS trusts in the region.