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Christine Husbands


Commercial Director

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Training line managers to be wellbeing leaders

When supported by fit-for-purpose health and wellbeing provisions, employees can thrive and be at their most productive. Christine Husbands explores how to achieve this through manager training.
Strong leader looking after it's flock: wellbeing flamingo

We’ve been navigating turbulent times with challenges like the energy crisis, rising cost of living, and the aftermath of the pandemic.

Concurrently, employees are increasingly turning to their employers for support in their wellbeing, expecting a broad range of assistance and flexibility to address their personal needs.

Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering and sustaining a culture of wellbeing within an organisation. With appropriate health and wellbeing services and policies in place, employees can thrive and reach peak productivity.

Line managers significantly influence their team's wellbeing, making training essential for ensuring effectiveness and consistency throughout the organisation.

Wellbeing must be the culture

Wellbeing can be summarised in four interconnected key areas: mental, physical, social and financial. Positive social connections and collaboration within the workplace can help employees feel more engaged and supported which can lead to improved productivity and job satisfaction.

To achieve a culture of wellbeing, employers must truly invest in it by:

  • Listening – finding out what employees want and on an ongoing basis via methods such as surveys, personal reviews and employee forums or focus groups.
  • Offering a range of fit for purpose health and wellbeing benefits – a co-ordinated range taking into account the wants expressed by employees and catering for a wide range of scenarios.
  • Role modelling – managers throughout the organisation must walk the talk and consider employee wellbeing in every aspect of their day-to-day activities. 
  • Creating time to talk – encourage an environment where employees have the opportunity to talk in terms of informal peer support, social connectedness and be approachable as managers. Employees must be able to talk confidentially within an environment of trust with their line manager, HR and others such as Mental Health First Aiders.
  • Communicating – as ever, regular, transparent communication is key, employees value being kept informed about the business and other key developments as much as possible.

Effective health and wellbeing benefits

There is a plethora of wellbeing benefits available digitally and face to face, providing services such as tools to help people improve physical and mental wellbeing support for issues such as mental or physical ill health, menopause and bereavement.

Training line managers without having clinically robust, effective and personalised services in place (and coordination between them) is fruitless. 

Managers must appreciate that they cannot be expected to have all the answer

So often, employers offer a wide range of disparate services that the employee has to self-navigate and ultimately there are gaps. 

Having a central single medically trained point of contact such as a registered nurse ensures that the line manager and employee know how to access and use the services that are most beneficial. Thus, avoiding self-navigation and gaps and therefore leading to improved outcomes.

How do you train managers to be wellbeing leaders?

A culture of wellbeing succeeds or fails on the behaviour of line managers, so regular training and support for them is vital, key considerations are:

Know your people

The most important factor is knowing how to work well with people as individuals and as a team. Understanding their individual needs and supporting them accordingly may include flexibility of hours, adjustments in the workplace or directing them to appropriate support.

It is also important for managers to be aware of how their management style impacts the team and how to adapt when necessary.

Role models must be effective

Line managers should be trained in how to live and breathe a wellbeing culture, recognising that everyone is different and ensuring that wellbeing isn’t overlooked when workloads are high and the pressure is on.

Wellbeing supporting resources

Managers need to be trained regularly on the benefits available, what they are suitable for and how they can be accessed by employees. Despite the best efforts of employers to communicate to employees, many often don’t know what is available to help them. 

In my experience, employees who need help often don’t access it and therefore when line managers can sign-post or refer on the employees behalf this can be very beneficial.

Training in potential short and long-term issues

Within any workplace, there are likely to be individuals living with some sort of long-term, chronic condition or disability. Managers should be trained in some of the potential issues that employees will face to enable them to be supported more effectively.

See the warning signs

Vitally, training needs to include how to recognise that an employee is potentially struggling in some way, how to hold a sensitive conversation and support accordingly.

Be aware of the limits

Managers must appreciate that they cannot be expected to have all the answers and understand when it’s time to get help, when issues arise that need expert information or advice. Be that from HR, Mental Health First Aider or via the health and wellbeing services.

Support for the supporter

Line managers can often absorb the issues of their team, it is important that they are also supported by their leaders and role model the accessing of support and health and wellbeing services.

Mental Health First Aiders 

Many organisations have employees who volunteer for this role, line managers need to understand the purpose and boundaries of the position. 

Volunteer employees must be effectively trained and receive regular specialised support to ensure their own wellbeing is maintained in what can be a vulnerable position.

It is much more beneficial that manager training is delivered little and often.

Training must be regular

It is much more beneficial that manager training is delivered little and often. It is much easier to digest and the line manager themself doesn’t become overwhelmed. 

Regular updates keep wellbeing front of mind. 

Group training can help line managers support one another and share learning.

Tomorrow's empathetic director

To be effective and truly embed a culture of wellbeing, communication with employees and training of managers needs to be ongoing. 

Done well, this is an investment in the employees, their productivity and loyalty and thereby a more successful business.

A well-trained manager will be tomorrow's empathetic director and potentially a future CEO who prioritises the wellbeing of staff. 

Interested in this topic? Read Unlocking the power of middle managers

Author Profile Picture
Christine Husbands

Commercial Director

Read more from Christine Husbands

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