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Wellness action plans

Starting a Conversation About Mental Health

As a manager, an important part of our role is to promote and safeguard the health and wellbeing of our employees.

Some employees can find it difficult to talk about their mental health in the workplace.

A Wellness Action Plan (WAP) is a tool that can be used to help initiate a conversation between an employee and manager about strategies to promote optimal mental health in the workplace.

What is a wellness action plan?

A WAP can be used to support mental health and wellbeing at work. A WAP is a proactive tool that helps promote wellbeing and engagement with health-benefiting behaviours. WAPs are for everyone, regardless of current experience of mental illness symptoms. The WAP is adapted from the Wellness Recover Action Plan® (WRAP®) created by Mary Ellen Copeland, which is an evidence-based tool used across the world for those managing their mental health.

The WAP is personalised practical tool for everyone to use. The WAP encourages employees to consider and identify what keeps them well at work, the potential causes of poor mental health and highlighting ways to address any mental health issues whilst at work. A WAP allows for conversation around mental health with employees, supervisors and managers. WAPs allow for employee needs and experiences to be understood, such as working and communication style, stress triggers and responses; enabling better support for mental health which results in improved job satisfaction, increased productivity and better performance.

The WAP is a brilliant tool for assessing employees with an ‘untraditional’ working environment, such as location independent workers, shift workers or factory-based members of staff, as WAPs can identify how their manager can best support the employee to overcome barriers that may be evident. WAPs can also be used during the return to work process if the employee has been off due to mental ill health. The WAP provides structure for conversations linked to reasonable adjustments and support that might be needed.

A WAP is not a legal document, but an agreement between an employee and their manager. The WAP is written and owned by the employee. It is the manager’s role to discuss the plan with the employee and provide support, which includes guidance on any reasonable adjustments needed. This should be a collaborative process, led by the employee.

The WAP should be confidential; however, a discussion will be needed around how it will be used and an agreement on who the WAP will be viewed by. A regular review of the WAP allows for any changes or new approaches needed. If the employee takes ownership of this and is proactive, it may help an employee feel more in control of their mental health at work.

What is included in a WAP?

  • Approaches the employee can adopt to optimise their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Early warning signs of poor mental health to be aware of.
  • Any workplace triggers for poor mental health or stress.
  • Potential impact of poor mental health on performance, if any.
  • What support the employee may need from their manager if issues arise.
  • Actions and positive steps the employee and manager will both take if the employee is experiencing stress or poor mental health.
  • An agreed time to review the WAP and any support measures which are in place.
  • Anything else that they feel would be useful in supporting the employee’s mental health.

How to start using a WAP in your workplace

  • Share information about the WAP; why is being used, what are the benefits?
  • Communicate the benefits of the WAP.
  • Give an example of a completed WAP, may be your own?
  • Encourage the employee to ‘have a go’ at completing a WAP.
  • Schedule time to discuss the WAP.
  • Discuss confidentiality; who will have access to the WAP, when, why.
  • Finalise and agree on the WAP.
  • Review the WAP in the upcoming months, as appropriate.

Top tips

  • Take a look at the free samples on the Proactive Health Gateway and MIND website for examples of Wellness Action Plans.
  • Try it out for yourself and share this tool with your employees to start a conversation about mental health in the workplace.
  • Review the WAPs in informal or formal meets throughout the year to keep mental health part of day-to-day workplace life.

The Wellness Action Plan can be used to promote and safeguard the mental health and wellbeing of employees by identifying ownership and responsibility and highlighting the support that employees need from us as managers. Give it a go and see the benefits for yourself.

References:

MHFA England: MHFA Line Managers’ Resource

cdn.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/05111111/line_managers_resource.pdf

MIND: Wellness Action Plans

www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/employer-resources/wellness-action-plan-download/