Month: June 2019



Here’s how we’re getting involved (and why you should too!)

Sharing health and wellbeing wisdom

As co-founders of HWBInspiration, we enjoy being Health and Wellbeing Ninjas. We thrive on building networks and have an ambition to create a social movement that gets everyone involved in improving health and wellbeing in the workplace. Recently, we were given the chance to share our work with a wider audience and it has inspired and motivated us to continue our work. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been working on:

  • Festival of Leadership – North West Leadership Academy – March 2018 – to share our health and wellbeing ‘wisdom’, as well as celebrating leadership in health and care
  • Health and Wellbeing practitioners – development sessions – NHS Employers  – sharing the benefits of using a tool like our Health and Wellbeing Framework
  • Greater Manchester Human Resource Directors Group – developing collaborative working across health and care organisations.  Using our framework to share good practice and support organisation to compare experience
  • North West Employers Organisation – Interchange event with a Health and Wellbeing focus – sharing good practice across health and social care
  • Coming soon – HWB Squad (10 local authorities in GM) running a session in April!
  • Future – Planning to use the tool with a law firm (watch this space)!

We recently attended an event at Victoria Mills in Manchester, which was an amazing experience in how it led me to reflect on the history of health and wellbeing at work. More than 100 years ago, the Mills would have been a hive of activity, but with a workforce that had little to no access to the basic essentials of life.  Health and wellbeing at work wasn’t a key consideration for many employers at the time. That being said, there were one or two more enlightened companies who acted as early pioneers for workplace health and wellbeing, like the Cadbury brothers. They set a precedent by investing in infrastructure to keep their most valuable asset, the people, as happy and healthy as possible through housing, education and more.

Today we have entirely different working environments; demands and expectations have changed.  That means that keeping people healthy, well, and in work continues to be important from a wellbeing and economic perspective, but the way in which we can achieve wellbeing in work is changing too. To identify the best course of action, we need to open up the workplace health and wellbeing discussion and tackle it together.

Over the next 12 months we would like to continue to contribute to the health and wellbeing social movement.  We will be focusing on:

  • How can we build communities of practice (more about this below) so that health and wellbeing becomes everyone’s business – i.e. fostering co-design and co-production?
  • How can we learn from others?
  • How can we understand the impact of working in a more distributed/virtual way?
  • How do we use the paradigm of ‘New Power’ so that people get involved, suggest ideas, and make positive health and wellbeing choices?

Is a ‘community of practice’ the answer?

‘Communities of practice’ – the notion of building a community of people working towards the same goal, to learn from one another as they work towards it (in this case, improving workplace health and wellbeing) – is something we’re really taken by, and on a personal level I’m loosely connected to a few. They reflect the innately social nature of human learning, and this sense of community is something I believe can only benefit the HWB movement.

In 2013, National Voices secured funding to use communities of practice to facilitate learning on a number of generated health and wellbeing priorities.  The programme, ‘Wellbeing Our Way’ ran for 3 years and National Voices released a full report of its findings.

The report is a compelling read and explains in more detail the hows, whats, and whys of commities of practice. It’s also full of ‘top tips’, tools, techniques, and other fantastic ideas! Here’s a snippet that stuck with me; “community is a place where people come together to share problems, solutions and stories. Community is where magic happens. We are recognising this in the world of health and care, where we are increasingly joining up care systems to meet people’s needs in local communities and places. Communities of practice are a learning and sharing version of community. We can apply the same principles of shared purpose, sense of belonging and community spirit. Where we do this well, communities of practice can ignite an unstoppable energy for change.”

Similarly, I was also lucky enough to be involved with the North West Leadership Academy’s research into communities of practice, and their final report is equally as enlightening!

What else have we done already?

We are already circulating a digital toolkit – HWBInspiration framework – to help organisations assess and improve their workplace health and wellbeing. If you’re interested in seeing how your organisation performs, and identifying areas for improvement, get in touch to request a copy!

We also have a wide range of practical case studies that we have secured from organisations that don’t have time to share themselves. Take a peek – they’re a great place to start if you’re thinking of joining the workplace health and wellbeing movement.

What’s next for us?

At HWBInspiration, our personal mission is to:

  • Continue to contribute to the health and wellbeing movement and its ‘body of knowledge’, with a focus on communities of practice
  • Share what we’ve discovered from our research in the field of health and wellbeing
  • Share findings from the work that we did in Manchester
  • Develop our ideas to use our HWBInspiration framework toolkit so that we help organisations to create and maintain the conditions to keep people healthy, well, and in work through communities of practice
  • Find ways to help everyone to get involved in health and wellbeing activities that keep us all healthy, well, and in work

Why should you get involved?

  • Keeping people healthy, well and in work makes societal and economic sense
  • Will lead to employers and workers coming together and thinking about how to create the ‘best’ conditions so that people have a sense of belonging, value, and contribution
  • Any organisation, large or small, would benefit from using a tool to ensure that it has the most helpful policies, structures and practices to ensure that work fulfilling and purposeful

How can you get involved?

  • Share your ideas, stories and solutions with a wider audience (starting with us!) Tweet us at @hwbinspiration or email us at
  • Request a copy of our framework to assess your organisation’s workplace health and wellbeing culture
  • Let us know what you’d like us to write about next!


It’s a fascinating thought that employers and the workplace can have an impact on an individual’s health and wellbeing.  It’s not where I would naturally start; personally, I usually come from a perspective that we take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing.  “It’s down to me surely in relation to the choices that I make!”, “It’s a bit of a ‘nanny state’ when it comes to my manager casting judgement about my health and wellbeing – what I do in my personal time is my business”.

These might be views that you/employers/others express or believe.  However, there is a compelling case for why it’s in all our interests for all of us to take an interest in workplace health and wellbeing.  Here are just a few national statistics:

  • Sick people cost their employer £620,000 per year in businesses employing more than 500 people.8
  • Similarly, a Department of Work and Pensions report9 stated that more than 130 million days (Office of National Statistics) are still being lost to sickness absence every year in Great Britain and working-age ill health costs the national economy £100 billion a year.
  • The same report estimates that employers face a yearly bill of around £9 billion for sick pay and associated costs, with individuals missing out on £4 billion a year in lost earnings. Meanwhile, around 300,000 people a year fall out of work and into the welfare system because of health-related issues.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers10 estimate the cost to be even higher, at an average of 9.1 days of absence per UK worker, costing UK business nearly £29bn a year.
  • The Centre for Mental Health11 estimated in 2007 that the total cost to employers of mental distress and ill health in the workforce is estimated at nearly £26 billion each year. That is equivalent to £1,035 for every employee in the UK workforce.

“That’s great, but what does this mean for me?” I hear you ask. “What makes you an expert?” All legitimate and I guess my interest was piqued because of a project that I was involved in over the past year in Manchester. If you want to find out more click here.

How can I become a Ninja?

When I was thinking about writing this blog, I reminded myself that we all need to have knowledge, skills and expertise to support each other in our health and wellbeing endeavour.  When I think someone has mastered a particular mind set or skill, for some reason a have an image of a Ninja in my head and was delighted to see that the informal definition of Ninja is “a person who excels in a particular skill or activity.

So, with the help of my co Ninja we have come up with some very practical ways that you can apply Health and Wellbeing Activities in the work place.

TipMe (Ninja)My teamMy manager/organisation
1Find your healthily work life blend and take breaksEncourage the team to discuss their work life blend, have lunch together, scrutinise all the meetings the team attendsRole model good management practice – take breaks, avoid sending e-mails ‘out of hours’ or let people know that you don’t expect a response ‘out of hours’
2Avoid presenteeism (coming to work when unwell)Discuss what presenteeism means as a teamMake it clear that you expect people to stay at home when they are unwell (that it’s not a badge of honour to come to work when you are unwell)Review sickness absence policies to support people to return to work
3Develop health and wellbeing objectives for yourselfSupport colleagues with positive HWB behaviours by developing team health and wellbeing objectivesBuild in time to discuss health and wellbeing – simply ask how people are and celebrate positive health and wellbeing behaviours
4Be active, use the stairs, move around from your desk, use apps to encourage you to get up and walkHave team meetings standing up or while walking, pedometer challengesDevelop options to support people to be active at work such as walking groups, running groups, football teams, cycle schemes
5Keep yourself healthy and ask for help when you need itEncourage the team to ask each other for help when they need it and how to support each other when specialist help may be neededEnsure that people have access to excellent occupational health, rapid access to counselling, physio, GP onsite, MOT’s

If you are interested to find out more, email us at, join our LinkedIn group, follow us on twitter @HWBInspiration, or look through some of our case studies.

– Su Fowler-Johnson, co-founder of HWB Inspiration.