Staff wellbeing must be at the heart

By Tara Williams, HR Manager

What can we say about the last year? Changing our whole way of working and having to adapt to a different environment, one that many of us weren’t used to. I can safely say that it has been a challenging year and one in which I’ve learnt a lot along the way.

Especially in how we’ve had to change the way we work and communicate with each other. Even though we’re all still working in a team it can feel very isolated sometimes when your only communication is through virtual platforms. That is why staff wellbeing has become an even bigger focus for us – as I am sure it has for other businesses, too. We have the challenge of trying to replace the value of face-to-face interactions when everyone at Whiteoaks is scattered over a large area and can only meet virtually – up until recently!

In addition to constant communication, virtual socials and encouraging a work/life balance, one of the ways in which we’ve tried to do this is by engaging staff in different activities – like encouraging everyone to complete nine million steps (between us all!) in the month of February with the aim of raising £1,000 for our charity partner Ark Cancer Centre Charity.

This initiative was aimed at firstly, raising money for a good cause but also getting us all to work towards a common goal, with some added friendly competition. All of our steps were logged and counted on Stridekick where we had a leader board to see who was completing the most steps and encouraging others to get involved. I certainly felt the urge to get out some more, either taking the dog for an extra walk or even walking to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, they all counted! By the end of the month, we managed to complete the target of nine million steps and as a result, were able to donate the £1,000 to Ark and help towards their fundraising goals.

We partnered with Ark back in 2018 and their goal is to raise £5million to help fund supportive care and services, complementary therapies, and an enhanced environment in an NHS cancer treatment centre that will serve residents in the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) area. The work on the radiotherapy centre is now nearing completion and they hope to be open and supporting cancer patients in the coming months.

The step challenge was just one of the initiatives that we’ve introduced in the past year to try to encourage and motivate our staff during the lockdown period. I can’t say that all of them have been as successful as the step challenge but that has been part of the journey and one that we learned from.

The main point I have taken from the lockdown and working from home is the importance of staff wellbeing and how it needs to be a much bigger focus going forward – not just as HR manager but as a staff member, too. Staff wellbeing shouldn’t be put on the back burner when it all goes back to “normal”. Instead, we should constantly evolve and improve our approach because wellbeing isn’t just a pandemic issue.