For staff, managers and human resource departments responsible for staff wellbeing.

The workplace presents a number of opportunities for people to develop their social networks. This can be through work itself, through leisure activities, or through shared interests such as sport and the arts. Approaches that increase employee health and wellbeing are also likely to influence and impact relationships in the workplace.

Typically, workplace wellbeing programmes and approaches focus on individuals by targeting things like healthier eating, physical exercise, smoking cessation and stress management. While these programmes have shown positive and cost-effective outcomes for individuals, it is also crucial that workplace wellbeing takes a whole-workplace approach by addressing the working environment factors (social and physical) that impact health and wellbeing. 

Programmes should include:

  • Enhancing employee control over their work.
  • Increasing employee participation in decision making.
  • Training line managers to enable them to lead positively and supportively.
  • Engaging employees in the development of the organisation’s goals to ensure that they feel they have a stake and can contribute to the success of the organisation.
  • Providing employees with the in-work training and development they need to be able to do their job well, and providing feedback to enhance job satisfaction.
  • Providing greater flexibility within a role to increase an employee’s sense of control and allow them to improve their work–life balance.
  • Reducing stress and improving mental health at work, as these are leading causes of sickness absence.
  • Addressing any effort–reward imbalance – that is, where an employee’s effort is not matched by reward from the employer, including through publicly acknowledging good performance.

It’s important that any approaches or interventions an organisation invests in are available to all, and that everyone is made aware of the opportunities through good communication. Interventions should be tailored to reach employees who may have more difficulty accessing these, such as those in part-time work, working night shifts or on short-term contracts. Not everyone will be equally able to access programmes, therefore – although approaches should be universally available – they need also to focus and place priority on those most at risk of developing mental health problems. In addition, views and feedback from employees should be sought to ensure that any approaches taken to improve mental health and wellbeing are effective and demonstrate that employee needs have been considered. This serves to further engage and empower employees within an organisation

For good practice examples of interventions that improve the health and wellbeing of staff and employees, see GOV.UK’s report: ‘Local action on health inequalities: Increasing employment opportunities and improving workplace health’.

How to promote better working relationships

As a manager:
  • Foster open communication. Give people structured ways of enabling their thoughts, feelings and observations to be shared easily and regularly.
  • Praise their efforts.
  • Reward self-improvement by budgeting time and resources for management and personal development training.
  • Encourage safe failure by giving opportunities to try new things without significant consequences to the organisation. Create innovative environments for people to test new ideas and learn from failures as well as successes.
  • Support their independence. People want to feel in control of the work they do.
Both co-workers and managers should:
  • Practise simple courtesies by saying ‘hello’ or checking in with colleagues. This can go a long way in creating a welcoming environment.
  • Make new staff feel welcome by introducing yourself.
  • Treat everyone with respect.
  • Avoid office gossip. 

We also have a guide on supporting good mental health at work