Times Are Changing: Maximise Wellbeing Support for Your Team

Katherine Maxwell, Partner and Head of Employment at law firm Moore Barlow, discusses how business leaders can maximise the potential of initiatives that are designed to support the wellbeing of their team.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on how businesses operate. From increasing the take-up of technology to implementing hybrid working, the office dynamic is changing and alongside this we are seeing a shift in how people view their careers and what they expect from their employer.

We recently commissioned a study of 250 UK SMEs and found that almost all (99%) believe Covid-19 restrictions impacted their employees’ mental health. Not only has this led to some people taking a step back to assess their career options, it has also led to an increase in workplace issues such as performance management, workplace disputes and absences.

Our study highlighted that whilst these issues exist, business leaders are looking for ways to proactively overcome them. Most of the business leaders (65%) we surveyed are choosing to adopt new benefits – for example, by introducing wellbeing programmes – to help attract and retain talent. However, to maximise the potential of any new initiative, it is essential to get the foundations right.

Build a Positive Workplace Culture 

A positive workplace culture is at the top of many business leaders’ wish lists. To create a culture where people feel valued and recognised, it is important to understand how much employees value having a purpose that they can align to. This can often motivate them to achieve more in their career.

At Moore Barlow, our leadership team recently ran a values and behaviours survey where each employee was given the opportunity to share their thoughts on the issues that matter most to them. These insights were then used to shape and define the firm’s values and behaviours.

A strong workplace culture not only allows employees to become true advocates for the place they work, it also helps in the long run. Employees with a strong relationship with their employer and colleagues are more likely to enter discussions re workplace issues more positively, which allows both parties to work together to find a solution.

Underpin Culture with Policies 

To develop resilience, it is crucial to have policies in place which underpin a company’s culture. For example, a sickness policy will help to manage instances of increased absence and support employee retention. There is no better time than now to review policies to ensure they meet the goals of the post-pandemic working environment. 

A 2019 report on health in the workplace by the Department for Work & Pensions and the Department of Health & Social Care suggests that the longer employees are off sick, the less likely they are to return to work. This shows why it is important to maintain communication with them throughout the period they are off, and by supporting colleagues whilst they are away you are more likely to be able to support a smooth transition when they return. 

Mental health is one of the biggest reasons cited for people taking time off work and a survey by GoodShape, an absence management company, revealed mental health related absences cost UK businesses approximately £43bn pounds in 2021.   

There are a variety of ways businesses can support their people in relation to mental health. This could be through the implementation of stress policies, giving staff the option to use a confidential listening service, or even training employees as mental health first aiders. 

What is most important is the variety of options available for people to access. Everyone is different and employees will respond differently to different support mechanisms. Having well sign-posted resources increases accessibility and is a strong statement to colleagues that they work in a supportive environment where their leadership team is ready to help. 

No matter whether it is a health-related issue or a workplace dispute, it is crucial employees know that there are structures in place to manage these issues fairly and in a transparent way.

Katherine Maxwell
Partner and Head of Employment, Moore Barlow


Substantiate Policies with Clear Structures 

No matter whether it is a health-related issue or a workplace dispute, it is crucial employees know that there are structures in place to manage these issues fairly and in a transparent way.  

The clearer the policy, the better. This can be done by implementing procedures, so staff know what routes to take when an issue arises. For example, there have been many high-profile reports of sexual harassment or misconduct in the workplace. Such behaviour can range from making a joke to writing offensive emails. It is essential to explicitly define what these terms mean and what is deemed as unacceptable within the business – there must be no room for ambiguity.  

Employers must follow a full and fair procedure in line with the Acas Code of Practice when managing disciplinary and grievance situations. The Acas Code of Practice sets the minimum standard of fairness that workplaces should follow. A company can be found to have acted unfairly if they do not follow the code. 

In cases of harassment, individuals can be left feeling that they are not respected and are working within a hostile and intimidating environment. However, it is important to recognise that they may not want to raise a formal grievance process. Instead, having someone to talk to, or help them to manage the situation may be more beneficial and less stressful for them. Having a supportive culture will help when managing matters of this sort. 

Culture is a key component of every business and it has the power to bring colleagues together, prevent issues escalating and ensure problems are resolved quickly and fairly. When people work in an environment that aligns with their values, they want to come to work and this sets a precedent for the behaviour they exhibit, for example creating a place of positivity and innovation to propel the business forwards. 


Katherine Maxwell
Partner and Head of Employment, Moore Barlow

Katherine is a partner and head of the firm’s employment law team at Moore Barlow. She advises clients on all aspects of employment law. Whatever problem they are facing, Katherine’s business clients know they can rely on Moore Barlow – whether it’s handling boardroom and shareholder disputes, the TUPE issues surrounding a merger, or helping to manage a major redundancy programme. She’s always on hand to advise on difficult situations involving individual employees, including drafting and negotiating termination packages.