Promoting healthy living in the workplace has become more commonplace in the North East in recent years as businesses look to provide better benefits to their employees.

Not only is it key to boosting the overall health of a working team, it also goes hand-in-hand with fuelling productivity and helping to create a positive and happy working environment. This has led to many local businesses putting their employee’s wellbeing at the centre of everything they do.

Busy Bees at Newcastle Nursery, based on Cobalt Business Park, is one of them. It provides real benefits to its nursery team that continue to have a positive impact on the team’s physical and mental health, happiness and the care they provide to help give local children the best start in life.

This commitment has seen the nursery involved with The North East Better Health at Work Award (BHAWA) since 2011. BHAWA is a workplace health initiative supported by the region’s 11 local authorities, the NHS, and coordinated by the Northern Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Busy Bees at Newcastle has achieved the bronze, silver, gold and continuing excellence levels of the award and due to its continued commitment to maintain and demonstrate consistent support for its nursery team’s health and wellbeing, it was awarded Ambassador Status this year.

The key to its success

The key to the nursery’s success has been a partnership with a dedicated health advocate team at the setting which has over seen its wellbeing initiatives with a true understanding of what each employee needs support with.

The health advocate team’s enthusiasm for the initiative drives the programme and has led to it being fully embedded at the setting with some really important key health and wellbeing messages shared over the years. Maureen Turner, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust health improvement specialist, who supports businesses in North Tyneside to achieve the award, has hugely supported the site.

Healthy eating

Year on year, one of the key areas of focus for the nursery’s programme has been healthy eating and exercise. Supporting inactivity and obesity, which are very real present-day health threats, can be challenging for an employer to tackle.

Being involved in the BHAWA Programme means that if employees want to talk about these or need help, it can be provided by the health advocates team. As a result of any activities carried out by team members, other members of the team may make small changes to benefit their health too.

The advocates team is able to provide a huge number of activities relating to the area of diet and fitness such as a health and wellbeing staff library, step challenges, on site fitness classes through Tyne & Wear Sport amongst many others.

Mental health

Mental health including living with stress, anxiety and depression is a real focus for the nursery and another key area of workplace health and wellbeing.

Developing a workplace and a workforce where people feel comfortable talking about these personal issues is very important. The nursery is strongly committed to helping prevent these conditions from worsening.

The nursery has been involved in events such as ‘Tea and Talk’ and ‘World Mental Health Day’ to raise awareness of mental health issues. These have been extremely effective at the Busy Bees nursery in past years.

Communication is vital

Finding creative ways of communicating with the team has been key to the success of the wellbeing programme. The Busy Bees nursery started a closed staff Facebook group a couple of years ago. The page is dedicated to health and wellbeing posting with information on events and news. This has been key to communication within the team.

Twice a year a health needs questionnaire is sent out to the team. It is analysed carefully to see what employees have taken part in to assess the impact of the events but also to see what their needs are in relation to health and wellbeing going forward. This gives them not only the opportunity to request new things but introduces any new staff to the programme and ensures everyone’s needs are heard.

Developing change

During the course of the programme, Busy Bees developed and introduced an employee assistance programme dedicated to supporting employees with personal issues and health and wellbeing which Busy Bees at Newcastle contributed to the development of in the early stages. The lead advocate continues to have conversations with the departments who are developing policy and procedures in the areas of wellbeing to share the important work that has been done as part of the programme over the years.

Any employer can take part in the free Better Health at Work Award. For more information visit www.betterhealthatworkne.org or contact Maureen Turner, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Health Improvement Practitioner Specialist on 0191 270 4514.

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