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Ian MacArthur

Cary Cooper

Building a workplace wellbeing culture– in this episode, we speak to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester, and President of CIPD. We look at the impact of positive line management, particularly through the pandemic.
Listen for Chatter about Cary Cooper’s first experience of employment, his words of advice on workplace wellbeing, emotional intelligence and what makes a good manager, and the available support for employers moving forward.

"When I saw the deprivation I saw – that dramatically affected me. It was probably the thing that influenced me the most, I realised I had to do something for other people"

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Covid has shone a spotlight on wellbeing, demonstrating the importance and value of it, particularly in the workplace. Over 17.9 million working days were lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2019/20 which has had a huge impact on the economy. Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees.  This includes mental health and wellbeing creating a safe working environment, assessing the main risks to people’s health and taking measures to control that risk, whilst creating awareness to drive a culture of wellbeing. The benefits of a well and healthy workforce include:


  • Improved productivity.
  • Resilient high performing teams.
  • More engaged and committed staff.
  • Better staff morale and team collaboration.
  • Better customer service.
  • Skills retention and reduced staff turnover.
  • Attract new talent.
  • Reduced sickness absence.
  • Reduced grievance and discrimination claims.


Investing in the wellbeing of your employees is also the right thing to do as a society as improved productivity and performance will have a positive impact on the economy, plus a healthy nation will relieve pressure on the NHS too.


Become a role model leader

As we navigate our way out of the pandemic, leaders within organisations have an important role to play in supporting the mental and physical wellbeing of employees, as well as creating a safe, open and inclusive environment. Creating a culture of wellness within an organisation begins with leaders and managers leading by example and demonstrating positive behaviours in the workplace. Becoming a role model starts with self-awareness and investing in your own mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, for example, do you take a break during the day, send emails within working hours only and promote a work/life balance?


Managing mental health

It is priority leading in a covid world, particularly as businesses adopt a hybrid working model, that managers have people the skills as well as the technical skills, leading teams with transparency, empathy and authenticity. Managers must be trained in recognising the signs of poor mental health, driving awareness to create an inclusive culture. Managers also need to have the confidence to facilitate conversations around mental health, being able to listen, signpost and support. Employees who have a long-standing mental health condition may be disabled as defined by the Equality Act 2010 and will therefore be protected from discrimination during employment. Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities, so it is important that managers are aware of legal responsibilities.

To build trust and get the conversation going around wellbeing, managers should ask employees “how are you” in their one to one meetings.  This will help to identify any issues that could be impacting on performance and what measures need to be put into place to support that individual.


Creating a culture of wellness

According to the latest CIPD Health & Wellbeing at Work Report March 2020 only 44% of private sector organisations have a wellbeing strategy. An organisation’s wellbeing framework should address immediate issues e.g. mental health, stress, sickness absence, then assess the main risks to people’s health with a focus on prevention. Organisations also need to identify if there is any internal data available to understand your employee’s current health and wellbeing by reviewing absence data & exit interviews and also understand the demographic of your workforce for each generational needs.

To get employee buy-in and increase engagement, ask staff how they would like to be supported and what activities they would participate in to benefit their health.  There isn’t a one size fits all with wellbeing and will vary in each organisation.  

Once you’ve considered your reasons for developing a health and wellbeing strategy, and what your company’s objectives are, the next stage is to get buy-in from senior management and secure a budget.


Strategy Framework

To establish a culture of wellbeing, a company will need to demonstrate its commitment to wellbeing and ensure its strategy is driven from the top downwards with support from Managers to create an inclusive environment. The framework of your strategy should cover the 5 pillars to wellbeing:

  • PHYSICAL HEALTH – musculoskeletal factors and risk assessments for remote workers. Raising awareness to keep illness at bay on exercise, nutrition and sleep. Provide a healthcare plan that includes free eye tests, dental care, access to GP, health screening and inoculations etc.
  • MENTAL WELLBEING – awareness training for Managers, trained Mental Health First Aiders, access to an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) provider including counselling, digital coaching and self-care days.
  • SOCIAL -  team work, reward & recognition, employee voice, inclusion, diversity, community activities and family-friendly policies.
  • FINANCIAL WELLBEING – secure work, real living wage, affordable workplace loans, salary advance, earned income schemes, budgeting workshops, pension planning and providing financial advice. Employee expectations of a job or career have fundamentally changed, transformed by a year and a half of upheaval and uncertainty. As a result, businesses need to consider what they are offering to their employees besides a salary.
  • WORKING ENVIRONMENT – providing a covid secure and safe working environment, amenities and technology designed to boost productivity and wellbeing, designing a more human-centric working environment providing flexible work experiences, enabling intentional collaboration and driving empathy-based management.


An annual health awareness programme should form part of a wellbeing strategy to support and educate employees on how to manage their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Prevention is always better than cure, so educating employees on having a good daily self-care routine and developing good health habits, will eliminate issues that could impact on your business.

Recruiting Wellbeing Champions within your organisation can help to organise and promote wellbeing initiatives, as well as driving a culture of wellness.  Wellbeing Champions can also report back on what is and isn’t working and provide data to measure the success of initiatives.


Your people are your business

A company’s greatest asset are its people. Employees want to feel valued and know that you are going to invest in them and their wellbeing.  A healthy workforce with resilient high performing teams will drive organisational success. Investing in the wellbeing of employees will result in a healthy, happy, engaged workforce who will thrive at work and ultimately be more productive. This will have a positive impact on overall business success, and create a great place to work.

If you are an SME in Greater Manchester and would like support in managing the wellbeing of your workforce, contact


Written 10 June 2021


Maria Mander

Maria Mander is a Health & Wellbeing Specialist at The Growth Company.  She is a leader in employee wellbeing, and provides specialist advice on the Skills For Growth Programme supporting SME’s across Greater Manchester.

Maria operated her own company providing strategic direction to SME’s and corporate companies (both private and public sectors) across the UK & globally. She brings a holistic approach to wellbeing, applying techniques gained from being a Life Coach, an accredited Mindfulness & Meditation Tutor and Reiki Master Practitioner.