Responsible for the health and welfare of 4672 staff in 92 sites around the country, Theresa Khatchian can’t be everywhere at once.
As an experienced wellbeing (and health and safety) advisor she understands that tactical communication with her people – ensuring the right wellbeing messages get to those who need it – is essential. And with the help of the Ministry’s communications team she uses technology as a strategic communications tool.
The team has built a wellbeing section on the Ministry’s intranet, so staff can access wellbeing information with a few keystrokes and mouse clicks.
“I wanted wellbeing to grow and thought it deserved its own place on the intranet. The new website is visually interesting, with good photos and images, and has lots of things staff need to stay well,” Theresa says. The information includes the Ministry’s wellbeing offerings, including flu immunisations, health insurance and eye-check offers, gym membership deals and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) information.
“It’s a good page to show someone as part of an induction. When people start work they want to know what’s in it for them. It also helps retain staff – you can always tell people you value them, but this shows we value their wellbeing.”
The website is also home to a wellbeing calendar, which Theresa populates partly with initiatives her team have said they’re interested in and from she sees as a need, based on what's recorded in the Ministry’s incident and accident register.
“That’s often around discomfort, pain and injury, so I need to get them moving more. Stress is also up there, so I’m looking to do more for mental wellbeing.
“Each month focuses on a selection of wellbeing topics. I load plenty of links so the wellbeing champions can click through to the resources they need. I put up only three months at a time, then update it. That keeps it all fresh.”
To keep interest up she focuses on different topics and finds ways to promote the topics in a different way. “There needs to be something for everyone. Often it’s the same people who get involved in initiatives so I’m always looking for ways to target different groups of people.
“As an example, I ran our 10,000 steps challenge as a Ministry-wide challenge rather than an individual or small team challenge. I know from experience people who aren’t already active may not get involved because they think they won’t do well – and these are the very people this initiative was trying to target.”
But technology will only get you so far, and for best results it’s backed up by people power. For this, Theresa says her 80 wellbeing champions around the country – also the Ministry’s Health and Safety representatives – are “invaluable”.
“The champions are really good at knowing their people. They’re right there, listening to people say, ‘I wish we had this or that’. And they know who can help them address that need locally.”
But when they need help from head office, Theresa aims to have everything at their fingertips.
“Using the range of resources on the wellbeing website and the calendar, they concentrate on what their people need. I load links to information and resources so they don’t have to go looking for anything. And if they want something else, they can email me.”
Theresa uses technology to make it easier for her champions to communicate with each other. “I’m not able to bring them together physically, but they use various ways of communicating technologically. We mostly use email groups, but open messaging apps such as ‘Connect’ and ‘Yammer’ can be useful.”
Special actions for special groups
While some of her initiatives are about individual change, Theresa also focuses on organisational change, and again technology is a big help. It will definitely be essential for reaching the Justice Ministry’s 100-plus collections staff (who follow up unpaid fines) about to start working from home.
“I look at particular business units and see how I can give them what they need,” she says. “We are busy working out what our collections staff will require. Creating wellbeing is part of their managers’ performance and development plans, which ensures I have well-engaged managers!”
However, Theresa is well aware some of her people need their information the old-fashioned way. “Our security officers don’t have access to computers and they have quite different needs. I do a separate calendar for them focusing on what they need, and look for other ways to give them wellbeing information.
“For example, they stand for hours at a time so discomfort, pain and injury is a problem. We made a pocket-sized flip chart with eight stretches they can do on the job. They like me taking a special interest in them and making sure they stay well.”
And that’s Theresa’s aim – to ensure all her people can access the wellbeing help they need, when they need it.
To find out more about how Theresa ensures wellbeing at the Ministry of Justice, email her.
To read more about how strategic communications help build a culture of health, read this article from the Journal of Occupational Health and Medicine. Note: the article is not free to people who do not subscribe to the Journal.