Observations from a workplace wellness project

Observations from a workplace wellness project

6 October 2014
Observations from a workplace wellness project

This article describes a workplace wellness project undertaken by Anglicare Sydney’s Shoalhaven Centre.

This article describes a workplace wellness project undertaken by Anglicare Sydney’s Shoalhaven Centre in the context of organisational change and distress experienced by staff. Management was concerned to respond so as to support the individual, manage safety risks and ensure quality, consistent and stable services.

A literature review informed the choice of a five-phase structured and participatory intervention process (Neilsen, Randall, Holten and Gonzalez, 2010). A summary of the project development using these phases follows:

Phase 1: Preparation Phase. After management and staff consultation, a steering group was formed with the role of setting objectives, determining ethical boundaries to ensure staff anonymity, and engaging and communicating with staff.

Phase 2: Screening Phase. In this phase, information was sought from staff about their current wellbeing and stressors, using questions for discussion during annual performance reviews and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (Schaufeli & Baker, 2004). The scale was chosen for its positive behavioural focus and explained and offered to staff for voluntary and anonymous participation.

This scale defines work engagement as a positive, fulfilling work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigour (energy, mental resilience and persistence through difficulties), dedication (significance, pride and challenge underpinning work involvement) and absorption (full concentration). In the scale, vigour and dedication are described respectively as the opposites of exhaustion and depersonalisation, as indicated in burnout measures.

Phase 3: Action Planning Phase. The information gained from phase 2 was reviewed alongside the most recent results from the organisation’s ‘Voice Survey’ and research on the factors shown to make a difference in promoting staff wellness. As a result the steering group developed a series of initiatives to:

  • Build positive team relationships, including facilitated training and regular team lunches and morning teas.
  • Explore further what staff meant by their expressed desire for improved communication.
  • Respond to expressed training needs: time management, specific software applications required by work, and self-care and resilience.
  • Train leaders in a supportive management style.

Phase 4: Implementation Phase. The Steering Group continued to meet regularly for approximately 18 months, as the initiatives were implemented and immediate feedback processed.

Phase 5: Evaluation Phase. A variety of strategies were used to evaluate the effectiveness of the project including pre and post anonymous survey results and direct staff feedback.

The Steering Committee concluded that a local, evidence-based approach to building wellness assisted in building a positive work culture and increased sense of ‘wellness’ among staff. The committee recognised that staff and management will inevitably face stressors related to the nature of our work, organisation (and sector) changes and the challenges of working effectively with colleagues.

They suggested that leadership needs to be proactive in recognising these challenges, working collaboratively with staff on locally based appropriate responses and providing vision and hope. It was further recognised that managers dealing with staff stress often need to use a range of responses including support, action on workplace issues, and encouragement of self-responsibility.

The author is happy to be contacted for more information at gdevlin@anglicare.org.au.


Neilsen, K., Randall, R., Holten, A. & Gonzalez, E. (2010). Conducting organizational-level occupational health interventions: What works? Work and Stress, 24:3, 234-259

Schaufeli, W., Bakker, A.B., & Salanova, M. (2006). The measurement of work engagement with a short questionnaire: a cross national study. Educational and Psychological Measurement. 66:4, 701-716

Schaufeli, W. & Bakker, A.B. (2004). Utrecht Work Engagement Scale: Preliminary Manual. http://www.fss.uu.nl/sop/Schaufeli/Test%20Manuals/Test_manual_UWES_English.pdf. Downloaded March 2012.

Skakon, J., Nielsen, K., Borg, V., &  Guz, J. (2010). Are leader’s well-being, behaviours and style associated with the affective well-being of their employees? A systematic review of three decades of research. Work and Stress, 24:2, 107-139

The feature image is by David Joyce. CC BY SA 2.0.

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Glenda Devlin

Glenda is the Director of Anglicare Sydney Southern Region.

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