Thursday 14 April 2016

Five Ways to Wellbeing in the workplace

At the PAVO staff development day on Tuesday our team manager Jane Cooke, and former mental health team colleague Freda Lacey (now with the health & social care team), ran a session on Five Ways to Wellbeing in the workplace. They asked each of us to look at how the Five Ways – Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give/Be Creative play a part in our personal and our work lives. They were also keen to find out how PAVO, as an employer, could support our wellbeing at work, and asked us to make suggestions which would later be considered by the senior managers.

PAVO staff development day 12 April 2016
Our team originally wrote about the Five Ways last June in a joint blog post - which is where you can find out about the origins of the Five Ways (a resource created by the New Economics Foundation) and how being active in the five areas can lead to happier and healthier lives. The Powys Public Health team is understandably keen to promote the approach far and wide. So anyway, it was really interesting to reflect and consider if anything had changed for us since last June, and also to hear what our colleagues thought about an approach which can, apparently, add another 7.5 years to the average lifespan!

First – take notice!

Jane started by asking each of us to spend a couple of moments considering how we felt – right then. Bored? Excited? Full? Empty? Happy? Sad? Lively? Tired? She invited us to go outside, close our eyes, and listen. To tune in to our other senses. Luckily the weather was on our side! We felt the sun on our faces, the breeze in our hair. We heard lambs bleating and robins singing. It was wonderful! When we were called back in to the conference room a few minutes later people were reluctant – they wanted to stay out there and enjoy the beautiful day, the fresh air, the green Powys countryside which is on our office doorstep. We acknowledged that most of us don’t do that at lunchtimes, even. We know it’s nice. Yet we don’t do it during our work day.

Connecting with colleagues
Giving & connecting

Then Jane invited us to have a conversation about something really nice we’d given to someone else. On my table a colleague said: “The gift I enjoy giving is time. It is crucial for my aged parents. I take time to sit with them and talk about things that happened 50 years ago.”

Jane explained that giving and connecting are very similar. We leave three quarters of ourselves behind when we come to work and very rarely say how we’re really feeling. Yet, if we open up as human beings in the workplace that actually helps our work. It changes the energy of the workplace. “It’s not magic. Really.”

Be active

Another colleague told me that the ideal number of steps we should take each day is 5,000. He does over 2,000 a day even when in the office, but does go out for lunch rather than sit at his desk. 

Freda dug a bit deeper. What does “being active” mean to people? Interpretations included – physically active, mentally active, busy, making things happen, the new, variety… Freda said that clearly the interpretation was very subjective. One person climbed 5 flights of stairs several times a day to their home, another went to exercise classes whilst yet another walked a dog. The Five Ways can be completely different for everyone – but that is absolutely fine. It was also pointed out that it is about a sense of achievement – it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks if you feel you’ve achieved something.

1000 steps so far today!
The barriers

then looked  at some of the barriers to doing things we know are good for us. A long list soon filled up a flipchart page – time, too busy, not valuing ourselves and our wellbeing, not prioritising, habit, physical limitations, apathy, guilt (a sense of being too selfish)....  the pressures were described as sometimes different for men and women.

Some good ideas

We discussed how we could use the Five Ways to change the way we work. Here are just a few of our ideas:

  • Standing meetings… or acquire some standing desks for the offices.
  • More visual ways of working – which supports creativity in the workplace.
  • Cycling to work scheme.
  • Frontline staff connecting with the PAVO trustees more regularly.
  • Using computers to tell us when to take a break.
  • Reactivating the book share scheme.
  • A lunchtime walk around Plas Dolerw park in Newtown or Llandrindod Wells lake.
  • An outdoor workplace, and a team-building day creating it!
Some of the ideas depend on organisational involvement, but many of the suggestions really just require a group of enthusiastic colleagues to get together and start! Carl Cooper, Chief Executive Officer (left in top photo), rounded off the session by promising to look at all the suggestions and agreeing to support the ethos of the Five Ways by encouraging the opportunities and culture for these things to happen.

Keep learning

Right now it’s time for me to Keep Learning. I have my staff appraisal next Tuesday, and there’s an empty box on the form titled Training & Development Plan for the coming year… But first, I just want to catch up on what Jane wrote about why we like the Five Ways to Wellbeing… in particular: “the things that make us feel good, that are enriching and fulfilling, are not always the same as the “big sell” – do more and do it faster, buy more stuff, buy it faster, chuck it away faster… so what does that mean for the way that we work together as part of PAVO?”

Have you used the Five Ways to Wellbeing to help promote a healthy workplace? Let us know what you think in the comments box below. We always love to Connect with our readers!


  1. great blog. Only thing I would quibble with is that for health we should all be doing 10,000 steps per day, not 5000 as stated. Sophia

    1. Hi Sophia

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, 10,000 steps per day does sound like a healthier option. I wonder how many of us actually achieve it? I know I am looking forward, on this gloriously sunny day, to stepping out of the office and getting back into my garden. I reckon I have at least another 9,000 steps to go yet today! If half of them are up a very steep hill maybe I can get away with a few less!



  2. I think you Be active point is major for Five Ways to Wellbeing in the workplace Health is Wealth