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Business leaders expect spending on employee wellbeing to rise by 13% this year.1 But the value this delivers for talent retention will depend on several factors. At the forefront, are the soft skills, emotional intelligence and resources that are invested in line managers. They have day-to-day responsibility for supporting staff and helping to create healthier workplaces.

A whole-person approach to wellbeing

Business In the Community's (BITC) Wellbeing Workwell Model provides a useful framework for taking ''a preventative, whole-person, whole-organisation approach to health and wellbeing”.

Its advice for leaders and line managers includes the following.2

  • Consciously advocate role model behaviours that promote health and wellbeing.
  • Enable an inclusive culture by embedding wellbeing into management accountability and operation policies and tools.
  • Publicly report on your wellbeing performance in external communications.

Rachel Murray, Head of Employee Health and Wellbeing at Bupa, says:


"Bupa puts these principles into practice with our in-house programmes. These include Personal Energy and Bupa Being. They support our managers to take a holistic and inclusive approach to managing wellbeing. For both themselves and their teams."

Line managers play a key role

Line managers are ideally placed to encourage their teams to focus on wellbeing. This might be incorporating relaxation exercises, stretching or physical activity into breaks during meetings and throughout the workday.

Rachel says: “To do this, we looked at research and guidance from a wide range of sources. We looked at the World Health Organization (WHO), the Chartered Management Institute, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and BITC (see below sources*). And, of course we talked to our teams.”

Using the five behaviours the CIPD identifies as the hallmarks of a good line manager, here are some approaches to consider.

1. Being open, fair and consistent

  • We instinctively trust people who are like ourselves. But this can be a barrier to discussions around wellbeing as well as diversity. Chit chat is an important opportunity to learn what you have in common with others.
  • Do as you say. It's easy to judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.
  • Provide psychological safety and allow people to be themselves when they're at work.
  • Take 10. Encourage line managers to regularly take 10 minutes to have a conversation with each member of their team.

2. Handling conflict and people management

  • Understand how to set the scene for successful conversations. These are supportive and productive, rather than combative.
  • Look for win-wins where organisation and staff agendas align. Good ideas are likely to emerge.
  • With hybrid and remote working, policies may need updating. They may need to address digital etiquette and potential issues around remote working and cyber bullying.
  • A work-from home policy, or agreement, can be helpful to remind staff that workplace drug and alcohol policies still apply when they are working remotely.

3. Providing knowledge, clarity and guidance

  • Line managers are well placed to encourage their teams to do relaxation exercises, stretching or physical activity. Encouraging them to do so during breaks in meetings and throughout the workday.
  • Lead by example and role model a healthy lifestyle.
  • Set boundaries, particularly around work-life balance. WHO suggests using electronic devices to remind team members to take a break or switch off. Timers and hour logs can also help staff maintain a healthy work schedule.

4. Building and sustaining relationships

  • Virtual meet-ups and dedicated social time reduces the risk of staff feeling isolated. A good time to do this is at the beginning and end of meetings. This also gives line managers an opportunity to informally check their health and wellbeing.
  • Encouraging employees to speak to line managers if they are feeling overloaded.
  • Building trust. Managers need to show they can be trusted on small things. Colleagues are then more likely to trust them with challenging health and wellbeing concerns.

5. Supporting development

  • Make sure comprehensive training reaches all managers. Training should include the impact work can have on employees and how to prioritise employee health and wellbeing.
  • Give line managers the training they need to identify potential issues and signpost available support.
  • Recognise and reward empathy.
  • Organise remote and hybrid working to focus on outputs or outcomes rather than process.
  • Emphasise the importance of varying work tasks periodically. This reduces the risk of issues such as eye strain and problems with muscles, bones and joints.
  • Embed wellbeing into management accountability and operational policies and tools.

Resources and guides

To help organisations address these ambitions, Bupa provides a wide range of resources and guides. They are designed to support line managers and create a working environment which attracts and retains talent. Resources include manager guides, Workplace Health and Wellbeing Academy modules and a wide range of materials to support healthier lifestyles.

1 Bupa Global Executive Wellbeing Index



Bupa health insurance is provided by Bupa Insurance Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 3956433. Bupa Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Arranged and administered by Bupa Insurance Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales No. 3829851. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London EC2R 7HJ

Bupa Health Trusts are administered by Bupa Insurance Services Limited. Registered in England and Wales No. 3829851. Registered office: 1 Angel Court, London EC2R 7HJ © Bupa 2024

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