Setting up a Wellness Action Plan (WAP)

The Wellness Action Plan is a tool to help you and your employees share what keeps you well at work and when and why you might become unwell. It helps you improve wellbeing or support recovery.

It is based on a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) — an evidence-based system for managing mental health. This system has been adapted, and the new approach has become popular for use in workplace settings.

It’s a personal document written by employees and shared with individual managers. It works as an agreement and a tool to promote ongoing discussion. It’s not legally binding.

WAPs are for everyone, not just someone who has a problem right now. For all of us, it’s important to stay aware of our mental health work, and a WAP can help with this.

An image of a planning meeting

What should a WAP include?

Your organisation may have a specific WAP template or form already. If not, you may have to think about setting one up for your team.

The form should include guiding questions and suggestions about how to complete the WAP. It should explain that the document is confidential between the employee and manager unless the employee consents to it being shared further.

Employees should think about:

  • what they are like when they are well and happy at work
  • how they can support their own mental health and wellbeing
  • what has worked (or hasn’t worked) in the past
  • any existing support or reasonable adjustments they have in place
  • any early warning signs of poor mental health that managers can look out for
  • what might trigger poor mental health or stress at work
  • how poor mental health or a specific mental health problem might affect their work (if at all)
  • what steps they will take to manage stress or poor mental health at work
  • what support they need from their manager

The Health and Safety Executive offers a stress management indicator tool that may help employees think about their working conditions and how they could be improved.

The charity Mind have an example WAP template that you may find useful.

How do WAPs help me as a manager?

Using a Wellness Action Plan can help you fulfil your duties as a line manager. It can:

  • help you structure and start conversations about mental health with your employees
  • help you understand your employees’ experiences and needs
  • help with identifying and considering reasonable adjustments
  • help ensure employees returning to work after absence are appropriately supported
  • show new starters that you are committed to their wellbeing

How do WAPs help me as an employee?

As an employee, a WAP can help you:

  • think about and share what supports your mental health at work
  • think about and share what makes you unwell at work
  • think about and share things that can help keep you well
  • talk about what support you need for a specific mental health problem
  • review your experience and approach regularly and make sure the support you receive is the best for you right now
  • feel empowered and in control

How do we set up a WAP?

  • Check whether your organisation already offers a WAP template and guidance.
  • If not, you may want to set one up within your team and consider making the case for organisation-wide adoption.
  • You might want to introduce the idea of a WAP in one-to-one sessions with employees and encourage them to have a go filling one in. Remind them it’s a personal document that should explain their experiences and needs in a way that makes sense to them.
  • Plan some time to discuss the WAP and any reasonable adjustments with them before it is finalised and signed off. Explain what might be possible but try not to offer too many of your own advice and suggestions.
  • Make sure you review it regularly — a WAP should be a dynamic and flexible document.

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    • Cook, Copeland et al. Results of a randomized controlled trial of mental illness self-management using wellness recovery action planning. Schizophrenia Bulletin, March 2011. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbr012
    • Mental wellbeing at work. NICE Public health guideline [PH22], published November 2009
    • Work Related Stress. Health and Safety Executive. [accessed May 2017]
    • Guide for Line Managers: Wellness Action Plans. Mind. [accessed May 2017]

  • Produced by Clare Foster, freelance health editor, and Nick Ridgman, Head of Health Content, Bupa UK, September 2017
    Next review due September 2020

    Bupa UK expert reviewers:

    • Naomi Humber, Psychology Services Manager, EAP
    • Stuart Haydock, Resilience Lead, Health Clinics
    • Sarah Deedat, Head of Behaviour Change