The relationship between employee and line manager may well be the most important one when it comes to workplace wellbeing. Line managers are best placed to spot signs that employees may be struggling with their health or that they are becoming stressed, and an ineffective or poor line manager/employee relationship directly impacts on staff mental health. As Sarah Salter, group HRD at Northumbrian Water, puts it: “A line manager can pick up any issues much more quickly.”
At design and engineering consultancy Atkins, where many line managers may be
technically skilled but less good at dealing with people, HR business partner Amanda Stickland recognised that training managers in wellbeing was crucial. Poor management was impacting negatively on retention, absenteeism and productivity, so building a business case to gain leadership buy-in was relatively straightforward. Atkins worked with wellbeing experts Robertson Cooper to design a training programme for managers, helping them support their teams to be more resilient when under pressure and training them to recognise that each member of a team needs something different from wellbeing.
“The line manager is absolutely key, as it’s about individual intervention and understanding what your team members want and need,” says Stickland. “If you create a work environment that is happy and healthy, where different styles of working and management are valued, you will get high performance. And high performance in turn makes people happy.”
“Channelling different motivations of staff into one shared sense of purpose and positive emotion requires flexibility in your engagement initiatives and skilled, emotionally intelligent managers,” adds Gordon Tinline, director at Robertson Cooper.
It’s certainly paid off for Atkins: it has just been ranked 23rd in the Best Big Companies to Work For, coming 18th based on wellbeing.