Prospect secures well-being hour for Welsh government members

Prospect secures well-being hour for Welsh government members

Employees meditating during their well-being hour

Welsh government workers are now entitled to a dedicated hour of well-being each week after successful negotiations carried out by Prospect.

By introducing the well-being hour, the Welsh government hopes to be able to work with staff to prevent stress and promote mental health.

The deal was struck – in partnership with civil service unions the PCS and FDA – as part of pay negotiations.

The well-being hour allows employees up to 60 minutes’ additional break a week to pursue activities that support their well-being.

The hour can be broken up and spread over the week in any pattern. For example, staff can take an extra 12 minutes break a day or two half-hour breaks a week.

The time can be added to lunch breaks or taken at the beginning or end of the day – as long as it is between the working hours of 7am and 7pm and contributes to well-being.

It chimes with other policies being implemented across the country by the government, including the Well-Being of Future Generations Act, a law seeking to improve the quality of life of people in Wales, and the Welsh Prosperity for All strategy, which is a plan that seeks to grow the economy inclusively, spread opportunity and also promote well-being.

Commitments in the strategy include: improving the health and well-being of workers, with a specific focus on mental health and musculoskeletal conditions, and delivering an in-work scheme with rapid access to early work-focussed interventions for a range of conditions.

Robin Bradfield, the Welsh Government branch secretary, said:The well-being hour is an excellent opportunity for the Welsh government to take a lead and further demonstrate its commitment to the physical and mental health and well-being of our members and staff generally.”  

Shan Morgan, permanent secretary to the Welsh government, said: “I see our new well-being hour as an innovative way of putting strategy into practice in a very practical way that I hope everyone will benefit from.”

And Prospect members do seem to be benefiting from the move. Members have told us that they’ve used it for nature walks, reading in the park, museum trips, meditation, cuddles with grandchildren, dog walking, crochet groups, choir practice, swimming, running and working out.

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Here’s what members told us about how they use the well-being hour

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“I spent my hour today with colleagues in a lunchtime group walking through a shady wood on the outskirts of Aberystwyth admiring wild flowers in bloom – wood anemones, wood sorrel, celandine and a few early bluebells. It left me feeling calm, refreshed and ready to face the afternoon’s work. I alternate my hour with a Pilates session some weeks, which helps relax tight muscles in my shoulders I get from too much sitting at a computer some days. The well-being hour is such a brilliant innovation and I look forward to having the time to do these activities during the day.”

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“A colleague and I go for a walk every Thursday at noon over in Bute Park. We walk about 5km up to the weir over the bridge and back on the other side of the River Taff. We walk at a brisk pace that gets the heart pumping and it benefits our general well-being to be out in the fresh air.” 

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“I must confess, I was an initial sceptic but after a few weeks I can genuinely see the benefit of the hour. As someone who worked through lunch more than I should have, I’ve now started to fit in walks in the park, reading in the park and trips to the museum. Being able to take the hour in chunks is very good.

“The week where I was most organised saw two long walks in the park and a trip to the museum. In comparison to a typical week where I may have missed lunch a couple of times, I really did feel like I had a better week in work. (I should add that there is no pressure on me not to take lunch. That’s been my choice.)

“Two thoughts – having a boss who is entirely comfortable with the hour and treats staff like grown-ups makes a big difference. We are also a team with members who play squash, go to the gym at lunchtime and so on. We therefore had ready-made early adopters, which helps beak the barrier as it were. I can see that, in teams where no one is adopting the hour, there may be more hesitancy.

“Finally, now the sun has finally come out – it would be good for the Welsh government to really push the message that walking meetings and meetings held on picnic benches in the park are okay. This would complement the hour well. Obviously a walking meeting is not appropriate for the majority of meetings we have but if two colleagues need a quick catch-up, why not wander outside for half an hour? I suspect there’s no big issue with staff doing this now but it’s always good to get the message from high that this is supported.”

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“For me the well-being hour has been so beneficial. It is a way (the only way) that I can justify (in my own mind) that I can take time out for myself. Although, I don’t always get the opportunity to take it – I have used it on four occasions since it was introduced and hopefully I will use it today (if I allow myself; I have scheduled it in so my intention is there).

“I don’t tend to take a lunch break or tea break. I don’t smoke so I don’t have a comfort break that way either. This is due to my workload and I guess the pressure and expectations I put on myself as I want to be of value and I don’t want to let anyone down (this is something I am trying to work on as I am exhausted). Therefore, the well-being hour is the ‘start’. I train, so I have used a well-being hour to work out. I do mindfulness so I have also used it to meditate. Both my daughters have had babies – one has recently had twin boys and the other daughter has also recently had a little boy, so I have used two sessions to go and have snuggles with them, which brings the biggest smile to my face and for that time helps me to forget my troubles.

“There is a swimming pool, steam room etc about a five minute walk from where I live so I think I may pay for a membership and use this at times as part of my well-being hour also. It helps me to keep my sanity.” 

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“Occasionally we have, as a small team, taken the opportunity to arrange something as a group. No compulsion, but if team members want to join in that’s great. We are based at CP2 so have taken a walk in the park and visited the museum for exhibitions etc. We try to put something in the diary every few weeks and that means individuals don’t feel obliged to take up their WB allocation every week on team activities.

“The feedback has been good. It provides the opportunity for an activity that perhaps you would not otherwise have done and brings people together away from the office environment. Speaking personally, it has been useful as the interlude actually helps me to focus on work, having done something I felt was worthwhile.” 

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“More often than not I use my well-being hour predominantly for mindfulness sessions, here in QED. A small group of us get together once, sometimes twice a week for 20 minutes a time.

“The main benefit for me is when I go home in the evenings.  I find I have more energy at the end of the day after taking this time out during my working day.” 

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“I have been using the well-being hour to get some exercise walking my dog. I have also set up a crochet group with several inspectors in Carmarthen and we meet for an hour every couple of weeks. I think the well-being hour is a great idea. I hope people are using it.” 

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“I work part-time, and the extra half hour per week (combined with my lunch slot) has enabled me to join the WG choir on a Wednesday lunchtime, which I am thoroughly enjoying! I have a very tight work schedule as I have childcare responsibilities and little flexibility about working hours, so the extra half hour has allowed me to fit this into my working day. I’m not sure I could have done it otherwise. Thank you for all your hard work in securing this excellent benefit for us all!” 

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“I’m a big fan of the well-being hour and I’ve encouraged my team to use it. I have a health issue and I need to lose weight. I use my well-being hour on a Wednesday so that I can finish early to join my local rambling group for a five-mile walk. Booking the well-being hour into my calendar helps me make sure I finish early and don’t work over, so I get to the meeting point on time. This is helping with my stress levels and some weight loss, which hopefully will have all-round health benefits. It also helps with general aches and pains for my longer Sunday rambles, which are becoming easier.” 

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“I’ve used my well-being hour to meet my mum for lunch and to enjoy some quality time together. I also complete a Zumba DVD if I’m working from home. I’ve also used the time at the start and the end of the working day by parking further away from work and walking to and from work. I love my well-being hour!” 

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“I have been using the well-being hour each week since it began. I regularly swim and run and have used it to allow me to do either one of these activities during the working day, which then frees up my evenings as I have a young family. I have found that taking it alongside my lunch break gives me enough time to complete the activity, shower and eat and then carry on with my working day. It has made a huge difference to me so far and long may it continue! I am also a line manager, and have been encouraging my team to use the hour. It has been very well received by them all.” 

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“I use my well-being hour to fit a couple of 5km runs in over lunch times each week. This helps to keep fit, gets me outdoors into the park, and actually allows me to get away from the desk and rethink things, which helps to keep focus on work priorities. So to my mind it is a win-win for both me and the organisation.” 

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“I am tagging it on to my lunch break, 10 minutes or so a day. It’s been great in finally getting me out of the office every day for a short walk in the park – just having that extra 10 minutes really helps to make that feel possible – and it’s helping me manage my stress levels.”

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“I’m using the well-being hour as much as I am able – although not consistently at the moment due to workload. I work 30 hours so I tend to split it into two chunks of 20 minutes and either go for a walk or read my book. Occasionally a friend and I have used the full 40 minutes for a powerwalk around the park on a Friday.” 

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“The well-being hour is excellent. It is flexible and can easily be worked into your week. You could take 10 minutes here or 20 minutes there over the course of the week or bulk your whole hour into one. It is good to have it written in policy; time where you can relax away from your desk.

“I primarily use my hour in one bulk to walk into town through the park (the longer route), have an extended lunch break or head home to undertake some relaxation sessions. Its flexibility allows for a multitude of uses.

“The well-being hour is in its infancy at the moment but has already shown some great improvements across the organisation. Personally, it has reduced my stress levels. It gives me the time to get away from the desk and more importantly get out from the building into the outdoors to breathe and relax a little. It is very beneficial as I struggle with back problems and it gives me the time to focus on my health over my work. I am sure over summer the hour will be used even more than it is now to help employees take some time out of their day to go outside and enjoy themselves.” ­

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“I’ve been using the well-being hour, although in my case as I work part-time I have 52 well-being minutes each week.

“I’m a dad and a keen runner and always struggle to fit training into my week, so the well-being time has been really useful for me to be able to get quality runs at lunchtime or the end of the day, or recovery sessions in the gym, while still being able to do nursery pickups and drop-offs.

“While it’s been beneficial to me personally, I’ve also competed for the civil service at cross-country running, so I’d like to think it’s benefiting my employer too!” 

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“The well-being hour has been a great addition! I don’t think a week has gone by without me utilising this benefit. I nearly always use it for a run and can split it into two breaks or use it all at once.

“I’ve taken it mostly at the start of the day, which helps to prepare me for the day. I find I’m much more alert, rather than starting the day with at least two cups of coffee at a desk! 

“Sometimes I have taken it at lunchtime when I work from home. This has been great, too, as I often don’t have a proper break when working from home – it’s too easy to plough through without any interruptions.  

“Occasionally I have also booked a sports massage as I’ve been training recently for Newport’s first marathon and can be stiff after long runs, which can be painful, so this helps when sitting at a desk for long periods.

“Overall, I find the running de-stresses me and I’m more focused with work afterwards.”

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“I have used the well-being hour for various activities including joining a diet support group, attending body management classes, attending a St David’s day service, going to the gym and walking.” 

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“I think the well-being hour is a great idea. Personally I already exercise and do a lot for myself, as I make the time, but do use if for an extra walk or as part of my cycling regime. I ride to work, for example. I have heard other people trying to arrange things such as spin classes, or mindfulness sessions.” 

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“This remarkable and innovative initiative has enabled me to have a healthier and more engaged work-life balance. It has reinforced for me that the Welsh government appreciates me and wants me to implement self-care during my duties. As a result I have become more productive.

“The flexibility of this hour is priceless and I have used it in a multitude of ways during the past weeks. I’ve used the hour in one go at times, or added 20 mins to each lunch break or created 10-min breaks during a hectic afternoon and come back to complete tasks with a fresh outlook.

“I have used it for walking in the fresh air and attending mindfulness classes. I’ve had coffee breaks with colleagues I have not spoken to in a long time. It’s also handy to extend my lunch hour for personal tasks to relieve some life pressures. And, of course, it’s good for reflection, helping me to remain calm.

“The well-being hour is such a positive tool for employees to be able to manage workload and life pressures. I thank the union for all their hard work in achieving this for us.” 

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“I usually use the 40 minutes pro rata towards my riding lesson on a Monday afternoon. Getting out in the fresh air in all weathers after a Monday in the office is great. Yesterday, for example, was very stressful as our IT folks had still not sorted out my profile (after three working days) so I couldn’t work properly. It was wet and windy, but after an hour’s riding in the arena I was puffed out (it’s hard work riding properly) and my head was clearer. Other weeks I will take a walk down town for fresh air at lunchtime. I’d love to bring in my yoga mat and do a short session – there’s a lot of space between corrals on our floor. Not sure how that would go down though!” 

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“I use the well-being hour in different ways, including: a walk around the park; a coffee with retired police colleagues to bounce some ideas around concerning work; or an hour at the gym.” 

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