In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is an increasing focus on preventative wellbeing strategies. This is influenced by the growing understanding of the health impacts of lifestyle-related diseases and the need for holistic approaches to wellbeing to cope with new workplace challenges. By focusing on health and wellness promotion within the workplace, the occurrence of ill health can be prevented before its onset. To achieve this, it is vital that wellbeing strategy translates into action at all levels of the business. 
Wellbeing initiatives and support need to be delivered locally and inclusively to all employees. However, achieving this consistently can be a challenge, especially where employees work across multiple locations and shift patterns. A network of wellbeing champions who provide peer-to-peer support and lead by example, is one way of overcoming this hurdle, and will help to bridge the gap between strategy and practice.

RSSB has undertaken a cross-industry training needs analysis for wellbeing champions in the rail industry. The analysis used cross-industry survey data and discussion themes from a series of workshops to inform decisions about the training and professional development needs of the people who are your wellbeing champions. 

The training needs—in the Wellbeing Champions in the Rail Industry: An Analysis of Training Needs report—are aimed at managers responsible for health and wellbeing within their organisation, or who have to align the activities of their departments with health and wellbeing policy. It identifies a number of components that will provide consistent and standard training for wellbeing champions. These should develop the awareness, knowledge, skills and confidence needed to be a highly effective peer support community.

Figure 1: table summarising the key themes.

Driving effective behaviour change is a year-round conversation that requires a consistent approach, so training wellbeing champions can help maintain momentum and enthusiasm at a local level as well as demonstrate company commitment to employee wellbeing.

The report also highlights a number of enabling elements of wellbeing champion programmes that need to be in place to support effective and sustained champion activity and ensure accountability, governance, effective resource allocation, and support for the wellbeing champions network. 

For a wellbeing strategy to make a lasting difference it has to be embedded in the culture of the workplace – which means it needs to be fully embraced from within the business. Peer support can be a powerful way of getting wellbeing messages across as well as providing a valuable means of feedback, but requires alignment to the overall wellbeing strategy to be effective and sustainable. 

If you are thinking of setting up a wellbeing champion programme, RSSB has also developed a Wellbeing Champion Toolbox to share good practice and to make it easier for rail companies to set up their own project. The Toolbox has tips and templates for recruiting champions, how to set up a support network for them, and information on how you can demonstrate outcomes.