2023 wellbeing journey: Boaz Trust

Written by Ros Holland, Chief Executive at Boaz Trust

December 7, 2023
5 min read
Image of hands potting a plant

What did you do to understand team wellbeing?

As an organisation, we had quite a strong focus on wellbeing in the years before Covid, which served us well as a foundation when we had to learn how to look after ourselves and each other during a pandemic. We developed Thrive, a programme of 3 half days of wellbeing-related input from a qualified coach and embedded wellbeing practices into how we work as an organisation. We continued our staff surveys, which are anonymous and usually contain three simple questions, which can be on any topic but often include a wellbeing element. We also continued to incorporate wellbeing questions in our regular one to one meetings as well as our more structured quarterly check ins. We were encouraged to see that overall, most team members recognised the importance of wellbeing and felt supported in this area. Importantly people felt they could ask for help if it was needed.

As we started 2023,  we welcomed several new staff members over a short period, which meant that most of the team hadn’t benefited from the same wellbeing input and learning opportunities. We decided to start the New Year with a fresh focus on wellbeing.

What was put in place to improve wellbeing?

From January 2023, we went back to basics to explore wellbeing in our monthly in-person full-team meeting. We explored the breadth of wellbeing including mental, physical, social, financial, spiritual, environmental, and vocational wellbeing and clarified that wellbeing doesn’t just mean the absence of physical ill health. 

We then revisited the New Economics Foundation 5 Ways to Wellbeing which are:

  • Connect with other people
  • Be physically active
  • Learn new skills
  • Give to others
  • Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness)

The 5 Ways as a colourful PDF.

Through different activities and discussions we looked at different ways to monitor and support our wellbeing at work (and beyond). The 5 Ways model also informs our Boaz Life wellbeing work with people who have become homeless through the asylum process, and it was helpful to revisit the framework as a whole staff team, to increase understanding of the model and to explore practical ways of applying the 5 ways in our own daily lives.

Has this had any impact? If so, what was it?

We found it helpful to re-centre wellbeing and to confirm how important wellbeing is across the organisation, especially for colleagues who have joined the team more recently. Going back to basics this year has given us a good opportunity to talk about different aspects of workplace wellbeing, from our Employee Assistance Programme, counselling and flexible working to local opportunities to explore nature, 1:1 supervision and finding practical ways of connecting with colleagues when hybrid-working.

What would you like to do in 2024? 

2023 has been a challenging year for us, working in an increasingly hostile political environment and a challenging economic context, and sadly this all looks set to continue into the New Year. In 2024, we will need to keep wellbeing at the forefront of our minds, and one particular area I would like to work on is ensuring our workplace is inclusive and diverse and that our wellbeing offers are appropriate and accessible for all. I am keen for us to explore the Wellbeing Discovery Report produced by Refugee Action, in particular considering how we can best support the wellbeing of colleagues (staff and volunteers) who have lived experience of forced migration and the UK asylum system. 

Most of our wellbeing work this year has been in-house, and I would be keen to secure funding to provide some more formal learning opportunities which can be equally valuable. We know that there are lots of benefits to offering more opportunities for learning, and it would be great to have the resources to invest more in this area. 

Finally, it’s been encouraging to hear that people have felt and acknowledged the value we place on wellbeing at Boaz through our culture, our conversations and our working practices. However, I hoped to develop a more formal wellbeing policy for our organisation this year. Sadly I simply haven’t had the capacity to do this, and it is one of the tasks I have had to say no to, for the sake of my own wellbeing! I do think that having a good policy in place alongside our embedded processes and more training opportunities for staff would be useful, and would ensure that the wellbeing focus and momentum isn’t tied to one or two key staff members.

What practical advice would you give to others looking to improve team wellbeing?

  1. As a leader, make sure you model wellbeing practices. Take breaks. Talk about how you are looking after yourself. How you work and look after yourself will influence and shape the culture of the organisation, perhaps more than you realise. 
  2. Be honest with how you are feeling and dealing with the pressures of life. There is no place for toxic positivity!  How can you ensure your organisation is a safe place for people to share their challenges and difficulties, as well as their moments of hope, joy and celebration?
  3. You can do all the best wellbeing work in the world and there will still be challenges and difficult situations to work through. Taking care of our wellbeing can help us to prepare for storms ahead and mean we are more resilient when the waves come crashing over. When the tough times come (and I can guarantee they absolutely will), with the right tools, practices  and support in place we can build ourselves back up again. Integrating wellbeing practices and conversations in an organisation can help people to feel valued and there is evidence that it can improve engagement and performance. But please don’t think that by having a great wellbeing policy and practices in place, your life will be more simple!