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Civil Service

Six ways to improve your wellbeing

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service, Health & Wellbeing

As Jonathan Jones, the Civil Service Champion for Health and Wellbeing, has said: 

We are at our most productive and fully engaged at work when we are healthy, happy and feel able to be ourselves.

One of the biggest barriers we often face when trying to focus on our wellbeing is time. But did you know that 15 minutes of wellbeing equates to  just 1% of your day; and 1 hour of wellbeing equates to 4% of your day. In this time you could try the following six ways to improve your sense of wellbeing.

1. Appreciation 

Create an Appreciation Tree/Wall for your office where staff members can thank colleagues for work they have done. This can improve staff and team morale, as well as effectiveness, by allowing everyone to feel valued and integral to the team’s success. Alternatively, or additionally, once a week, you could read a thank-you note to a colleague in your team meeting.

2. Achievement  

You could also create your own achievement jar or box, where you can write down all of the things you feel you have done well in that week or month, and reflect on them at a later time to appreciate how far you have come.

3. Journaling

Spend up to 15 minutes every day recording your thoughts, feelings and the day’s events in your journal. The practice serves as free therapy that may help to process emotions and clear your mind.

Top tip:  To establish a journaling habit, you have to pick a journal you’re looking forward to using every day.

4. Stress

Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don't spend enough time doing things we really enjoy. Why not set aside a couple of nights a week for some quality ‘me time away from work. By earmarking those 2 days, it means you won't be tempted to work overtime and you'd find time for yourself or to socialise. 

Top tip: Check out NHS top 10 stress-busters

5. Quick wins 

Prioritise using ‘power hours’. For one hour (preferably in the morning) focus on a particular task. The theory is that you start with the most important task first, so that you do not have to worry about it throughout the day. Having a dedicated hour often helps you focus and avoid distractions. 

6. Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to do something for others. Research shows that it benefits people of all ages through increasing feelings of self-esteem, respect, motivation and wellbeing.

If you would like to volunteer in 2019, consider joining CSSC’s purple army and volunteer to meet new people and make new friends, or find volunteering opportunities close to you by visiting

We’d like to encourage our colleagues across the Civil Service to make small changes to improve their wellbeing. For more ideas and inspiration, check out our A-Z to Better Wellbeing toolkit.

Which one of these could you try and do more of in 2019?


About Team Chaffinch

Members of Team Chaffinch with presenter Jonathan Jones on the stage at the 2018 Civil Service Awards, one of them holding the award.
Members of Team Chaffinch with their Civil Service Award, presented by Jonathan Jones (third left), Civil Service Health and Wellbeing Champion

Team Chaffinch are 9 civil servants based in London and the East and South East of England, from across government departments, who met through the Civil Service Local Junior Leadership Academy 2017. They created the A-Z to Better Wellbeing toolkit to help make wellbeing fun, easy and accessible for civil servants and to help create A Brilliant Civil Service that supports a great place to work.

The toolkit won Team Chaffinch the Civil Service Awards 2018 Health and Wellbeing Category; and they were also one of the 26 winners in The Charity for Civil Servants Community Awards 2018.

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  1. Comment by THERESA MARIA DEVINE posted on

    Donating blood is a good way of doing something good for society. I first donated last year and now wish I had done it years ago. Also, recent study shows that blood donation is also good for the donor; each time you donate you have a mini health check, and you do get to feel really good about the fact that you are helping save lives. It doesn't hurt, and you get to eat biscuits afterwards without feeling guilty.

  2. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you for a very informative blog and for the six great ways in which we can improve our Wellbeing.

    Although, I am currently working / living overseas, I have signed up to MIND Red January 2019 and looked to undertake regular exercise as part of my Wellbeing strategy. For example, instead of commuting to and from work by Metro, if the weather is good I walk instead. I have also reduced my consumption of alcohol.

  3. Comment by Team Chaffinch posted on

    Hi everyone
    Thank you for sharing your comments with us. One thing that we have learnt throughout this process is that wellbeing is not a "one size fits all approach" and it has been really interesting for us to read your views on what you think works and doesn’t work.
    The toolkit was created to share some of the many wellbeing activities and initiatives that are currently being trialled or rolled out throughout the Civil Service. If you have any suggestions about activities that have worked in your area please keep sharing them with us here.
    Thank you

  4. Comment by CT posted on

    I feel more flexible working would be very beneficial. Many people spend a lot of time in traffic travelling to an office which is often overcrowded and in the process clogging up local roads. We need to get smarter about home working (which is already common in many other sectors) as it is surely not feasible to keep with the old model of big offices using a lot of energy and resources. The stress of this environment, noisy open planned and with restricted parking, must add to stress levels and ill health.

    I also notice more and more people coming into the office with contagious illnesses, often chest infections etc., which in turn spreads to other workers and their families. This has got worse since self cert sick limits were decreased. The result though is more people and their families getting sick.

    Also, why do we often have contract staff on site when they could very easily do most of what they need to do(with advances in mobile technology) from their homes or company offices? They should only need to come site when there is a very specific need for a face to face meeting.

  5. Comment by Steve L posted on

    To Sam, Lizzy P and Paula - important points well made. Physical health is linked to mental health and exercise / fresh air are vitally important to overall wellbeing. UK employees working the most hours in Europe says it all! It's not conducive to long term happiness, health and productivity of the workforce and their needs to be a big culture shift in attitude to work/life balance in the UK. How is that countries like Germany are more 'productive' than the UK but work less hours? I think the answer is obvious.
    The Welsh Government Civil service already 'give' their employees a weekly wellbeing hour ie: 1 hour a week to devote to themselves - I would think there has been an increase in staff happiness and productivity as a result of this policy, which was implemented almost 2 years ago now.
    The rest of the Civil Service should follow suit and lead by example - I would say we are falling behind large private sector employers in this regard.
    Reducing the working weekly hours to allow people to take an hour lunch without owing the business time would be good place to start. Happier, healthier workforce (through reduced hours and opportunity to exercise / socialise) = more productivity and less time off with sickness. Look to other European / Scandinavian countries for all the evidence.

    • Replies to Steve L>

      Comment by CT posted on

      I agree, our time should be about getting our outputs completed, not hours spent sat at a desk.

  6. Comment by Paula posted on

    I think that is a really valid point about the physical health and mental well being. There are just so many other benefits to individuals, long term physical and mental health wise. With obesity on the rise, physical health is becoming increasingly important if the quality and longevity of life is realistically most peoples foremost priority.
    I am so lucky to be able to use the gym at work and I use my lunch break, but I am under the clock. I think people who want to make the effort should be better supported. The Military have a sports afternoon, so maybe the Civil Service could adopt something similar? Perhaps not an entire afternoon, but a few hours maybe.

  7. Comment by Caring Dad posted on

    For people with caring responsibilities it can be difficult to find even 15 minutes to journal, consider well being etc when you've finished your daily/family responsibilities at the end of the day and flopped down with a cup of tea. You have to be incredibly disciplined to get anything done for self - if I want to do anything for me I have to get up 90 minutes earlier and deal with it before the commute and the rest of the house wakes up. There are weekends but again caring doesn't stop at the end of the working week it is 24/7.

    With the move to regional centers and what may be longer commute times for many people it could get even harder to find time. And before anyone points out that the new offices will have fab facilities - if you have caring responsibilities you cannot just stay longer at work to use them when you have to be there to pick up the kids etc.

    If anything is going to happen it needs to be led from the top down. I think that really there isn't any desire from those above - however it would be marvelous to be proven wrong...

  8. Comment by Chris posted on

    We need to stop confusing wellbeing with creating empowered and engaged teams. There are some overlaps, but for the most part this article ignores the work/life balance of individuals and that this will be different for everybody.

  9. Comment by Venka Bathina posted on

    This is an empowering article. Short, quick read that provides some good tips for boosting your self-esteem and confidence when you need it.

  10. Comment by Angus Gordon posted on

    Local departmental staff received mini Reiki boosts at a wellbeing event - the seated treatments were so easy to deliver and effective. I wish more alternative therapies could be offered regularly to help staff manage modern day stresses.

  11. Comment by Caroline F posted on

    I think this is great and I am really pleased that there is a focus on wellbeing but I do agree that the employer needs to make some changes too. It's more stressful working in offices where you can't find a desk or sit comfortably and have to sit squashed between colleagues. You have to crawl around to find plug points, remove other people's rubbish, tidy up, find a chair (not a proper office one) and avoid tripping over cables. A nice, clean environment with enough space to work and think would be a starting place.

    The private sector have introduced on site sleep rooms, massages, mindfulness and yoga classes for example which although I know are pricey, there have to be cheaper alternatives that the CS could look in to.
    Even a reminder at a certain time of day to stop and breath or a calm tea room with perhaps some free fruit would be a start!

  12. Comment by Sara Mitchell posted on

    There are some great tips here, thank you.

    I have to say that the title is a bit misleading though, 15 minutes of wellbeing can only be 1% per cent of our day if we don't sleep at all and there are 25 hours in the day. Taking 15 minutes for wellbeing is not going to feel like 1% of a day because it isn't.

    I do think Team Chaffinch give us some really good ideas.

  13. Comment by Kirsten posted on

    Appreciation - Birkenhead Service Centre runs 'spots', which is a reward and recognition vehicle, using nominations from staff working there. They have suggestion boxes on each floor, and anybody can fill in a simple form (or email a dedicated inbox) with a thank you for something a colleague has done to support them (or the team). each month the boxes are opened, considered by a mix of grades, and anything worthy of an outright voucher gets one, and everything else will be awarded a 'spot' in denominations of 5. Once you reach 25 spots, you get a £25 voucher. Steve Stapleton will have more details to share if needed.

  14. Comment by Malc posted on

    At one of the offices I worked at we had the 'oscars'. It was fine at first, but becomes like wallpaper after a while. Eventually the nominations dried up and after a year or so it died a death. Agree with Sam though if we are working the longest hours why cant we match the rest of Europe?

  15. Comment by Lizzy P posted on

    One of the items that I think has been totally missed here is the link between physical health and mental well being. Large and successful organisations are using health (providing staff with time to attend the gym or gym classes, yoga, time in nature, health education etc) on company time as a way of building resilience in staff and increased loyalty to the business.

    Although it would be very difficult to provide many of these things - time for physical activity, in my view is straight forward. An hour or 2 per week for all staff not having to use their lunch break to encourage people to get away from their desk, increase their NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) or #NEATUP247 , train at a sport etc would have far reaching implications including better health, better mental wellbeing, reduced stress, more sleep - all of the things that we struggle with in modern society.

    If the Civil Service are serious about staff well being then it needs to get serious about getting it's staff moving!

    • Replies to Lizzy P>

      Comment by CT posted on

      I agree, I try to get out every lunchtime for 20-30 mins walk and this is invaluable. Also, try and get away from desk for a few mins every hour, even if it is just a walk out into car park. Too many people feel they need to be wedded to the desk hour after hour.

      We also have too many meetings which go on for too long! None of this is healthy and does not contribute to getting tasks done. We need to be much smarter about the 'working day'.

  16. Comment by Lydia Fitzpatrick posted on

    Use your volunteering allowance to make a difference to a young persons life by joining Inspiring the Future. It contributes to your personal development and makes you feel good - as well as contributing to society. The Government's Year of Engineering 2018 campaign has been encouraging civil servants to continue its legacy by inspiring young people into STEM careers and beyond.Go to:

  17. Comment by silver lady posted on

    It's a good idea not to have everything work related. The ministry might like to think that the minute we hit the office of a morning we put our whole lives on hold but our lives continue in the work place and our associations there can be just as important - may be more so for some people - than our home lives. We spend an awful lot of time in the work place so it's important that we flex and exercise our relationships there just as much as any other. We don't have to live in each other's pockets but respect for one another should go a long way. If someone does you a kindness, work related or not, we should appreciate it and show that appreciation. It makes the workplace a far nicer place to be in the long run.

  18. Comment by Karen Price posted on

    We produced a booklet entitled 'How to Hygge a Tree' at Westonbirt Arboretum last year which looks at using trees for wellbeing. Although aimed more at working with groups, it does have some ideas you could use as an individual, or maybe a team of colleagues.

    I recommend the chocolate truffles.

    • Replies to Karen Price>

      Comment by Jay posted on

      Karen, what a fabulous booklet - being a complete nature nerd I can't wait to share this with my children and friends. A perfect way to de-stress.Thank you for the link

    • Replies to Karen Price>

      Comment by David Widlake posted on

      That is brilliant. Walking in forests is a Government endorsed policy in Japan because it is proven to reduce blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. I plan to share your book with my wellbeing network. Thank you.

    • Replies to Karen Price>

      Comment by Maria K posted on

      I am going to share your booklet too - love it! LAA Wellbeing Champions will share it.

  19. Comment by Ange Stobart posted on

    Appreciation; its hard isn't it? trying not to be pratronising or coming accross as the brown nose jobs worth that no one likes !!! we've tried every thing.....the only thing that seems to work and then I wouldn't say we had droves of positive comments....Team building day....consisted of team games etc....started off a bit naff with alot of rolling of eyes between them but a Prison Officer loves to be competive and in the end they joined in and even occasionally smiled.

  20. Comment by sharon martin posted on

    In our office we use what we call our AWESOME award once a month our wellbeing team send out a email to request if any of us have a nomination for the award it can be a member of staff or even a team its just nice that its acknowledged when you feel you have gone that extra mile or somebody has for you it also doesn't have to be work related so even better
    give if ago... another good thing about it is its quick to do

  21. Comment by Tom Corbett posted on

    This is all good stuff, and well articulated - thank you. However, it is all aimed at what employees can do. I think we also need to ask 'what can our employer do?'

  22. Comment by Paul posted on

    We tried Option 1 in our site. It worked really well to start with, with the 'well done' and 'thank you' messages being read out at team meetings, but in the end it all got pretty samey and a little repetitive, so we stopped.

  23. Comment by Sam posted on

    "4. Stress

    Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don't spend enough time doing things we really enjoy."


    Wouldn't a more obvious solution be to reduce the working hours in the Civil Service?

    • Replies to Sam>

      Comment by Drew posted on

      This is a great idea but the hard bit is how to implement it. I think the real issue is that people are scared to say "no", either because of the implications for their job prospects, legal/policy implications, or the implications of not delivering to schedule/quality.

      We can all start by learning the power of NO (or Yes, but...). "I'd like to get that done by tomorrow, but it's going to mean ..... (insert: spend time with my kids, go to the gym, do my daily meditation, miss that doctors appointment, keep my life balanced and my mental health in check, etc).

      If we all make the people we work for (at all levels) aware of the sacrifices of working more than 37 hours (what we get paid to do), and be more willing to say Yes, but... eventually there'll be a shift in culture. Either that, or get a job in another team/organisation, and leadership will eventually catch on to what's important to the workforce. Do your best to take responsibility for the way you work, and understand and commit to what's important to you.

      • Replies to Drew>

        Comment by Sam posted on

        I agree, though I'm a bit more hard-line than you I think, haha. I don't anyone should be working over their contracted, paid hours, unless they're a very senior Civil Servant. If people are ever asked to work unpaid overtime they should refuse, as far as I'm concerned. Then there will be a cultural shift away from our current unhealthy obsession with work (which admittedly is even worse in the private sector than in the Civil Service)