It’s always good to talk – but sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. 
Here are some simple tips, questions and resources to help you think about the different approaches you might consider when beginning a wellbeing conversation with a member of your team. 

This advice is particularly aimed at managers, to help facilitate wellbeing conversations with their team. For advice on starting a wellbeing conversation with your manager, click here to view our Personal Wellbeing Plan template.

In tough and pressured working environments, it’s even more important to find ways look after our own and each others’ well-being. We can’t always change the way that our team or organisation needs to work, but what we can try to do is help each other to be as emotionally fit as possible to stay well in the face of those challenges – and to be able to notice and to access help when we need it

There are many opportunities to have a conversation that has wellbeing as its focus.  Some of these might be as part of a formal process, e.g. in relation to a formal Appraisal. Others may be less formal, e.g. a 1-1, supervision, or colleague/peer discussion.

One of the most important skills that you will need in order to facilitate an effective and supportive wellbeing conversation is listening – empathetic and active listening.

  1. Attending – paying attention to your colleagues and “listening with fascination” 
  2. Understanding – sharing an understanding of what they are going through 
  3. Empathising where relevant 
  4. Helping – taking action to signposting to support.

As a manager, holding a wellbeing conversation may feel daunting at first. It is important to remember that you are not being asked to provide clinical advice – your role is to hold the conversation, actively listen to your colleague, be compassionate and signpost to further support.

Formal Wellbeing Conversations

The NHS People Plan asks that all NHS staff have a health and wellbeing conversation, and are supported to develop a Personalised Wellbeing Plan.

Click here for a Personalised Wellbeing Plan template, to help you think about the kinds of questions you might want to ask.

In a formal setting, having the conversation may need a bit of clarification, i.e explaining why you think it is important that the conversation takes place and what, together, you want to achieve.

Here are some ideas of phrases that you could use:

“I thought it might be helpful for you and I to have a conversation about your wellbeing and how you are feeling at the moment”

“I’ve noticed you’re not yourself at the moment and thought it might be helpful for us to have a conversation about it, what are your thoughts?”

“I’ve noticed a few things that seem out of character… I thought it might be helpful to talk about them and see how we can work together to help change them.”

“How are you feeling at the moment as I’ve noticed you don’t seem as… as you normally do.”

In a 1-1/supervision setting, there is the opportunity for a less formal approach, and more open-ended questions:

“How are you feeling today?”

“What has been happening to you?”

“How has it affected you?”

“What sense did you make of it?”

“What has been helpful to you in coping?”

“Is there anything that you think might be helpful?”


Good practice for wellbeing conversations

Wellbeing conversations are:

  • Caring and compassionate – they give space to enable employees to holistically explore their wellbeing.
  • Employee led – they enable the employee to lead the conversation and focus on the most important things to them.
  • Supportive – they signpost employees to the most appropriate support.
  • On-going and dynamic – wellbeing changes over time, therefore these conversations should be held regularly.
  • Inclusive – every NHS employee should have ongoing supportive conversations that enable their unique and diverse personal wellbeing needs to be met.

Wellbeing conversations are not:

  • Therapeutic interventions – employees should, where necessary, be signposted to access appropriate support from trained professionals.
  • Judgemental or performance related – wellbeing conversations should not be used for performance management or as a way of judging the quality of someone’s work.
  • A formal mental health assessment – if you think your colleague needs a formal mental health assessment, you can signpost them to a relevant trained professional.

Remember to consider where and when the conversation might take place. Whether the conversation is online or in person, it’s important that you maintain a safe and boundaried (i.e. trusting and private) space for the conversation to emerge. Consider cultural requirements with regard to the timing of your conversation. Make sure that you are not disturbed or distracted throughout the conversation.

More resources
to support Wellbeing Conversations

We would like to help you to manage your wellbeing in and out of work. This personal wellbeing plan, although it belongs to you, is a tool to help you and your manager have open conversations about things that are important for your health and wellbeing.

This document looks at things that you can do or change to help you feel well and also helps your manager know if there are things they can support you with that could improve your wellbeing. You can use it to aid discussions about those areas which are important to you and that may impact on your health and wellbeing.

Click here to access the resource

The NHS People Plan asks that all NHS staff have a health and wellbeing conversation, and are supported to develop a personalised wellbeing plan, from September 2020.

This resource outlines some ideas for things you might consider to ensure that quality health and wellbeing conversations and plans that best meet the needs of our diverse workforce are embedded within your organisation.

Click here to access the resource.

This guide takes people through the process of beginning wellbeing conversations, by considering how to plan a meeting, the risks that may be involved and key pointers for the conversations themselves. 

Click here to access the resource. 

NHS People have created this resource to share their vision in building a culture in which health and wellbeing conversations are intended to be regular, supportive, coaching-style one to one conversations that focus on the wellbeing of our NHS people.

Click here to access the resource.