Community Plan - Priority 4:

Developing Healthy Workplaces across Merton

Health and Wellbeing Board


  • To promote positive mental health at work.
  • To promote active travel to work, with a focus on the additional benefits for climate change.
  • To support the development of healthy workplaces across Merton by encouraging commitment to the London Healthy Workplace Award (LHWA).

Time for action

The number of working days lost across Merton because of sickness is greater than in London or England as a whole.

The percentage of working days taken off for sickness in the borough was 1.3% in 2016-18, according to a Public Health England report. This compares with 0.9% in London and 1.1% in England.

Making our workplaces healthier is a top priority for several health and care providers in Merton and the wider South West London area, so there is plenty of opportunity for partners to work together on this issue.

There is also a growing awareness of the scale of mental health-related problems across the country, which includes the workplace.

Our 'Healthy Workplaces' theme fits in well with other goals in the borough, such as action being taken in response to the Climate Change Emergency we declared in 2019.

Employers in the borough are recommended to consider the LHWA - an accreditation scheme led by the Mayor of London's Office and supported by Public Health England. It acts as a template for good practice and recognises London employers who invest in employee health and wellbeing. More information is available in the London Healthy Workplace Award leaflet.

What happens if we do nothing?

Not making time for stress relief at work can lead to a self- perpetuating problem - people become more and more stressed or even burnout, which can reduce productivity further. If we do nothing to improve workplace health we can expect to see increasing sickness absence rates and a less productive workforce in Merton.

Active travel, where employees might walk or cycle to work, is a proven way for people to increase physical activity in their daily lives and improve health outcomes. Neglecting this priority would be missing an opportunity to improve our health and reduce health inequalities in the borough.

The Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019, setting a target for Merton to be carbon neutral by 2050, and if we do not increase our level of active travel, and we will not meet this target.

What would success mean?

Working together we aim to create working environments where making the healthier and more sustainable choice is easy, from the food we eat to how we choose to travel from one place to another.            

We want workplaces to help influence people's behaviours to help their health and wellbeing. This in turn will create a more productive workforce and increase employer's profits. Success will also mean organisations in Merton working towards the LHWA.

You told us

We talked to organisations as part of our Health and Wellbeing Strategy and there was widespread support for a focus on healthy settings and positive outcomes that can be delivered through healthy workplaces. For example:

  • Organisations to create conditions where mental health is understood and discussed
  • A focus on increasing active travel in the borough, reducing car use and implementing the Healthy Streets Approach – a TfL and Mayor of London initiative to encourage more people to walk, cycle or use public transport.
  • Ensuring that air quality in the borough is improved.

We aim to

To support healthy workplaces across Merton we will:

  • Encourage widespread achievement of the LHWA across Merton by supporting businesses, sharing learning and championing the approach of a healthy work setting.
  • Raise awareness of mental health resources such as 'Good Thinking' and 'Able Futures'.
  • Make mental health first aid training available for community groups.
  • Seek support for a Merton Active Travel Awards scheme to celebrate excellent and innovation amongst Merton employers for initiatives that reduce car use.
  • Continue to offer suicide awareness, mental health workplace champions and mental health first aid training to Merton business and voluntary sector organisations.
  • Develop a Healthy Workplaces training day with all Merton GPs. 
  • Work with the other groups in the Partnership on increasing active travel.
  • Include active travel in health promotion campaigns such #MertonCan.

What can I do?

You can help by:

  • Business owners should sign up to the LHWA.
  • Raising awareness and use of the "Good Thinking" website.
  • Undertaking training to become a mental health first aider.
  • Backing a Merton Active Travel Awards scheme.

Spotlight on...

The Healthy Workplaces Programme

One in four UK employees report having a physical health condition and of them, one-fifth have a mental health condition. Two out of five UK employees with a health condition feel their health affects their work.

But local businesses in Merton have plenty of support to help them become great employers who promote health and wellbeing in their workplaces through the borough's Healthy Workplaces programme.

For the Gina Conway Salon in Wimbledon town centre, the health and wellbeing of their employees is a passion for the business, with HR Manager Melissa Harris saying they want to create a positive work environment which is also a "sanctuary" for their team.

"We pride ourselves on personal service for our guests and we want our team to be supported so there is a positive atmosphere. We want to create an environment that people will enjoy when they are working," she said.

The business, which has a salon within Elys on Wimbledon Hill Road, has been one of number of local firms taking part in the Healthy Workplaces programme commissioned by Merton Council, backed by Merton Chamber of Commerce and the One You Merton health advice campaign.

The programme, delivered by Healthy Dialogues, included mini-health MOTs for employees as well as customised workplace wellness workshops, healthy workplace assessments and guidance.

Healthy Dialogues have provided stress management workshops to around 40 Gina Conway employees exploring mental wellbeing at work, including activities on recognising and managing stress, with goals set for stress self-care.

Melissa Harris, who has worked for Gina Conway for eight years, said the company has always been supportive of the wellbeing of the 100 employees it has working across three branches.

"Our stylists and therapists need to be bright and bubbly all day, no matter how they feel. The managers are encouraged to support their team, and especially to look out for mental health issues.

"We are also conscious of work/life balance and will arrange staff schedules around what suits them. People tell us they love the working environment here, and we have a high retention of staff with an average length of service of eight years."

She pointed out that the work can also be quite physical, such as pressure on the shoulders of the stylists, but the company provides physiotherapy sessions and a 50% gym membership discount as well as yoga, reiki and massage. Healthy eating is also encouraged, and a nutritionist has talked to staff about diets.

The company's team spirit is boosted by charity work, including haircuts for the homeless and refugees, massages for cancer patients and fundraising events.

"We nurture our staff because they give so much to our guests, so it's important we invest in the wellbeing of our team", Melissa added.

Further information is available from the Public Health Team or direct from the Mayor's London Healthy Workplace Award.

The Health Workplaces Programme

Wellbeing in the workplace is an important part of office life at Hartley Fowler chartered accountants in Wimbledon town centre where healthy activities have boosted team spirit, helped staff lose weight and raised money for charity.

Partner Jonathan Askew said they have had positive results all round from being more health conscious, including encouraging cycling to work, offering healthy food options in the office and staff taking part in active fundraising challenges.

"We used to have a lot of biscuits and cakes in the office, including a chocolate tuckbox," he said. "But we no longer have the tuckbox and only have cakes on birthdays. We offer healthy breakfasts and fruit instead."

Staff have also taken part in challenging charity events, including a Tough Mudder event, where they ran 10 miles through mud and over 25 obstacles to raise more than £2,000 for local mental health charity, Mind Croydon.

They've also completed the 56 mile London to Brighton Bike Ride through the Sussex and Surrey countryside to raise £7,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.

Jonathan said: "The activities create a feel good factor and some of us did lose weight as well. Now we have healthier eating in the office, there's also more of a team spirit having a healthy breakfast together."

He added that Hartley Fowler, a Patron Member of Merton Chamber of Commerce, was also conscious of mental health and wellbeing, with staff being offered appropriate courses. They are among the local businesses undertaking the borough's Healthy Workplaces programme.

Further information is available from the Public Health Team or direct from the Mayor's London Healthy Workplace Award.