Kirklees Council: The role of Wellbeing Champions in addressing workplace loneliness

Two people sitting at table for a work meeting, they are both laughing

Lynne Haycock and Helen Gilchrist highlight the wellbeing initiatives taking place within Kirklees Council to foster connection and address workplace loneliness. Does this resonate with your organisation’s approach? Let us know by sharing your thoughts in the Workplace and Loneliness Group

Two people sitting at table for a work meeting, they are both laughing

About Kirklees

Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire governs the towns of Batley, Birstall, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury, Heckmondwike, Holmfirth, Huddersfield, Meltham, Mirfield and Slaithwaite. The Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2022-27 has mental wellbeing as a priority and this is underpinned by the People Strategy, one outcome of which is Healthy and Well People, with the Kirklees Partnership Loneliness Strategy playing a key part. The vision for Kirklees is that it’s a place where people and communities are more connected and support each other to develop meaningful relationships and reduce loneliness.

The Wellbeing Champions network

The Council employs more than 10,000 people and within that there are 8 employee networks, one of which is the Wellbeing Champions, established in May 2022. Originally, there were several small separate wellbeing groups within the council, consisting of Wellbeing Champions, Mental Health Champions, and Menopause Champions. These groups were brought together to form the Wellbeing Champions Network.

The Network is open for any employee of the Council to join and to date there are 134 members. The Wellbeing Champions Network now has the same status and recognition as other employee networks with co-chairs to guide it and a small budget to help fund events. As part of the development process, loneliness was included as an integral part of the message promoted by the network. Wellbeing Champions have access to resources to educate themselves and others, and signpost into activities and support.

Initiatives that help to reduce loneliness

Here are a few examples of what the Wellbeing Champions have put in place to help combat loneliness and isolation so far. Any of these could be implemented in any organisation:

  • Banter Bus is a Microsoft Teams platform for staff working mainly from home to interact and chat to help combat isolation from home working. The Banter Bus is for staff working in Adult Social Care, specifically the Learning Disabilities team. The team no longer works from a permanent office space, and it was set up to engage staff in the general chat that you’d get in the office. Discussions have been everything from what’s on TV to the price of a panettone in M&S!
  • WEread, WElisten, WEmove, fantasyWEfootball, WEwatch and WEcraft are WhatsApp support groups and are open to anyone within the council to join. They were set up by one champion but now each group is run by one person with a specific interest in that area. As well as regular Microsoft Teams meetings, the groups do get together in person and the WEread group have recently enjoyed a meal out together.
  • Thyroid peer-to-peer support group. According to the University of Aberdeen, who are conducting research into thyroid support, this is the only group they have come across in the country! A physical health condition can be as isolating as a mental health condition. This group now has 45 members, and the feedback has been so positive. One member said, “I now feel less alone with the condition at work thanks to group”.

Wellbeing Champions event in 2024

The Wellbeing Champions co-chairs have made loneliness the theme of one of their planned activities this year. They are organising an event to coincide with the Jo Cox Foundation’s Great Get Together in June. This is particularly close to our hearts as Jo Cox was MP for Batley and Spen, which is part of the Kirklees Ward.

The event is still in the planning stages but it will take place in the communal area of one of the main council buildings in Huddersfield. It will involve an opportunity to meet and chat with members of the Wellbeing Champions Network and Employee Healthcare. There will also be partner organisations attending, a chance to take part in a meditation session, attend a creative workshop and have a coffee and a chat with other council employees.


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  1. Love the idea of cross organisational whatapp groups to connect people with different interests. Such a good idea now people rarely share the same office at the same time anymore

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