Wellness Action Plans (WAP) are individual, evidence-based, pro-active tools for supporting
individuals with their mental health and encouraging open dialogue about mental health and its impact between employer and employee. They were inspired by Mary Ellen Copeland’s (author, educator and mental health advocate) work in the late 1990’s and are used worldwide having been developed in conjunction with individuals who have lived experience of experiencing serious mental health challenges both in and out of work.
The WAP focus is to share appropriate, timely information about current triggers for symptoms and identify practical steps that both the employer and employee should endeavour to follow/ undertake when the individual is struggling with their symptoms.
Employers and line managers are encouraged to use this vital resource proactively wherever
there are mental health symptoms of stress, anxiety and/or depression. Employers do not need to await signposting from the OH clinicians to commence the process.
The WAP “contract” should be written by the employee and the information contained within a WAP should remain confidential, only being shared with those who need to know of its content, for example colleagues who may need to support the individual in the absence of the line manager.
The questions (see below) help the individual explore and identify what may help keep them
mentally healthy in work and identify potential situations or signs which may indicate that they may not be coping so well. It enables the employee to clearly inform their line manager about what may help when they do struggle and may enable them to formulate agreed actions to help the individual to manage their workload, remain in work and hopefully return to full health as soon as practicable.
The WAP is normally undertaken in 2 stages.
1. The employee should answer the following questions (either electronically or using the
template in the link below):
• What helps you stay mentally healthy at work?
• What can your manager do to support you to stay mentally healthy at work?
• Are there any situations at work that can trigger poor mental health for you?
• How might stress / poor mental health difficulties impact on your work?
• Are there any early warning signs that we might notice when you are starting to feel
stressed/ mentally unwell?
• What support could be put in place to minimise triggers or to support you to manage
• If we notice early warning signs that you are feeling stressed or unwell – what should
we do? *Who to contact in an emergency
• What steps can you take if you start to feel unwell at work?
Giving as much detail as they feel comfortable sharing with their line manager about their mental health and wellbeing.
*You may wish to ask them to complete this away from the workplace and in their own time, so that the process is NOT rushed. Many employees will already have shared some of this information in the past with colleagues, but it is vital that all information shared within a WAP is treated in confidence and only shared as necessary.
2. The employee and the employer should then have a frank and open discussion about the
answers provided by the employee, this may identify workplace triggers or identify when they may be struggling. The line manager should discuss how they may be able to support the employee but may also need to provide clarification where they may not be able to meet the requests of the employee. The answers may need to be modified to provide a clearer picture about what both parties should do.
Once the above has taken place and an agreed plan is in place then both the employee and line manager should sign the document and arrange a suitable review period depending upon the current issues.
*Where the agreement is working a periodic review annually is advised to ensure that the
document remains relevant.
WAPs are NOT legally binding documents but they do demonstrate to both the employee and the employer an agreement in principle to help support an individual, where possible, in regards to their mental health and wellbeing.
If the individual is not already under the care of OH you may wish to initiate this as part of the WAP process, or where there is significant change in their symptoms or where absence triggers have been reached.
Further information about WAP and a template form with guidance for both the employee and the line manager can be readily accessed via the MIND website