Case study

Employee engagement and wellbeing: Marine Environment Strategy team

How the Marine Environment Strategy team in Defra improved staff wellbeing from 2012 to 2014.


Key ideas from this case study:

  • discuss and take action on staff survey results
  • promote flexible working such as compressed hours
  • value people at all levels

The 27-strong Marine Environment Strategy team in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) works on European and domestic policy issues, and comprises team members from a wide range of professions. The team has shown an excellent improvement in its wellbeing scores in the Civil Service People Survey over the period 2012 to 2014: the number of people feeling satisfied with their lives rose from 53% in 2012 to 65% in 2014, and the number of people with low levels of anxiety went from 33% to 60% in the same years.

The Cabinet Office interviewed three team members and learnt how the simple things they are doing every day - valuing and supporting colleagues and their work, encouraging positive change and being a good role model - can have a positive and tangible impact on staff wellbeing.

Be proactive and take action on staff survey results

There is confidence within our team that the results will be acted upon. Following previous low scores, an all-staff roundtable was instigated to discuss the results and agree an action plan. We were encouraged to take ownership of the actions, and as a result we have been directly involved in decision making and positive change.

The action plan is reviewed every three months and is included in an induction pack for new starters, who are invited to provide feedback.

Value team members

Feedback from other team members within the Marine Environment Strategy team has shown that they tend to feel that the work they do is valued, and that their performance is judged according to the quality of their work rather than the processes followed. The team’s work is also valued by senior stakeholders, who listen to and value our opinions and advice even if our points of view differ. Diversity and equality is promoted throughout the team.

Good visibility and communication are important

There are visible role models within the team across all grades and a very clear understanding of responsibilities. The roles of everyone in the team have been well considered and defined, allowing each member to understand how their work contributes to the overall team goals.

Managers also cultivate a sense of trust and honesty, by sharing information about what’s happening and being truthful about the state of play. This helps each employee feel part of the team.

Promote flexible working

Flexible working is encouraged within the team and allows team members to adapt their working style to suit their personal circumstances, for example by working from home or working compressed hours (e.g. working the same number of hours you’d work over five days in four days).

Considering wellbeing brings benefits to the business

Despite a high workload, team members are very supportive of each other and that reduces anxiety and leads to high levels of wellbeing. For example, team leaders try to reduce pressure as much as possible by encouraging staff to push back on unnecessary processes. This ultimately leads to greater efficiency.

Published 21 December 2016