Making it Happen: Testing an approach to improving wellbeing at Midlothian Council


To mark World Wellbeing at Work Week Midlothian Council and People Powered Results have written a blog about Making It Happen, a staff programme timed to support the launch of Midlothian Council’s wellbeing strategy.

People powered approaches

Midlothian Council has an ambition to ‘listen, learn and implement the ideas of our staff, communities and partner organisations’. During the pandemic, Chief Executive Dr Grace Vickers shared the council’s vision for the future, which includes adopting people powered approaches that enable staff to shape how services are delivered and how the council is run.

This year, we worked with Midlothian Council to bring this vision to life.

The effect of Covid-19 on working life

Back in 2021, there was a recognition that staff in Midlothian Council had been working exceptionally hard for a prolonged period of time amidst the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic. During this time, and building on their ambition to listen and learn from staff, Midlothian Council worked alongside People Powered Results (Nesta), to design a programme that could scale their organisational wellbeing approach, shaped by ideas from employees across the whole organisation.

Making it Happen

Making It Happen was a programme timed to support the launch of Midlothian Council’s wellbeing strategy, and designed to support everyone working in the council to come up with great ideas that could help all those working for the council to feel valued, be their best self and do their best work. 

In early February 2022, the council launched Making It Happen in the Place Directorate, inviting people to share their ideas about what could help them be their best self at work.  We spoke to over 70 employees and received a total of 17 ideas that could be tested.

We heard from people in different ways:

  • Managers gathered ideas from their teams via email and during team meetings;
  • People submitted and rated ideas using Dialogue, a digital platform;
  • Over 50 people joined two 30 min Conversation Cafes to share their ideas;
  • 32 people then joined a Conversation Cafe in June to bring submitted ideas to life.

Taking a whole council approach to bringing this programme to life

A cross-system programme team, made up of representatives from HR, the Continuous Improvement Team and Place Directorate, worked to identify what we could test quickly.

Over 70 people across the Place Directorate participated in:

  • Co-creating a Netiquette Guide, establishing positive principles and ways of working with colleagues online. This will now be shared as a wider learning programme across Midlothian Council
  • Feeding into a wellbeing approach and Wellbeing Directory that the HR team launched in May, which shares wellbeing activities and courses throughout the year 
  • Brightening up the Midlothian and Fairfield House offices by partnering with Cherry Road Learning Centre, a local social work centre, to showcase residents’ artwork to council residents and employees as part of the wider office transformation programme

Creating the conditions to support rapid tests of change: what are we learning? 

What are we noticing as a result of the Making it Happen programme? Midlothian is a small council and has strong relationships with local agencies and other partners supporting residents’ wellbeing. As we develop our organisational wellbeing approach, we’re starting to notice changes in our culture and policies:

  • More of our people are understanding how and where they can get support that works for them at the right time 
  • More of our management team have an open door policy to support people in the right way for them and at the right time 

We are developing new policies that support all our staff, like:

  • Our new IVF and miscarriage policy
  • Our work with Age Scotland is supporting staff at different ages and stages of their lives

Final thoughts and reflections

Given the necessary changes introduced to our ways of working as a result of Covid and people’s experiences of the pandemic, finding a meaningful way to engage with staff that encouraged open communication and provided opportunities for feedback was a key priority.

The Making it Happen Approach (MHA) was designed to reach a wide range of staff, using a variety of methods to allow individuals to engage in a way that was comfortable for them and as straightforward as possible. Building a culture of trust and learning was essential to ensure that everyone felt able to share their challenges, suggest ideas and then play a part in agreeing what ideas might best be tested to support them and their colleagues to be their best selves and do their best work.

Continually improving  how we work and learn together across the council and with communities is an essential component of how we remain adaptable and agile in challenging contexts. The Making it Happen Approach is now another mechanism to rapidly engage with our workforce to generate ideas and share learning and then test new ways of working.

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