Eyes on wellbeing

A champion for wellbeing

Practice director, Andy Britton, and optical assistant, Chris Rosser, speak to OT  about introducing a wellbeing champion at Specsavers Haverfordwest, and what it means for the practice team

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World Wellbeing Week returns for a fifth consecutive year this week (24–30 June), with the aim of celebrating the many facets of wellbeing, from physical, mental and emotional health to social resilience and empathic leadership.

Focusing on optometry, in last year’s AOP membership survey, the Association asked members to describe the optometry profession from a list of 20 possible words. Alongside “interesting” and “rewarding,” the words “demanding,” “challenging” and “stressful” also featured in those most frequently selected. Furthermore, around one-in-three members reported that they struggle with stress, managing their workload, and too much administration. 

Ahead of World Wellbeing Week, OT spoke to optometrist, Andy Britton, and optical assistant, Chris Rosser, about the introduction of a wellbeing champion at Specsavers Haverfordwest.

For director, Britton, establishing the role of wellbeing champion into his practice last year was a way of recognising “the multitude of stresses that modern life seems to bring to us all.”

“Having someone to talk to about mental health and who is able to act as a mental health first aider to our team benefits us all as individuals,” he told OT.

Subsequently, Rosser, an optical assistant to the practice, was appointed.

I am here to listen, support and help guide them to further help if it is needed

Chris Rosser, wellbeing champion and optical assistant at Specsavers Haverfordwest

Rosser undertook training to be a mental health first aider in early 2023.

 “Having experienced challenges with my own mental health, I understand the importance of having someone to talk to and share your problems with. It can make all the difference,” he shared with OT,

Chris Rosser man with glasses smiling
Chris Rosser, optical assistant
For Rosser, the role involves “being a point of contact for anyone who may be struggling with their wellbeing,” as well as encouraging people to talk about mental health and to reduce the stigma attached to it.  

“I am here to listen, support and help guide them to further help if it is needed,” he said.

Britton added that the role extends to sharing positive messaging about the support that is available, as well as sign-posting useful resources and tools.

“This may be highlighting local services and charitable organisations or internet-based tools such as Headspace, the wellbeing and meditation app which is available free to colleagues though Specsavers,” he explained.

The practice has a dedicated wellbeing page on its intranet, with links and information on wellbeing and mental health, allowing the whole practice team to access support and information in their own time.

As wellbeing champion, Rosser is also able to support new members of the practice team. “We all know how daunting it can be trying to establish yourself in a new role. It’s all part of the Specsavers support for our colleagues to help them thrive,” Britton shared.

Asked how he both engages with and responds to staff, Rosser shared: “My colleagues know that they can speak to me at any time. I am also encouraged to approach them if I think they may be struggling. If their problem requires urgent help, it is understood that this takes priority over anything else – just like a physical first aid emergency.”

Britton describes Rosser as “one of the nicest guys you could meet.”

“He’s very approachable and caring. He is someone that the team feel that they can go to, to discuss issues concerning them,” he added.

I am here to listen, support and help guide them to further help if it is needed

Andy Britton, optometrist and practice director at Specsavers Haverfordwest

The team at Specsavers Haverfordwest can speak to Rosser about a range of issues and concerns that they perhaps do not want to discuss with the practice director, their manager, or practice leads.

He acts as a confidential conduit, Britton described.

Rosser explained: “Since taking on the role I have found people are much more open to talking about their mental health, and I feel that having someone in this role is needed and appreciated.”

For Rosser, the benefits of having this role in practice can be huge. “Modern life can be stressful and can take a toll on our physical and mental health. People don’t always know who to talk to, and asking for help can be very hard. Just having someone to talk to can make things so much easier.”

Andy Britton man smiling wearing a blue shirt
Andy Britton, optometrist
Britton agreed. “Having someone who cares is immensely positive in itself. My personal perception is that sickness seems to have reduced and the length of absence has also dropped,” he said.

The practice is currently extending this role for colleagues, with training currently being provided for a second wellbeing champion, optical assistant, Kelly Cato.

“This will double the amount of support and give people a choice of who they can talk to,” Britton told OT.

Encouraging other practices to consider establishing a similar role, Britton said: “Looking after your colleagues is the right thing to do. They are also critical to the ongoing success of our practice – so it is a no brainer to have a role like this.”

“It is amazing how many issues can be highlighted by having that formal confidential champion who can function as a guide and confidante to the team. The time Chris needs to undertake this role is time incredibly well spent,” he added.

Rosser reinforced this message, highlighting: “Our mental health is linked to – and as important as – our physical health. Most workplaces will have first aiders as standard practice, but I strongly believe that having someone dedicated to looking after people's mental health is as much of a priority.”