Aster – Spotlight on Wellbeing and Belonging

Aster Group supplies a wide range of housing options in response to the housing crisis, working towards its vision of ensuring everyone has a home.

The Group provides services to around 93,000 customers, and employs more than 1,450 people.


The COVID-19 pandemic posed several challenges and created threats to wellbeing and belonging in the workplace due to a national lockdown, which included social distancing, isolation, and increased loneliness.

Innovative actions

Aster Group’s response to the COVID-19 national lockdown was to convert the organisation’s existing wellbeing offer into a fully digital programme built around emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing. This included a specific COVID-19 and social wellbeing focus.

Aster worked closely with their people and comms teams, leaders, and a cohort of more than 90 Mental Health First Aiders (MHFA) to design and deliver a furlough buddy programme. They engaged more than 100 wellbeing champions to sense check ideas, promote new initiatives at the team level, and lead the way in encouraging staff uptake of new channels and sessions.

Aster launched a series of key physical and emotional wellbeing campaigns to engage staff and support a sense of belonging in response to lockdown. This included:

  • Live stream sessions of Zumba, Pilates, and yoga;
  • Healthy eating guidance;
  • Mindfulness sessions and webinars from the Dorset MIND charity;
  • The Thrive: Mental Wellbeing app, an NHS approved mental wellbeing support tool to help prevent and manage stress, anxiety, and related conditions;
  • An on demand digital wellbeing offer, including videos, infographics, podcasts, and 24 new digital wellbeing books;
  • Social channels for colleagues to engage on different topics such as gaming, gardening, and a book club;
  • Water cooler opportunities, including tea at 3pm, four days a week, where colleagues could visit a virtual kitchen and have a chat;
  • A virtual parent zone to support colleagues trying to balance working from home, childcare, and home schooling; and
  • An LGBTQ+ network.

They also provided inclusive leadership training, rolled out diversity and inclusion e-learning to all colleagues, and encouraged colleagues to share their experiences and stories about who they are to increase a sense of belonging.

Evidence of impact

Aster used insight and data to sense check how interventions were landing with the business and to inform future for support. Information was also picked up through feedback given during ad hoc conversations.

A colleague survey confirmed an increase from 77% to 84% (up from 66% the year before) of colleagues agreeing that Aster cared about their mental health and wellbeing.

Aster also carried out pulse surveys for two consecutive months to gain feedback on their approach. In the first month of the survey, 91.69% said they felt supported during the pandemic; this percentage increased to 92% in the second month of the survey.

The information contained within this resource was accurate at the time of its publication and subsequent revision. This article was created in 2020 and revised in April 2022.

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