Inside Track | Why health and wellbeing isn’t just a passing phase

Health and wellbeing is an established workplace phrase, but what does it really mean in our University community? Paul Veevers, Director of Wellbeing, Safety and Health at Leeds, shares his thoughts.

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Window on Wellbeing is an ongoing programme of events and activities developed in conversation with, and feedback from, colleagues. Our flagship campaign Window on Wellbeing Week takes place from 26-30 June this year, offering a line-up of more than 40 activities to shine a spotlight on health and wellbeing, highlighting its importance as a key part of our working lives.

During the past few years, the health and wellbeing of staff has been rising up the agenda with employers across the UK. We’re now more aware than ever of the pressing need to think holistically about employee health and wellbeing, and refine our approaches to promoting and embedding a healthy and inclusive working environment.

With an increase in profile, health and wellbeing has perhaps become a loaded phrase to some – buzzwords even – that I appreciate can be quite polarising. There are big issues people are facing – such as financial and workload pressures, adapting to new ways of working – which are undoubtedly having an impact on some individuals’ health and wellbeing. These challenges are recognised and understood, and when we talk about health and wellbeing activities at work, we’re not trying to overlook the bigger picture. However, initiatives such as the Window on Wellbeing Week are used – and valued – by many colleagues. They play an important role in providing information, opening up honest conversations and encouraging individuals to consider – and prioritise – their personal health and wellbeing. 

It’s important to acknowledge here that personal health and wellbeing is a broad concept. What it means to live and work well is different for each of us – it’s individual, contextual and inevitably changes over time. As a result, there needs to be an overarching framework of guidance and support for staff that’s consistent, flexible and embedded across all corners of the University. The new Health and Wellbeing Strategy – which is currently being developed – aims to deliver just this. It will be designed to provide a whole University approach to address the needs of individuals and managers, as enshrined in our values of compassion and inclusivity and in the University of Leeds Strategy, which outlines how we can only make a positive difference to the world if our own community is strong. In collaboration with colleagues across the institution, this project is being shaped and informed by the results of the recent Employee Engagement Survey to ensure our approaches are needs-led, meaningful and create a cultural shift towards normalising conversations around general health and mental health at work.

We do understand that mental health and wellbeing isn’t always a comfortable topic for people to be open about. It can be a challenging discussion for all involved. To do this well together, there are programmes of self-management and support workshops for individuals alongside a new suite of wellbeing training and development sessions for managers and leaders. In combination, this aims to provide confidence that open and honest dialogue is both necessary and valued.

It can be easy to get side-tracked by work and life’s demands, but staying on top of our health and wellbeing is so important. It’s something we should all be mindful of and take time to invest in – both personally and collectively. This starts with enabling individuals to engage with these activities at different times, in different ways and supporting time out for colleagues to participate, encouraging them to find a healthy work/life balance.

We’d love to see you during the Window on Wellbeing Week. It might not be for everyone and that’s okay. But for those who would like to feel connected and take a break from your working day, it’s a good place to start.

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