Sam is committed to finding new ways to improve the wellbeing and mental health of her workforce.
Teaching is arguably one of the most rewarding professions, with an unlimited opportunity to shape lives and make a real difference to students. It is also one of the most challenging sectors; fast-paced and pressurised, with constant curriculum changes and budget cuts, all with a backdrop of increasingly complex student needs. So how do we develop and sustain an environment which supports health and wellbeing where staff and students can thrive rather than merely survive?
At Bridgend College, we have a very simple mission. To support our learners and staff to “be all they can be”. Because of this, we were recently voted TES 2019 FE College of the Year.
This amazing achievement is thanks to our fantastic staff, and we recognise that, as an employer, we have a responsibility to look after them and help them to thrive.
“The old saying of ‘what gets measured gets done’ springs to mind. We know it’s important to have a baseline of where staff are in terms of their physical and mental wellbeing. All too often, companies invest in interventions without really knowing if they are making a positive impact.”
This is why we took part in Mind’s Wellbeing Workplace Index. The Index allows us to measure how people feel about their own mental health and wellbeing and how they view the support they receive from us as their employer.
Most importantly, the Index allows us to see if our actions are making a difference.
In 2017 (our first year as part of the Index), we achieved a Bronze Award. This recognised that we had started our journey to better mental health by creating initiatives that promoted positive mental health for staff.
At that time, we had a 24/7 employee assistance programme and a lot of activities we invited people to take part in, from Zumba classes to Mindfulness. We had also signed up for the Time to Change Wales Pledge.
“This was a good start, but feedback from the Index showed us that we needed to take it to the next level to really help people to feel supported and be the best they could be.”
To help us improve, these are some of the things we did:
We delivered a full day wellbeing conference for all staff and local partners to give them the skills and knowledge to make a more positive impact on their own health and wellbeing, both mental and physical.
As part of our restructuring, we made sure staff have more time with managers who are looking to decrease stress for their employees.
We have designed and implemented a ‘Person Centred Leadership Programme’, which gives leaders the skills to create a better environment based on understanding what really matters to staff.
Several managers have had Mental Health First Aid training, and more training is planned over the next couple of months for a wider group of staff. Our executive team will also receive training so they can be roles models for others in the organisation.
We have recruited a Wellbeing Advisor who works with individuals and managers to support people to stay well in work and supports people back to work, with plans to meet individual needs. This has helped us to reduce absence.
Our intention and commitment to improving the wellbeing of staff and students are continually supported by our Principal & CEO, Simon Pirotte, who recently hosted a breakfast morning for Mind Cymru, sharing stories about challenges in the sector and our responses. Everyone at breakfast agreed that whilst we know supporting the improvement of mental health and wellbeing is essential, being able to measure impact is really important to help us continue to improve and see a return on our investment. This is why we have chosen to participate in the Workplace Wellbeing Index and are encouraging other organisations in Wales to participate in it also.
“We were delighted this year to see an improvement in our Index score, achieving Silver award as a result and, showing that we have really stepped up our focus on wellbeing in the workplace.”
Our ultimate aim is to create an environment where people can truly thrive and be all they can be. We view this as everyone’s responsibility and being far more than just a role for HR.
We know this won’t be easy and will take focus, curiosity and courage to really make a positive and long-lasting change.
The things we do to achieve change are shaped by listening to staff and their needs and will be beneficial to our staff, students and the communities we serve. To make sure we are always going in the right direction, we will continue to measure our impact using the Mind Workplace Wellbeing Index.
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