Wellbeing Conference Reaps Rewards

03 December 2009
U21 Conference prompts further discussion among universities about improving employee wellbeing in higher education.

In September 2007, Universitas 21 co-hosted a conference with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) entitled Practical tools for making your university a great place to work.

As a result of this event, a number of universities came together to discuss opportunities for improving employee wellbeing in higher education. A proposal, led by the University of Leeds in partnership with the Universities of Birmingham (U21 member), Bristol, Derby and University College Falmouth, was made to the UK's Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) Leadership, Governance and Management Fund. This was to carry out a one-year pilot project from October 2008 - 09 to explore the links between staff wellbeing and enhanced organisational performance.

With active contributions from the University of Liverpool and Newcastle, this project aimed to:

  • understand what is being done across the sector in the UK to support staff wellbeing 
  • create opportunities for institutions to learn from the experiences of others 
  • identify gaps in practice 
  • find out how institutions are measuring the success of their wellbeing at work 
  • prove that staff wellbeing made a difference. 

A key element of the project was the delivery of workshops around the following themes:

  • getting started 
  • positive attendance management 
  • physical activity 
  • wellbeing engagement via HR strategy and employee surveys 
  • mental health and employee support 
  • making the business case 

Institutions were encouraged to share their best practice case studies, learn from the experiences of others and problem solve together. Despite increasing places by almost 50%, all workshops were fully booked, with large waiting lists. 250 individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds and 96 different institutions attended one or more workshops.

Another outcome has been the development of a sector-specific resource website (www.wellbeing.ac.uk) which provides information about the project, case studies, presentations and links to related projects.