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New podcast: Wellbeing as a strategic imperative – the management response

27 Jun 2022 | Advance HE Kim Ansell and Barbara Bassa interviewed Vinita Suryanarayanan and Paul Britton, as they shared their insight and experience surrounding mental wellbeing in HE organisations, and responded to the reflections of senior leaders on this issue of growing importance in and the beyond the sector, as well as the future these reflections may bring.

A virtual sandpit event on 5 May provided an opportunity for governors and senior leaders to discuss how organisational wellbeing should be positioned in overall strategy and explored the key question, ‘Have we managed to create healthier and more compassionate institutions as a result of the pandemic and has that had a positive impact on an inclusive and enabling culture?’

Read a summary of the event, the provocations by Nancy Hey, Executive Director of What Works Wellbeing and Barbara Bassa, Senior Advisor at Advance HE here.

In order to create a feedback loop of organisational learning, Kim Ansell and Barbara Bassa from Advance HE interviewed Vinita Suryanarayanan, COO from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and Paul Britton, Head of EDI and Colleague Wellbeing from Newcastle University for their reflections on the sandpit event and the operational realities of implementing such a strategic approach to wellbeing.

In the podcast ‘Wellbeing as a strategic imperative – the management response’ Vinita and Paul agreed that despite the need for a holistic strategy, the presence of sub-cultures, appropriate routes of communication and matching the right resources at the point of need are some of the biggest challenges. Barbara challenged Paul and Vinita to reflect on how staff and students feel about what their institution is doing. It was clear that this is both individualistic and relational, but how people feel is very dependent on how it is communicated and how visible it is. The offer for staff doesn’t get as much attention as the offer for students and in particular, bringing the issue out of an occupational health frame and making it accessible, seems to work well.

Overall ‘listening’ to staff is a key skill and making the strategy live and evolving to conversations about wellbeing makes it more valuable and contributes to peoples’ wellbeing.

Reflecting on the emotional aspects of wellbeing and alignment with values, Vinita and Paul recognised that the landscape in higher education is changing and universities are becoming more open to look more holistically at what organisational wellbeing means and the aspects it needs to include for its successful application.

They acknowledged the importance of aligning that vision and values in order for transformation to occur and concluded that this would be a more human, trusted and respected approach with a great impact on relationships. As Paul reflected, being part of the People and Culture Team can really help move the dial on embedding this in an organisations vision and values. 

Listen to ‘Wellbeing as a strategic imperative – the management response’ here. 

Connect Benefit Series – Organisational Wellbeing and Inclusive Institutions

More information on the Organisational Wellbeing project, including all project outputs can be found here. Information and outputs from the Inclusive Institutions project can be found here.

More information on the 2021-22 Connect Benefit Series projects can be found here

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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