Report on Wellbeing Champions Pilot 2023
Pilot: UCL’s Workplace Health team were investigating the viability of introducing a new scheme to make the achievements of Wellbeing Champions more visible. A&H volunteered to test out some of the suggestions for such a scheme, and to report back on findings. The Pilot took place between March and May 2023. The attached document is the outline of the Pilot which we shared with our A&H WB Champions.
A&H WB Champions: A&H had the following WB Champions listed at the start of the pilot:
- Susie Ivins (SELCS)
- Dimitri Kraniotis (DIS)
- Casey Johnson (Hebrew and Jewish Studies)
- Jessica Green (English)
- Rebecca Loweth (Slade)
+ Wellbeing Supporter: Erin Goeres (SELCS)
- We held a meeting with the Wellbeing Champions to discuss the Pilot outline in January. 4 Champions were present; responses gathered were that:
- Responsibility should not fall on the individual WB Champion to manage dept wellbeing;
- Reporting even at the scale already at was a challenge; feeling that further reporting requirements would be too much of a burden;
- Pilot wouldn’t work as the draft stands, as not every dept has a WB Champion;
- Gold, silver, bronze: sense of failure if bronze awarded? How to award equitably, given contexts the Champions work within are so different, across UCL, but even within this Faculty?
- Point made re workload allocation: Wellbeing team at central UCL level (paid roles) but expectation beyond that for Champions to do work on a voluntary basic (and no obligation for every dept to have a Champion).
- Champions would prefer more continuous support from central Wellbeing team, given there is very little at all at local level: given this work is voluntary, feels wrong that it needs to be “rubber-stamped”.
- Workload modelling would be appreciated, rather than this kind of scheme. Wellbeing should not be mainly about reporting (which is what it feels like for some of our Champions) to give central team data. Feels “tick-box” approach, rather than willingness to be really supportive at local level, and help engage with issues.
- Champions wondered about each Faculty having a Wellbeing Vision statement? Should Wellbeing be a standing item on all staff meeting agendas? Should we have a Town Hall on Wellbeing and Health?
- Sam presented Pilot to the Faculty Executive on 6th February. No reportable feedback except for support to be part of the Pilot, and to keep Exec updated.
- Attempt to recruit volunteers for WB Champions in the Faculty depts not yet covered. Kickback from HoDs who reported overload of requests for allocated staff roles, which were getting impossible to manage or comply with (in some instances because there aren’t enough members of staff to cover everything!) However, we were successful in recruiting a new Champion for Greek and Latin (Wendy Cheung) and one for BASc (Monika Ma). NB: Wendy and Monika are PS staff, and female. We do need representation from a wider range in the Faculty – men and academic staff are a challenge to bring on board.
- Strikes impacted on ability to hold further meetings, but we did hold one on April 27th, via Teams. Only two Champions were able to attend, however. We are losing two (Dimitri, who is leaving UCL, and Jessica, who is stepping down), one is on long-term sick leave, and one more is part-time and finding it a challenge to make meetings. This has inevitably impacted on Faculty activity, added to which we have no budget this year for anything, so that is adding to the challenge. At this meeting, the following activity was reported:
- Quiet Room: Sam fed back that the room was coming along, and was being refurbished, with thanks to Georgina and Susie for helping with this.
- Being Well at UCL Fair feedback: Wendy had been able to go to this and reported lots of activity and support from staff and students.
- Wellbeing Champions Pilot: Wendy talked about the Green Impact Workbook (see https://www.greenimpact.org.uk/ucl ) and suggested we try and collaborate with what they are doing, as some of the targets are wellbeing related.
1 Sam to talk to Sally and her team about whether this kind of collaboration is being done at UCL level, and feedback.
2 Susie and Wendy are going to look at developing some kind of green wellbeing project – maybe a bench and quiet reflective space as part of the Medawar Garden initiative (see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/sustainable/case-studies/2022/may/ucl-medawar-gardens-student-led-wild-bloomsbury-initiative ).
- Other Faculty Wellbeing Activities:
- Susie said that SELCS are looking at some kind of move challenge, but now that there is going to be a Workplace Health Move More challenge in June, they need to figure out what to do.
- Sam mentioned the competition to nominate colleagues who help create wellbeing currently open for nominations – see https://forms.office.com/pages/responsepage.aspx?id=_oivH5ipW0yTySEKEdmlwsAZHQmQGmhHuU00Yuq2m6xUOE40MkYwVlVIME04RDIxMlE1QTlRMkM0WC4u
- Susie mentioned perhaps organising some kind of after work fun dance activity – we discussed maybe line dancing or a ceilidh with tea and cake?
ACTION: Sam to contact Project Active (see https://studentsunionucl.org/project-active) at Wendy’s suggestion to see if this might be something they could help us with.
- This period has been interrupted by strikes (UCU and train) which have significantly impacted on timetables, workloads, and our Champions’ ability to produce sustained wellbeing activity.
- Strong feedback that this kind of Pilot Scheme would not be welcomed unless progress was made on workload allocations and a more consistent wellbeing role remit set up across the whole institution.
- Too much reporting required already, making the role hard to sustain (which might be the reason so many of our A&H Champions are not engaging with meetings). Reporting also felt to be focussing too much on “tick-boxing” rather than support and reward and really engaging with the Champions at local level. This Pilot underlined more of the same – need to recalibrate approach across UCL.
- Need for more VDs Wellbeing, to help co-ordinate Wellbeing activity at Faculty level, and alleviate sense from Champions of burden of reporting and initiating activity being on them.
- In terms of what the A&H Faculty has achieved during this Pilot period, we have:
- Pursued the allocation of a Quiet Room (should be available from July 2023);
- Run monthly Reading for Wellbeing reading group sessions;
- Run a competition to nominate colleagues who make a difference to their teams for book-token prizes;
- Set up Desk Yoga sessions;
- Kept comms from central UCL Wellbeing team re Nearby Nature, Reset, and Move More initiatives rolled out to all our Faculty staff;
- Engaged with UCL Personal Tutoring Project (Sam), led by Kathryn Woods; and Learning and Talent Management Group (Sam) led by Donna Dalrymple;
- Champions have run dept Fika sessions on a regular basis;
- Continued and ongoing conversations with Faculty staff on a number of issues which are concerning them: eg workload; commuting (costs/ strikes/ versus return to campus rhetoric); more general concerns about worklife balance shift; caring responsibilities; effectiveness of Spectrum Life; gaps in provision of UCL services such as Eyecare vouchers; compulsory training sessions at UCL.
Based on our A&H Pilot findings, it is clear that workload issues remain the major challenge for our Champions: it is therefore recommended that the role of the Champions, along with all other enabling roles, are researched and recalibrated across UCL.
Foundational work needs to be done to decide, at institutional level, what roles are core, and what are optional; what the clear expectations for each role are, and how much of a workload they should entail. How will these roles be worked into appraisal and promotions structures (are some more high status than others, eg?); what support does each kind of role get (both from the central UCL unit the role ‘belongs’ to, and at more local level, via the role-holder’s immediate line management); will training be given? if so, will this be compulsory or optional? Will any financial support be available? If so, is this shared between different roles (Wellbeing, ED&I, Sustainability etc)?
Until the differing levels of workload expectation and support are understood, more reward systems will simply overlay complication rather than address root issues.
This would be a major piece of institutional work, needing input from across different sections of UCL, but it would help develop our internal working culture, as stated in the UCL Strategic Plan 2022-2027, to embed “a leadership commitment to a people-led culture and to a renewed focus on equity, inclusion and diversity, as well as [take] steps to amplify the community voice in institutional decisions and a clearer, values-led approach to regulation and policy”.
This recommendation comes with full and appreciative recognition of all the hard work the UCL Workplace Wellbeing team have done and are trying to do, and with the hope that this feedback will help that work develop with even more success in the future.
Professor Samantha Rayner
Vice Dean Wellbeing, Faculty of Arts & Humanities
30th May 2023