Charlotte Preston is the VP, Organisational Performance at Virgin Atlantic Airways. She will be providing an emotional and thought-provoking keynote address at our Wellbeing at Work UK Summit on 20-22 September and we wanted to get her thoughts on all things wellbeing at work before she takes the stage in Manchester.
We are thrilled that you will be speaking at our Wellbeing at Work UK Summit in September. Our first and most important question is, how are you doing today?
I am fine but a little anxious to be speaking in front of so many people. But I believe nerves are a good sign, it means you care!
As a leader based in the region, what are the main challenges your you are facing when it comes to employee wellbeing?
As an airline we face quite diverse challenges from looking after our people in safety critical roles to ensuring our head office teams manage to switch off from work in their down time. The pandemic has left the airline industry with a variety of challenges, and we need to look after our people whilst making sure we look after the business too.
What strategies have you seen developing in the UK over the past 6-12 months post pandemic to address health and wellbeing in the workplace?
I think employee wellbeing has become an increasingly hot topic – which is great for events like this! And what I see written about a lot, and what is key to our approach at Virgin Atlantic is wellbeing is bigger than the traditional trio of clinical, lifestyle and financial health, they are important but it is also how you feel about your job, your outputs your relationship with you leader, your colleagues and your ability to show your true self. It is multifaceted so we, as a company, have to take a holistic view.
Why is employee wellbeing so important to you personally?
Well firstly, I am an employee and I know that having a supportive leader, work that plays to my strengths and stretches me, a place where I feel appreciated and recognised, and where I can speak up is the solid foundation that means during tougher times, I can weather the storm. I want everyone to have that same experience and support.
What are you most looking forward to about the Summit in September?
I love to hear what other companies are doing. It is great inspiration for how we can be better and I’m looking forward to sharing our work with them.
Tell us, what is your vision for the workplace of the future, in terms of employee engagement, health and wellbeing?
The role of the leader cannot be underestimated. We can have tools in place, like EAP, healthcare, networks, step challenges, social events, clear objectives and priorities, holidays and fun stuff, but if your relationship with your leader is not great, it will overshadow everything. My vision for the future is that leaders appreciate the magnitude of their role and are well equipped to support their teams.
What areas do you think employers should be focused on over the next 12-18 months?
There’s a theme here, get the basics in place and then focus on your leaders.
How has your organisation been leading the way?
At Virgin Atlantic we have made wellbeing a strategic priority, with a real focus on mental health in 2022 (which I will talk about). We will have a network of Mental Health First Aiders trained in 2022 which is industry leading, with our senior leaders trained as well.
Join us at the Wellbeing at Work UK Summit between 20-22 September 2022 in London, Manchester and virtually and hear from Charlotte and over 60 expert speakers from across the world. Further details here.