Neelam Yousaf is the Director of People at Consilium Academies and will be joining our leadership panel on trust and fairness in Manchester on day three of the Wellbeing at Work UK Summit on 20-22 September and we wanted to get her thoughts before she takes to the stage.
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? Very good thank you.
As a leader based in the region, what are the main challenges your you are facing when it comes to employee wellbeing? Working in the education sector during the lockdown brought its own challenges as schools remained open in the main. Staff had to battle with getting to grips with teaching online lessons and caring for their own children at the same time. This is the first-year exams have taken place since the lockdown and the burnout in schools was ‘real’ just before the end of the summer term. Students have lost a lot of learning time over lockdown and staff have been trying to play catch up. It caused a very busy end to the year. Nationally 25% of staff leave the profession in the first five years due to burnout and this is our biggest challenge. Finding that work life balance is high on the agenda.
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? Flexible working seems to have been adopted pretty much everywhere. A lot of people are working from home now, the balance on this just needs to be right. The government are also piloting the 4-day working week. These are all great initiatives. We try to adopt flexible working wherever possible in our Trust. Mental health and wellbeing seem to be much higher on the agenda now and employers really seem to care about this. I also think there’s a real shift and people put their wellbeing first, so if a role doesn’t suit them, they do leave for a better fit elsewhere. We are very focussed on the wellbeing of our staff. We are constantly exploring perks/discounts/benefits we can make available for our staff to enhance our employee offer.
Why is employee wellbeing so important to you personally? I’m an empathetic and personable character, I want people to feel happy when they come to work for us. I really want us to be a leading employer of choice. Staff spend so much of their time at work and happy staff is a minimum starting point for us. Most importantly everyone who chooses to work in the education sector does so because we believe our children of today are the future of our tomorrow and it is a privilege to have the opportunity to help them reach their full potential. If our staff are happy, they will create the best environment for our students. And if our students are in the best environment, they will be happy and learn in the best possible way.
What are you most looking forward to about the Summit in September? I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone who will be attending the summit and to get the opportunity to meet people in other sectors and see what great initiatives are happening where organisations are leading on wellbeing.
Tell us, what is your vision for the workplace of the future, in terms of employee engagement, health and wellbeing? I have just set the People Strategy for the next three years for the Trust and our mission is to become an employer of choice who leads on wellbeing, promoting a great work life balance for all staff and good mental health. The vision is for our employee benefits to continually grow where we develop great partnerships with providers and staff feel the benefits are tangible and useful. There will be a culture shift where staff work hard but we promote working smarter rather than for longer, educating our staff to lead by example and be mindful of their approach to work – through regular wellbeing weeks where positive habits are embedded in the hope that they become habitual for all staff.
What areas do you think employers should be focused on over the next 12-18 months? Flexible working is key but there needs to be a balance between working from home and being in an office. I think for people that are solely home based over a long period of time this will have a negative impact. There also needs to be a real focus on a work life balance where it is recognised that people have a whole life outside of work and there is no shame in giving that importance and time to ensure people maintain a positive and healthy mindset. The pandemic has definitely caused people to re-evaluate and it is clear to see that people want to work hard but also want to balance this with the time and flexibility to enjoy life and have the time to do that.
How has your organisation been leading the way? During the pandemic we had a lot of initiatives to help colleagues navigate their way through what was a very different working environment for them, schools had never done online learning in this way, and it was a real shift. There was a lot of practical support to help staff navigate their way through working during the pandemic. We also have a great occupational health service, which gives staff the opportunity to refer themselves for physio and counselling which they access local to where they live. We also have a virtual GP so staff get to see a GP within a few hours, and they can arrange referrals to specialists. They have a wellbeing portal which supports staff with resilience training, confidence building, and mindfulness platforms where they can self-learn. The serviced is very well utilised and we have high engagement rates with staff.
Join us at the Wellbeing at Work UK Summit between 20-22 September 2022 in London, Manchester and virtually and hear from Neelam and over 60 expert speakers from across the world. Further details here.