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North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College (NWSLC) has been shortlisted in three categories of the national 2020 Personnel Today Awards for Excellence in Public Service, Health and Wellbeing, and HR Director of the Year. The college has been recognised for its focus on employee health and wellbeing, as well as for the way it has responded to the coronavirus crisis.

NWSLC employs over 600 people, including 200 teaching staff across six campuses. The college developed its first Health and Wellbeing Strategy three years ago to provide support for its workforce designed to boost their physical and mental health, and to keep them fit for work.

A key aspect of the strategy included raising awareness of mental health issues with the introduction of an expectation that all staff work towards a mental health qualification, currently completed by approximately 20 per cent of colleagues.

The HR team put in place a formal communications plan to raise awareness of the health benefits offered by the college and to encourage staff to access the support available.

Initiatives have included:

  • The ‘Menopause for Thought’ initiative which provides support, networking, training, and guidance across the female workforce.
  • A Treatment Tuesday initiative offering staff access to weekly workplace sessions led by beauty and complementary therapy students providing 15-minute treatments such as hand reflexology, seated massage, and aromatherapy inhalations.
  • A diabetic and health assessment clinic attended by more than 20 per cent of staff.
  • Healthy mind initiatives including meditation for stress management and anxiety, self-hypnosis, guided meditation, mindfulness breathing sessions, and ways to improve memory.
  • A ‘Get active’ campaign that started with an ‘On your Feet NWSLC’ day to promote the health benefits of activity. This was run alongside lunchtime walks at the college’s Nuneaton and Wigston campuses. A dedicated benefits platform now helps to promote a healthy lifestyle and includes a cycle to work scheme.

As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, the college worked hard to avoid losing ground on the advances it had made in the arena of health and wellbeing. The team was aware that heightened anxiety coupled with remote working during lockdown might have an adverse effect on health and wellbeing and so it worked with staff to recognise individual circumstances and maintained momentum by adapting its range of support to meet lockdown requirements.

Activities were extended to include a ‘Welcome Back’ pack to help support colleagues returning to the workplace once the college started to re-open its campuses more widely, a re-orientation video to help them adjust to new ways of working to accommodate social distancing and the launch of a dedicated COVID-19 Wellbeing Survey.

The college has experienced an increase in engagement with health and wellbeing initiatives and has seen an overall improvement in the level of positive feedback from staff. As a result of the Health and Wellbeing Strategy, the college has seen a reduction in both long-term and short-term absences, and absence relating to mental health issues was reduced by nearly 50 per cent. NWSLC’s work in the field of health and wellbeing has also been recognised by the Association of Colleges for meeting the standard to become a Beacon award commended college as part of a national scheme.

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC said, “We are proud that the college workforce consistently displays care and compassion in all that they do and we are committed to ensuring wellbeing is at the core of their work experience by encouraging and supporting them to look after their health and wellbeing.

“The HR team has implemented a staff wellbeing programme which has secured considerable national attention and, during the ongoing period of coronavirus lockdown, has supported our staff and contributed to an improved sense of wellbeing across our community, in particular in respect of their mental wellbeing.  We are really looking forward to the finals for these awards.”

 Personnel Today editor Rob Moss said: “We’ve been really encouraged that, despite everything that’s been going on, the quantity and quality of submissions to the 2020 Awards have surpassed expectations.

“While unfortunately we won’t be able to celebrate in the usual way at Grosvenor House in November, we will still ensure that our finalists – and ultimately the winners – receive the recognition they deserve with our virtual event. Congratulations to everybody who has made the shortlist.”

The final of the Personnel Today awards will be streamed live online on 26 November 2020.