A well-known university
Absenteeism and Staff Engagement
A well-known university, employing nearly 2000 staff, faced high levels of absenteeism in facilities management. Senior academic leaders also identified low levels of engagement in one of its academic departments.
Facilities management simultaneously faced the prospect of being considered for outsourcing. The academic department had experienced internal staff conflict and some staff turnover. Some external scores on the satisfaction of students with the academic department were negative.
The university commissioned Wellbeing Works to carry out an analysis of the underlying causes of these issues and to advise on this.
The prime method used was to deploy our 7 key elements to workplace wellbeing. The first activity was to use an online, predictive wellbeing and engagement questionnaire. This allows individuals to receive a report on their own wellbeing. Wellbeing Works then analysed aggregated data for all staff.
Prior to deployment of the questionnaire, all staff were briefed on the purpose of the initiative, the confidentiality of their data and how the university hoped to proceed.
Participation levels were high because of this approach, 78% of staff completed the questionnaire. (Typical staff survey response rates were around 40%).
Analysis of the wellbeing data revealed that the role of managers was a central issue. It also showed that the ability of staff to enhance their own wellbeing was relatively modest.
22% of facilities management participants were described as “surviving” – that is to say that they were at risk of impaired wellbeing and a high likelihood of future absence of more than 5 days in the next 12 months. In terms of engagement, the data revealed that 30% of the academic staff felt that they were not led in a way that made them feel valued. It also showed that levels of autonomy concerning individuals’ planning and decision making was impaired by the prevailing styles of management.
Both groups of staff identified a desire to obtain higher levels of self-care knowledge and particular skills to enhance their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Working with the leaders and managers in the two departments, a programme on safe and responsible management approaches was created and delivered. This led to a fundamental change in the way that the departments were led and managed.
Role clarity, communication levels, feedback methods and styles of management were reviewed. Our suggested changes in management style and approaches were adopted.
A series of short practical workshops on sleep, nutrition, weight management, alcohol awareness, exercise and mental wellbeing were provided. The take-up rate for these was over 90% of all staff across the departments.
Six months after the initial report, and following the interventions provided, staff were asked to complete the online questionnaire again.
Absence in facilities management had fallen by 9% which, given the long history of high absence levels, was very significant. The threat of outsourcing had been removed during the period so this was discounted as a factor in reducing absence.
Academic staff results were also positive, yielding a 10% increase in engagement with strong, qualitative feedback demonstrating that the environment was more constructive and a better place to work in. Staff turnover fell in line with expectations.
The university has now rolled the programmes out to all other departments. Annually, the university dedicates a week to wellbeing amongst staff and students.