Wellbeing at Kent: Our commitment to you

From Martin Atkinson, Director of HR and Organisational Development

This year continues to present unprecedented challenges across the University as we adapt to the largescale disruption brought about by the pandemic and our continued period of change at Kent, coupled now with the difficulties many staff are experiencing following the launch of KentVision. The impact this is having on many people’s wellbeing has been a major concern in recent Executive Group meetings – we hear what you are saying and are fully committed to putting the right things in place to address the issues as quickly as we can. 

In recent weeks a sub-group of JSNCC has been meeting to explore the issues impacting staff wellbeing in depth, leading to a report that lists out key recommendations (link requires VPN access) to help us move forward. These recommendations were endorsed by the full JSNCC yesterday and also have the full support of both Karen and the Executive Group. I’d like to personally thank the members of the Working Group for coming together at such a busy time to find ways forward with this – I’ve no doubt their input will help us identify tangible improvements that are of real benefit across our community. 

Four key recommendations 

At the heart of the report are four key recommendations the group felt would best address current concerns around Wellbeing: 

  • Wellbeing and Workload Focus Groups: Bringing staff together to talk about workload, to help us quickly identify and surface issues impacting staff as they arise and work together on solutions 
  • Toolkits: Alongside the Mental Health Support intranet site, a toolkit will be prepared for early next year that brings together our Wellbeing resource and ensures everyone knows more about support available at Kent 
  • Spreading the word: Encouraging more conversations about staff wellbeing and mental health by encouraging everyone to read this report and ensuring everyone has a chance to contribute towards putting improvements in place 
  • EG engagement: Finding new ways to bring staff and the Executive Group together – including continued staff engagement via the popular Staff Webchats series which we will develop further throughout the year 

Workload 

The Working Group were clear that workload issues are the number one driver for the impact on wellbeing many staff are feeling at present. This includes the continued challenges we face following the launch of KentVision, for which as an Executive Group we apologise unreservedly. 

There are no quick fixes to workload issues or to the problems with KentVision. However, this is a key priority for EG and we are determined to improve our current situation as quickly as we can. This includes introducing short-term resource where it can make a difference and continuing to prioritise process improvement through the How We Work project. The new KentVision project manager has written directly to key stakeholders using the system with details of the changes now being put in place to improve delivery and to help alleviate some of the problems being experienced by users across the University. 

Looking ahead 

Kent is a great place to work in so many ways, but I realise that the current workload and wellbeing issues mean that it may not feel like that for some staff at present. There is much to do to improve staff wellbeing and we will provide regular updates as the recommendations get taken forward.  

Alongside that, we also want to recognise just how busy things have been. While it may still be a little way off, I’m pleased to confirm in advance that the last normal working day before Christmas (Wednesday 22 December) will now be a full rest day in recognition of how hard the last few months have been.  And, given we know how hard it is to take leave at the moment, staff will be allowed to carry over up to 10 days leave this year rather than the usual five.  Full details of both will be confirmed nearer the time. 

I fully recommend reading the Report in detail to find out more about our commitment to improving wellbeing at Kent. My thanks again to those involved for their hard work and genuine commitment to finding better ways to support our community at Kent. 

With all good wishes, 

Martin 

Martin Atkinson | Director of HR and Organisational Development

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