Wellbeing at Oxford: our progress so far

Frances Parkes

Based on the recommendations of the Wellbeing Programme Board, we have worked hard in our first year of the Thriving at Oxford programme to identify your wellbeing needs and answer the most pressing of these through a series of activities including workshops for managers, financial wellbeing webinars and a trial to evaluate a system of support for Mental Health First Aiders across the University.  

This work culminated in the Thriving at Oxford 2023 event series which aimed to spotlight different aspects of wellbeing. 54 events were run over the course of two weeks, attracting over 2,000 staff registrations. It is encouraging to see the take-up of events from across the University with 26% of registrations coming from Medical Sciences, 13% from MPLS and 11% from Social Sciences. College interest is also growing with college staff making up 7% of sign-ups.  

Vice-Chancellor Professor Irene Tracey opened the two-week event series on 12 June. This was followed by a keynote session on Wellbeing at Work by Professor Jan-Emmanuel de Neve, Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre (watch the recording here). Based on the world’s largest study on employee wellbeing, Professor De Neve and his colleagues have identified that good workplace wellbeing affects staff performance in six different ways: productivity, relationships, creativity, health, recruitment and retention1 a boost, if one was needed, to the sense of purpose of the Wellbeing Programme team.  

This event series gave us a valuable opportunity to facilitate discussion and support around ill-health, disability, neurodivergence and caring responsibilities. The ‘Everyone can thrive at Oxford’ session (recording available) aimed to signpost staff to sources of support and share lived experience thanks to our fantastic panel. However, one of the best attended in-person events was a performance by Ben Haggarty, the Visiting Research Fellow in the Creative Arts at Merton College, in the beautiful setting of a summer evening at the Botanic Garden. It just goes to show the fantastic resources available for our wellbeing within the University.  

None of this would have been possible without the collaboration and generosity of Divisions and other bodies from across the University including the Researcher Hub, Occupational Health, Equality and Diversity Unit, the Counselling service, Student Welfare and Support Services, People and Organisational Development, Childcare Services, OUS, Neurodiversity at Oxford and many more. We would like to thank each and every member of staff who contributed to the event series and the programme so far. 

So what’s next? 

We are going to take this momentum forward into next year in continued collaboration with Divisions, Departments, Faculties and Colleges with the aim to drive staff wellbeing to the top of the agenda. This will be achieved with changes to the wellbeing infrastructure, provision and environment. Wellbeing provision will be structured in the following streams: prevent, detect, respond and treat. The newest addition to this provision is Health Assured, the University’s Employee Assistance Programme, which was launched last week. Manager, researcher and all staff streams are being designed and implemented over the summer months.  

Finally, to embed a culture of wellbeing and a positive wellbeing environment at the University of Oxford, we are asking for the engagement of all staff groups, including our senior leaders. Wellbeing champions from more than 30 different departments are already promoting discussion in their areas around good wellbeing and we aim to support them in their fantastic work. If you would like to join this ‘volunteer army’, please do apply here.  

If you haven’t already, please let us know about your experience of the Thriving at Oxford 2023 events. There are two separate feedback forms: one for events in week 1 (12-18 June) and one for events in week 2 (19-23 June)

Access the recordings from Thriving at Oxford 2023 

Recordings from some of the Thriving at Oxford 2023 sessions are now available to you on our website. Please note, you will need to log in with SSO to access these and it is recommended you use Microsoft Edge or Chrome.

1 De Neve, J-E., Kaats, M., Ward, G. (2023). Workplace Wellbeing and Firm Performance. University of Oxford Wellbeing Research Centre Working Paper 2304. doi.org/10.5287/ora-bpkbjayvk