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The countdown is officially on for the Leeds Mindful Employer Network Conference 2024, “Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces for All”.

The conference is being hosted by network member and Mindful Employer Charter Signatory, Leeds Beckett University at their Headingley Campus, Carnegie School of Sports.

Mindful Employer Project Coordinator, Leigh Staunton, caught up with Sarah Swales, Deputy Director of Human Resources at the University. Leigh and Sarah chatted about why Leeds Beckett decided to host this fantastic event, their approach to supporting employees with health and wellbeing and why Leeds employers should prioritise attending on the 21st May.

Leeds Beckett University

Tell us a bit about you and your role at Leeds Beckett University

I’m Sarah Swales and I’m the Deputy Director for Human Resources at the University. It’s a wide-ranging role, with a lot of variety and I have overall responsibility for the work we do on colleague wellbeing.


What does it mean for Leeds Beckett University to be a Mindful Employer signatory and a committee member of the Leeds Mindful Employer Network?

Being a Mindful Employer signatory signals our commitment to wellbeing and mental health and enables us to be connected to a network of other employers who are engaged with the same challenges and opportunities.

Being part of the Leeds Mindful Employer network means we can work with, learn from, and support other employers in Leeds. We are an organisation grounded in Leeds and are active members of the city’s Anchor network. This connects us to the city-wide ambitions to improve health outcomes and offer opportunities to people living and working in Leeds.


What motivated Leeds Beckett University to be the main sponsor of “Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces for All” and host the event at the Carnegie School of Sport?

As a university, our purpose is to make a positive difference to our students, staff and the wider community. We are a big organisation, and we have the space and environment to host such a big event and demonstrate our commitment to the network in this way. We’re proud to be able to offer our facilities and the time of our colleagues who are already working behind the scenes to make sure the event is a success.


Tell us about the experience delegates can expect from all that your fantastic venue has offer

Our Headingley Campus is a great place to work, with both its history and green space making it a unique location so close to the city centre. I still remember my first day based at Headingley and taking photos of the buildings and trees that I could see from my office window as I felt lucky to be working in such a green and open environment. Having a walk and chat round ‘the Acre’ is a regular lunchtime activity for colleagues. We are close to nature with foxes living in the woods, have our own bee hives (with honey on sale from our Beckett Bees) and are accessible to the local community with many dogs and their humans passing though daily alongside runners and cyclists.

The conference venue is the new home for Carnegie School of Sport – it’s a bright modern building with incredible views of our athletic facilities. A virtual tour is available here. It’s accessible for all, and we can support a range of needs on campus.


Promoting positive Student Wellbeing is rightly a top priority for universities nowadays. How do you ensure this concern for mental health and wellbeing is a priority for your employees as well?

We want our employees to have a good experience at work, and we have embedded a focus on wellbeing into our strategic workforce plan, and developed supporting organisational structures that ensure we deliver on those commitments. Our Wellbeing Sub-Committee ensures there is good governance around all our activities for staff and students and creates a forum for open discussion between senior leaders, wellbeing practitioners, trades unions, and our student union.

We support managers and colleagues with a range of resources and development so that wellbeing and mental health is regularly discussed in teams and individual settings. We’ve created an innovative process to do this – our wellbeing assessment for teams enables conversations about wellbeing to happen in a supportive and engaging way.


What are you most proud of in Leeds Beckett University’s approach to employee wellbeing?

There are a few things that are worth mentioning. We work hard to have a whole University approach that embraces both staff and students and take a view that embraces physical and mental health, financial wellbeing, and the importance of community. Our LBU Wellbeing Commitment was devised by colleagues and students.

Our annual colleague survey has questions on wellbeing. It’s great that our latest survey published in January 2024 shows us that 83% of colleagues who responded, ‘believe my manager cares about my wellbeing’ and 62% are ‘maintaining a healthy work-life balance’.

We are one of only seven Universities awarded the University Mental Health Charter which recognises good practise against a range of themes and criteria. The process has been positive enabling us to work as a whole University with colleagues and students jointly working in the charter. The external recognition of what we have done so far is fantastic although we’ve got a lot still to do, and there are areas we need to improve.


Why should businesses prioritise attending “Creating Mentally Healthy Workplaces for All” on the 21st of May?

We all have a lot going on in life and work, and there is evidence that poor mental health is a reality and concern for many. As employers, we have a responsibility to do what we can to create a positive workplace environment for our staff and that includes thinking about wellbeing – it drives productivity and engagement. The conference will be a place where we can share our challenges, learn from each other, hear the latest research, discover practical interventions, and most of all connect with other local employers in the city to bring the network to life.

I hope that taking time to attend the conference and focus on wellbeing and development within a network of like-minded individuals and employers will be a positive experience.


Find out more about this fantastic conference, including our amazing speakers here.


Join the Leeds Mindful Employer Network here.


Add yourself to the waitlist for our Conference on the 21st May.

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