Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health

Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health, discusses why colleges and organisations in further education need to encourage openness around mental health, improve support services for employees, and how this can be incorporated into the working day:

The mental health of employees in further education is a topic that is still stigmatised but is vitally important to discuss and provide support for. With college and training staff having a duty of care, not just for themselves, but the students they teach, mental health issues need to be taken seriously by organisations, employers and employees.

With Britons taking 15.8million sick days for mental health issues in 20171 (stress, depression, anxiety, bipolar, etc.) further education organisations need to make sure they are creating a culture of openness for their employees.

Taking a ‘Mental Health Day’

Treating mental health issues and stress-related absences with the same approach as physical sickness will improve attendance and productivity, while reducing stress and stigma around these issues. Employees will also feel more able to have open discussions with each other and encourage students to understand how important it is to look after their mental health.

A ‘Mental Health Day’ is when an employee does not come to work and takes a sick day for reasons other than physical illness. If an employee is suffering from mental health issues, taking a ‘Mental Health Day’ is a way of ensuring they give themselves time to rest and recuperate.

What can be done to prevent absence in the first place?

There are a number of ways that college and training staff can be supported, and these can be easily incorporated into the working day. These methods are vital in helping colleges and other further education organisations prevent mental health absences and understand how to support employees who are experiencing them.

Organisations and employers should also look to provide on-site stress busters for college and training staff to reduce stress at work and therefore mental health-related absences. Schemes including relaxation sessions, chill-out zones and exercise classes to help employees unwind and switch off from their workload are all effective tools.

Staff should also consider using these stress-busting schemes with their students, especially around exams and other pressurised situations. Both teachers and students will pick up on each other’s stress levels, so communal stress-busters will help encourage cooperation, openness, respect and greater productivity.

Employees should be inspired to talk openly and freely about how they feel and the importance of protecting mental health, both with each other and students. An open door policy and social activities are great ways to improve colleague relations and create a culture where they feel at ease discussing important and personal issues.

Outdoor lessons, eating outside and walking meetings are all simple yet very effective methods of stress-reduction. Getting fresh air and a change of scenery will help staff and students feel refreshed, recharged and less stressed. A change of scene and the outdoors can also often spark a greater interest in what is being discussed and new ideas, both of which will really increase participation and productivity.

Getting outside also encourages exercise which releases endorphins. This has been proven to reduce stress, boost self-esteem and ward off feelings of anxiety and depression.


Although benefits such as a high salary or extra holiday days are great motivators, they often don’t help with mental health issues. Many employees at further education organisations can often feel pressured and overworked due to the long hours and high workload. A flexible work schedule can help college and training staff feel more valued, as well as help them feel more able to balance their work and home life.

The more an employer adheres to the needs of individual employees, the greater the staff retention rate and the more stress will be reduced. Staff will also be more present when teaching and interacting with other staff members which is vital to ensure productivity and happiness levels are high.

Implementing a wellbeing programme

Across the UK, amongst college and training staff, an increase in stress has led to employees feeling over stressed and taking mental health related days off. As education organisations become increasingly serious about promoting the benefits of protecting mental health and decreasing workplace stress, wellbeing programmes should be explored and implemented. By introducing initiatives like this, employers are more likely to have a happier and healthier workforce, reducing avoidable absenteeism.

Workplace wellbeing initiatives, while helping to reduce employee stress and absenteeism, will also encourage motivation and productivity from students as staff will be mentally present. This in turn will improve student’s performance and the overall reputation of the organisation.

Richard Holmes, Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health

Copyright © 2018 FE News

1   Research by Deloitte UK Mental Health Monitor, October 2017

About Westfield HealthWestfield Health is an award winning not-for-profit health and wellbeing provider, committed to improving people’s quality of life by inspiring them to make healthier choices at work and at home. For more information about workplace health and wellbeing please call 03331 227343.

Working with 400,000 customers and more than 8,000 companies, Westfield Health has been supporting the nation to live happy, healthy, independent lives since 1919.

It has donated over £14.5m to the NHS and medically related charities over the last 20 years, supporting the health and wellbeing of communities across the UK.

Westfield Health believes in well beings, and that when you begin to truly believe in the physical and emotional wellbeing of your staff it can completely transform the face of your business, improving productivity, helping you retain staff and making you a desirable place for prospective employees to work.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Which Will Be The First College? is now a featured video. 7 hours 22 minutes ago

Which Will Be The First College?

Stefan Drew of looks at the College of the Future .. # CollegeComm #CollegeoftheFuture Remember the first...

Stefan Drew shared a video in channel. 7 hours 28 minutes ago

Which Will Be The First College?

Stefan Drew of looks at the College of the Future .. # CollegeComm #CollegeoftheFuture Remember the first...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page