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A recap of WELLy’s achievements through all these years and the final conference

The WELLy project: Introducing the job profile of a Manager for Work Well-being to prevent and combat work-related stress is slowly coming to an end.

In three years, the partners from Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and Slovenia have achieved something that seemed almost impossible at the beginning – they have more than successfully completed the creation of a curriculum and pilot training for workplace well-being managers in all participating countries, despite all the obstacles of the last two years.

Not only that, all the objectives were met within the deadlines set at Novo Mesto in November 2019. Since those early days before COVID, the partners have had the opportunity to meet mostly online, and even then, they were always surprised to find new faces among them, only the organisations remained the same.

They did not meet again in person until early September 2021 in Larissa. At that point, two years had already passed since the project’s official start. At that time, we were right in the middle of the most important part of the project – finalising the curriculum translations and preparing for the training delivery. We were all looking forward to seeing each other in person at least twice before the end of the project. But we were wrong because covid-19 was once again the underdog. So in March this year, we were still wondering if we could hold the final meeting and conference in Novo Mesto, as was foreseen in the project proposal. And when it turned out that the meeting would be live, after all, the guests we had invited to the round table we were going to organise as part of the final conference started to cancel their participation.

June started, and everything was ready for the international partners in Novo Mesto, the schedule of the meeting was confirmed, as well as the schedule of the conference itself and the participation of the experts in the round table. With the arrival of the partners on 13 June, just one day before the final meeting, it was then time to get down to business.

On Tuesday, 14 June, the partners gathered in the hall of Gostišče Loka to discuss the work of the project. Among other things, we concluded that despite the conditions in which we were working, we had successfully completed the plans we had set for ourselves and were satisfied with the training we had received as part of the project. We also talked about the possibility of further cooperation and the implementation of the “WELLy 2” project, as we got along very well as an international team and would like to deepen our relations not only in terms of business but also in terms of friendship.

The final conference

Finally, we could not miss the most important event – the final conference. Although we had clearly outlined the guidelines of the conference before the last meeting, we went through the whole schedule, performances, internet connection and other technical things again live. After the meeting, we took the partners on a tour of the Novo Mesto and had one last dinner together, knowing that we would return to our respective parts of Europe after the conference.

And then the long-awaited day arrived, bringing with it a touch of farewell but also of satisfaction. Almost done!

Just a few more translations and final reports are to be processed by the end of August, but the conference was the end of our work. No more meetings, online or in person. The partners gathered again at Gostišče Loka, and the action began.

Participants came slowly through the big front door, and we counted the minutes until the official opening of the final act of a project that has changed our lives in many ways over the last three years. We had become aware of many things we had not noticed at work before, and in our three years of working together, we had spoken out about the inadequate working environment and poor working conditions.

We taught dozens of managers and HR managers how to improve these conditions, how to better balance the work and personal lives of their employees, and how to take care of the mental and physical health of their employees and themselves. We taught how to be a leader and not just a boss! We pointed out the realities of working from home. And much more! Now it was time to share all these thoughts, events and insights with a wider audience – the audience gathered in the auditorium and those waiting for us online.

After the welcome, the partners responsible for a specific part of the project lined up on stage to present the results of Intellectual Outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Presenting the WELLy outputs

First, Annmarie Gorenc Zoran from the Faculty of Organisational Studies in Novo Mesto, the lead partner, presented the results of the first outcome, i.e. the analysis of the situation of well-being at work, which was carried out and studied by the partners at the very beginning of the project and on the basis of which we took the next steps when we defined what competencies a manager for well-being at work should have, what the professional profile of managers should be and what topics should be included in the curriculum, which was presented in more detail by Emanuele Bertolani from Sinergia Italy.

Intellectual Output 3 (IO3) was represented by partners from ISCTE-IUL in Portugal and Psychometrics SRL in Italy. The partners worked on IO3 for more than a year, first collecting materials and good practices in the partner countries, reading labour legislation, writing and translating the whole curriculum and then conducting pilot training. Sílvia da Silva and Patrícia Costa also told the audience about the difficulties encountered in writing IO3 and how successful the training was.

The last session before the break was presented by Célia Nunes and Céu Branco from EPRALIMA Portugal, who reported on how the occupational well-being manager profession will be certified at the EU level. And Theodora Makri from iED Greece, who ensured that our partners actively wrote news throughout the project, revealed how many people we reached during the project and how many European citizens read our news and followed our work.

After the break, there was one last presentation – Intellectual Output 5. This last output was presented by Alejandra Baldoví Navarro from the Spanish FyG, who explained that our latest product is a handbook for managers on wellbeing at work, which also includes practical examples.

Before we said goodbye to the assembled participants, the conference included a panel discussion moderated by Ester Snedec from the Association for Developing Voluntary Work Novo Mesto, with experts in the field of well-being care as guests – Katja Brkič Golob, Head of the Mental Health Department at the Novo Mesto Health Centre, Evija Evelin Zavrl from Plus Solutions, a company that develops and educates employees through as-is analysis, psychological profiling, implementation of changes and other activities, and Lejla Imamović Lerić, who participated in a training for workplace wellbeing managers.

During the discussion with the moderator, the guests noted, among other things, that the situation regarding well-being at work and healthy living is very worrying and that currently, more and more people are suffering from burnout or other health problems, which are, among other things, a result of teleworking, the increasing volume of work, as well as the time we spend at work. We have less and less time to rest, and precisely because of teleworking or working from home, the boundaries between private and professional life are completely blurred, which leads to us being increasingly mentally, emotionally and physically stressed and exhausted.

Well-being at work is decreasing rather than increasing in most workplaces due to higher demands from employers and poor or insufficient organisation of the workplace. This is why workplace wellbeing managers are needed, especially in companies where the boss, the director, and the manager, is only concerned about the bottom line and does not also care about the employees. The workplace well-being manager is one of the professions of the future!

After the round table, Annmarie Gorenc Zoran gave her closing speech, summarising the conference and closing the event with the thought:

“If we want our employees to be happy and feel good at work, we have to make sure that they are. Otherwise, employees will be unhappy, stay away from work due to various health problems, the company will have high turnover, employees will be unhappy and sooner or later word will spread about the company in a not so positive way. None of the owners, directors and managers want this, because it is only to their own detriment and to the detriment of the company. But many managers do not know how to look after the welfare of their employees. There are many bosses who dictate tasks to their employees but never ask themselves if the employee can do them, if the employee is OK. Bosses should become leaders who care about their employees. An employee who feels good about his or her work environment will in turn show it through improved productivity, which ultimately translates into the company’s profits. But many bosses do not know how to be a leader. That’s where our WELLy, the Manager for Wellbeing at Work course, comes in.”

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