University of the Free State: Caring for employees is key to the UFS, as more staff access wellness programmes


The majority of an employee’s waking hours are spent at work; therefore, the Division of Organisational Development and Employee Well-being at the University of the Free State (UFS) places a high priority on the development and implementation of well-being initiatives.

Burneline Kaars, Head: Organisational Development and Employee Well-being, said: “An effective well-being programme should focus on more than just encouraging employees to exercise. It is necessary to take a holistic approach in order to maintain a healthy workforce. The objective of our programme is to address all seven dimensions of well-being: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, financial, occupational, and environmental.”

“The division’s philosophy is to view a human being as a complex interplay that is made up of both internal and external influences, and the only way to achieve optimal well-being is by taking a holistic approach.”

More UFS staff attending tailor-made wellness services

According to Gartner’s 2021 Employee Value Proposition Survey, only 25% of employees who have access to well-being offerings are making use of those offerings. The utilisation rate at the UFS is higher than 50% and twice as high as the average global utilisation rate. The UFS well-being offerings include both preventative and reactive programmes, such as the employee assistance programme (EAP), the UFS-managed subsidised medical schemes, wellness lunch-hour sessions, workshops, toolkits, tailor-made well-being programmes, and special events.

Kaars said: “The statistics for 2021 indicated an overall utilisation rate of 53% (webinars – 25%; workshops – 15%; and 13% using CAREWAYS services. This can be attributed to increased awareness of well-being initiatives, the launch of our website, and different methods of delivery.”

She encouraged employees who are not using their services to do so, as the division strives to make the programmes more inclusive and relevant to the needs of all UFS employees.

“Our programmes are inclusive, relevant, and accessible to all employees through podcasts, online workshops, toolkits, short videos, and hybrid sessions. Staff from all three campuses can access the services on the website or by sending an email to the division for assistance,” Kaars said.

A supportive workplace for healthy staff

To reach more employees, Kaars said the Division of Organisational Development and Employee Well-being has established the Staff Well-being Ambassadors Programme on all three campuses “to foster a supportive workplace atmosphere and promote excellent health and well-being practices”.

With October being commemorated annually as Mental Health Awareness Month, Kaars said, “With a rise in the number of well-being programmes offered in the workplace, healthier workers also have a tendency to report higher levels of happiness and productivity.”