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“We have to become a warm organization.” With this ambition, Caroline Pauwels started her term as rector of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In her speech at the VUB new year’s reception this year, she announced that a new welfare plan is about to arrive. “Home based specialist” Elke Van Hoof  has been appointed as the project coordinator. But she won’t do this on her own. It will be a bottom-up story that she wants to write together with representatives of the staff and everyone who feels called upon. We had a meeting with her and Jan Den Haese from Mens & Organisatie.


Join us —> Stamina or stress? Sustainable and flexible employability. Wednesday Fabruary 6. Hosted by Elke Van Hoof.


Is there a need for a welfare plan at the VUB?
Elke Van Hoof: “Certainly at our university. But also at all other universities. The disturbed work / life balance is one of the major bottlenecks, both for supporting and administrative, technical and assisting staff, and also for the academic staff, the professors. This undermines the pleasure of work, which in time leads to less well being. So yes, there is a need for a welfare plan.”

Is it not a little too late? Or was the need for a welfare plan formerly less?
Elke Van Hoof: “It’s true that nowadays, there’s more emphasis on mental well-being. But it is certainly not the case that nothing happened in the past. On the contrary, if you look at the steps the VUB has taken in the past ten years, including in the area of safety, then it is best to say that we already have a broad tradition of working on well-being.”


Jan Den Haese: “Legislation has also given us a push there. After all, since 2014, it requires that we become more proactive in the field of psychosocial well-being and map out the risks of psychosocial unwelcome. With a view to this obligation, we have already started a survey in 2013. In the organization of that survey, we have also got to know Elke. And the trade unions also played an important role, by insisting on a study of workload among our professors during the CAO negotiations.”


In her New Year speech, Caroline Pauwels said that the university was still looking for other academics to help draw up the welfare plan. Are names already known?
Elke Van Hoof: “Immediately after the speech of Caroline, a number of people have already signed up spontaneously. That was super, of course. But not everyone was present at the New Year’s session, so there will certainly be a broad call to everyone who likes the idea and wants to apply to work on the welfare plan. Incidentally, a Crosstalks event on sustainable and flexible working will take place on Monday 6 February in the Pfizer buildings on Pleinlaan 17, opposite the Etterbeek campus. In the afternoon, there is a brainstorm session on well-being at the university to which I warmly invite everyone who wants to commit to it. So to everyone who feels called: join us! I am very curious about your ideas.”


Join us —> Stamina or stress? Sustainable and flexible employability. Wednesday Fabruary 6. Hosted by Elke Van Hoof.