Some tips for improving staff wellbeing

Do

  • Make it possible for staff to achieve a reasonable work-life balance by taking regular breaks, not working or emailing outside of their regular hours, and not coming into work when sick.
  • Encourage managers to set a good example by doing the above themselves.
  • Set realistic deadlines and allow staff to pace themselves.
  • Actively observe colleagues and notice any unusual patterns.
  • Deal with any concerns as soon as they arise.
  • Offer staff rewards and incentives.
  • Try to create an environment where people feel comfortable talking about stress, pressure, and mental health.
  • Ensure staff know about the support that is available from the university and other organisations.
  • Make any wellbeing activities inclusive and accessible for all staff.
  • Ensure line managers encourage involvement in wellbeing activities.
  • Provide time at work for colleagues to get together informally e.g. having a coffee as a team.
  • Keep wellbeing activities fun.

Don’t

  • Tolerate a negative workplace culture.
  • Just provide tokenistic events. Events should be part of an embedded effort to foster an environment in which wellbeing is a priority.
  • Minimise issues if someone opens up about them. What might seem small or trivial to one person might cause real distress for someone else.
  • Treat staff differently if they have any sort of disability, mental health issues or long-term health conditions.
  • Bombard people with information about wellbeing!

Student mental wellbeing in higher education: good practice guide (UUK report)

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This key report from 2015 champions the Whole University Approach to mental health. Student mental health problems have a number of causes and require a joined-up approach to transform institutional cultures and embed mental health initiatives beyond student services.

Universities should aim to create a healthy learning and work environment for all by focusing on community, learning, living and support.

The full report is available here.

Not by degrees: improving student mental health in the UK’s universities (IPPR report)

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Since the early 1990s, there has been a rise in the prevalence of common mental health conditions amongst young people, particularly young women. This has coincided with a significant expansion in student numbers. A student is five times more likely to disclose a mental condition to their HEI than ten years ago. However, only 29% of universities have a mental health and wellbeing strategy and only 43% say that wellbeing is considered during course content and design.

Reasons that might explain this increase in disclosed mental health conditions include the lessening of societal stigma, the long-term underfunding of mental health care, and cuts to community-based services. For students, the academic experience has changed, with less contact time and an increased expectation that learning is ‘self-directed’. Other possible factors include increased financial pressures and the rise in the use of digital technologies.

Mental health and wellbeing issues are generally the remit of Student Services teams within universities but collaboration with other support services, students’ unions and academic departments is crucial. There should also be greater strategic leadership within universities, increased funding for support services, and better links with the NHS.

The full report is available here.

Student Minds

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Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. It promotes student-led activities to tackle mental health issues and aims to supports university staff deliver on a ‘whole university approach.’ Their website includes a very useful series of guides and reports which make recommendations about how universities might create a more welcoming and supportive environment for students.

#stepchange: Mental Health in Higher Education

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Since 2002, Universities UK (UUK) has hosted a standing group on Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education (MWBHE). The group produced the Student mental wellbeing in higher education: good practice guide in 2015 and, following this, UUK adopted mental health as a proactive policy priority in 2016, launching a programme to improve the mental health of students and staff across higher education. The #stepchange website includes a framework and checklist for university managers along with some useful research data.