Advance HE hosted Mental Health and Wellbeing: HE Minds Matter, a webinar in partnership with jobs.ac.uk in support of World Mental Health Day in 2022. The event was led by Advance HE’s Senior Adviser (Student Success) Dr Helen Webster, with participants Liz Morrish, Kalimah Ibrahiim (University of East London), Petra Boyton (The Research Companion), and Dr Allán Laville (University of Reading).
Is there a link between staff mental health and the lack of staff promotions in many higher education roles?
Liz Morrish and Kalimah Ibrahiim delved deep into the way UK universities structure their staff performance and management. Both Liz and Kalimah pointed out how academics should try to manage their expectations, do a good job in the best way they know how, and be a supportive colleague. They also discussed utilising techniques that the academic finds rewarding, rather than only looking at being promoted.
How do I negotiate workload in the face of work-related mental health issues?
Allán Laville spoke about his own experience by going through the formal process of occupational health to negotiate workload. Allán continued to say how it’s imperative to speak to someone you feel safe with or who will listen. He also said you should try to disclose mental health difficulties or a disability and push for written evidence to support any adjustments to your work so it happens once the arrangements are agreed upon.
Liz Morrish went on to mention how you should communicate with the head of your department if you’re struggling with the workload. Talk with colleagues if your department workload model doesn’t reflect how long the tasks take, and conduct some collective action ie research other departments across your university and compare their workload model with yours.
How can I prevent myself from feeling burnout when it comes to stressful periods in HE?
Allán Laville and Petra Boyton made some key notes on how leaders should regularly review the processes that are in place and ensure the environment is inclusive by opening a safe space for staff to provide that feedback. In terms of burnout, staff should put some boundaries in place ie turning emails off and not looking at them until you’re back at work and taking regular breaks as you can get into the temptation of overworking to catch up, this is where breaks are necessary.
What measures can I take as an academic to promote or support mental health awareness?
Liz Morrish started by suggesting some formal measures such as occupational health. She went on to explain how occupational health can make recommendations for adjustments to workloads and how to bring you back into the workplace, particularly after a sickness absence.
Kalimah Ibrahiim also made a valid case for creating a culture where we have conversations about mental health awareness, unmanageable workloads, and counselling services with staff and senior leadership.
How can university staff who are disabled or carers be better supported?
Allán Laville advised colleagues who have been promoted within their roles and have disabilities to become mentors for those colleagues that identify as disabled. They can also provide guidance on what’s required to be promoted based on their journey to promotion.
In addition, Kalimah Ibrahiim suggested getting access to occupational health services through work as this could be a helpful way to open up and get support.
Mental Wellbeing in HE Conference 2023: Putting theory into practice - Creating a whole university approach to student and staff wellbeing
We are interested in hearing from colleagues who have either tried something new or continued with an established form of best practice that is making a tangible difference to student and/or staff wellbeing and demonstrates the core principles of a whole university approach. The deadline for submissions is 17:00 Friday, 10 March 2023. Find out more