Helping staff in higher education
Higher education is a really exciting industry to work in. You get to do interesting things, to meet interesting people. One of the really cool things is that it’s completely varied. There’s not a typical work week. Often your day can be very different from another. It is of course also quite a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of work and the amount of work is steadily increasing. Whilst we’re preoccupied with offering the best services we can to students with resources that perhaps aren’t growing at the rate we’d like. Then other important agendas such as staff welfare and wellbeing are paid less attention. Being under pressure Feels like I’m not in control of what I’m doing I’m on a treadmill, and I just know that I have to keep going. When I think of the effects of the pressure that might be on staff in the higher education sector, one word comes to mind more readily than others and that’s anxiety. In my role as a UCU rep I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in staff mental health issues. Staff are actually finding it impossible to do their work even to come into work to think about work. You can’t in general show weakness. In higher education you have to be tough. You have to in a sense put on a brave front whatever is going on in your personal life. That’s the environment. Internal support services can be very useful resources. But I think it would be a mistake to assume that all staff would feel comfortable using internal support. That in effect is saying to your employer “I have these problems. I can’t do my job”. And people are afraid to do that in the current highly stressed environment. I think having an impartial ear that you can just talk to, allows you to be yourself. It allows you to talk in a way that you might not talk if you were in the workplace. You can be authentic.