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7 Tips for Improving Wellbeing at Your Institution

Posted on: March 13, 2020

These 7 tips to support faculty on campus are excerpted and adapted from Chapter 5: Faculty Strategies from Wellbeing in Higher Education: Cultivating a Healthy Lifestyle Among Faculty and Students edited by Marcus A. Henning, Christian U. Krägeloh, Rachel Dryer, Fiona Moir, Rex Billington, Andrew G. Hill. To learn more, follow this link to download the full chapter on which this article is based.

For quality work and teaching, it is essential for higher education leadership to help their faculty learn how to successfully handle occupational stress and burnout. Improving the physical, mental, and emotional health of faculty can also have a direct impact on student learning and wellbeing.

1. Offer counselling and support programs.

Whether delivered in group meetings, such as fitness and yoga classes, or through individual counselling, support programs are important for providing faculty with strategies and resources for coping with stress. Co-faculty support groups are beneficial because they can encourage co-faculty collegiality and ensure that individuals do not feel alone or unsupported. Mindfulness programs focused on skills in reflection, self-awareness, or mind–body processes, can also serve to promote engagement, empowerment, and meaning in the workplace.

2. Have resources in place for mental health interventions.

Many people have different ways of managing stress and burnout caused by work, which can result in in depression and anxiety or others turning to alcohol and drug use to cope. Higher education institutions should offer or make referrals to rehabilitation services for individuals who suffer from drug or alcohol misuse as a result of occupational burnout. Furthermore, anxiety and depression should be easily recognized by faculty and staff to allow for referral to appropriate management services.

3. Take steps towards organizational intervention.

Provide quarterly or biannual evaluations to give faculty feedback on job performance and address any concerns they may have with work requirements or institutional policies. Reward systems, like benefits in salary, vacation, or annual bonuses, should be implemented to demonstrate appreciation for the faculty member’s dedication to the job. The work environment also has a large impact on faculty job performance, so institutions should take an interest in upgrading facilities, such as classrooms and computers, as well as increasing funding for research and certain curricular activities.

4. Deploy surveys and gather feedback.

Investigate the current condition and cause of burnout of faculty members by conducting surveys, which can provide detailed data of the causes, signs, and consequences of faculty exhaustion, making it easier to find ways of promoting wellbeing by reducing unnecessary stressors and guiding the way for institutions to provide various support programs for faculty.

5. Reduce expectations in research or extracurricular activities.

The demands and expectations of faculty have increased over the years with increased workload, research requirements, administrative paperwork, student expectations, curriculum, and time constraints, in addition to extracurricular participation, such as student organizations, committees, and advisory boards. A reduction in these demands could serve to help faculty achieve a healthy balance between home and work life and may allow faculty to focus more on the teaching role that serves to benefit both themselves and student learning.

6. Offer assistants and tutors.

Assistants can aid faculty in decreasing work pressure and extracurricular demands. For example, research assistants can reduce the amount of time faculty members spend on research, and teaching assistants can be available to offer extra help to students who need tutoring or have questions outside of the classroom. Recruitment of assistants for faculty members will ease the pressure of work and time constraints and prevent missed deadlines.

7. Encourage professional engagement.

Faculty who are more engaged in their work demonstrate a commitment to success and find genuine enjoyment in work endeavours. These faculty members feel motivated and enthusiastic to fulfill all occupational duties and tasks. As such, higher education institutions should promote professional engagement to improve the attitude and ambition of their faculty by helping them focus on the features of work that are most meaningful to them.