School of History, Art History and Philosophy

Staff Wellbeing Advisory Group (SWAG)

SWAG is an informal group of academic and professional services staff, which is working to make HAHP a pleasanter place for everyone to work in.


SWAG does two things:

  • We hold an open meeting once a term. Everyone is welcome to come along and raise issues, make suggestions, etc. The group will then take these forward to the school management team (or to higher levels of the university management, if that’s more appropriate) to try and identify the best way to address them.
  • Members of the group are always available to have confidential, one-on-one conversations any time, to discuss issues or problems, etc. The idea is try and find the best way to resolve issues: that might be supporting a colleague who needs to make a formal complaint, or it might be having a quiet word with someone whose behaviour is perceived as inappropriate. Every issue is handled confidentially, on a case-by-case basis that is entirely driven by what the affected colleague wants. Having a word with someone from SWAG is simply an extra channel for addressing issues, not an alternative to existing channels (specifically, it does not prevent anyone from making a complaint or pursuing any other kind of action they wish to).


The current members of the group are:

Please feel free to contact any one of us at any time if you have something you would like to raise. And if you would like to join the group, we would appreciate your help; just email Jim Endersby and volunteer.

News from SWAG

March 2019

We discussed the introduction of the new workload planning tool, PAW. Several people have expressed concerns about the way this was being done, but others noted that it's still early days, with many details still to be worked out. Professional services staff at the meeting helped their academic colleagues to understand how complicated the technical side of it was, which means that it is still a work in progress. However, we communicated to the school meeting that there was anxiety about this and that it would be greatly appreciated if there could be more communication from management about how PAW is going to work and be used, so that it doesn't add to anyone's stress levels.

The group also discussed emails. Problems included the tone of emails, also that not getting a response both feels rude and leads to more time being wasted on follow-up emails. Some felt there was a particular problem of academic staff being slow to respond to emails from professional services staff. So, the group would like to encourage everyone to email others in ways that you would like them to email you: be brief, polite and – when possible – prompt. If you can't respond immediately, a quick message to say that you've received the email and will deal with it as soon as you can (e.g. after you've followed up with someone else, or whatever) reassures the sender that they're not being ignored, and helps avoid lots of time-wasting follow-up emails.

There was also a worry that it sometimes feels as if the university's increasing focus on student welfare is happening without sufficient concern for staff welfare. Pastoral work is both time-consuming and potentially emotionally draining; many of us feel that students need more of it than ever before, yet our other work-related obligations are also increasing. It was agreed to ask everyone, but particularly those with managerial roles, to keep this in mind when new initiatives to improve support for students are being planned and implemented.

Finally, we discussed ways to follow-up on some of the results of the staff survey. We are going to try a suggestion that our counterparts in the School of Education and Social Work (ESW) are trialling, which is to ask all staff for suggestions about positive improvements. Sample questions would be: What would it mean to you to be valued at work (What would that look like)?, and What could we do to make HAHP a safer space in which to speak up? We will try using Padlet to allow everyone to offer constructive suggestions anonymously, because the app allows users to see other people's ideas (and to "like" them, comment on them or offer alternative ideas, etc.) This was taken to the School meeting and approved. Jim Endersby will be setting it up soon, so feel free to email him if you have suggestions about the questions that should be asked.

          

Novemver 2018

The last SWAG meeting discussed the problem that colleagues sometimes feel isolated when they're away from work for a while and may also find it hard to reconnect when they return. This seems to be particularly true for academic staff; our colleagues in professional services are much better at keeping each other up to date. Part of the problem is that we are often not sure whether absent colleagues would like to be contacted or left in peace (whatever the reason for their absence). That's compounded by the fact that nobody is responsible for keeping in touch when people are away from work, so we all tend to assume somebody else is taking care of it.

So, as an experiment to try and improve this, we're going to have a coordinator for absent academics, who will be responsible for finding the most appropriate person to keep in touch. It might be the absent colleague's mentor, neighbour, close colleague or just a friend. The idea is to make sure that the work is shared around in a friendly and informal way, while ensuring that nobody feels either overworked or abandoned. For this academic year, Jim Endersby has offered to take on the role. Professional services will inform Jim when a colleague reports absent (which – gentle reminder from Deborah– everybody needs to do). But if you're going to be absent, or know of a colleague who is absent, please feel free to send Jim a quick email (j.j.endersby@sussex.ac.uk) and he'll make sure that someone keeps in touch. This is entirely voluntary, and naturally if you prefer to be left in peace, that’s what will happen.  And, equally important, please let Jim know when people come back from absence, so we can ask if they would like any support then. Thank you.