What’s your background and when did you join the University?
I came to nursing via an unusual route! I had a summer job as a nursing auxiliary while doing my degree in History. I qualified as a teacher but decided I really wanted to nurse. I have worked in Occupational Health (OH) nursing since 1988. I am also a fully trained counsellor.
I moved to Kent from Wales in 1998 and joined the University in 2012. Among my initial aims were to increase counselling and mental health support services for staff. We were able to offer extra resource just a year later, and earlier this year, we were able to launch our long-planned Employee Assistance Programme*, a fantastic addition to staff wellbeing support.
What does your role at Kent involve?
I head up a team of five, responsible for delivering OH and wellbeing services to staff. Part of the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Unit, my team advises the University on the health needs of staff. This includes advice on ergonomics and computer workstation set-up, staff rehabilitation and disability needs, and adjustments needed under the Equality Act.
My own role involves individual case management, and writing policy and process documents on OH and wellbeing such as the Staff Health and Wellbeing Strategy Statement and Psychological Wellbeing Standard.
How has your role changed as a result of Covid-19?
Like many others, I’m working from home and have had to speed-learn Teams and Zoom meetings. I’ve now settled into a routine and got to grips with virtual communication – which has underlined the importance of communicating regularly with your team, as a group and individually. It’s a different mindset from being able to pop into the office next door when you make a cup of tea!
What’s worked well and what’s proved more tricky?
The first few weeks were hard. Not only were we dealing with hardware and software challenges within our own team, but we had to ensure colleagues across the University had the best computer set-up while working at home. Careful planning meant that we were able to circulate a home-based Display Screen Assessment, just after the Easter break.
It was also crucial to ensure that all staff had easy access to mental health support as and when needed, and we worked alongside the Communications team to promote this.
Tell us more about the health and wellbeing support that’s currently available to University staff?
There’s a wealth of health and wellbeing support available for staff through Covid-19 and beyond, including:
- Our chosen Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)* provider Sodexho/Care first offers advice on all types of problems or wellbeing issues – including webinars, free access to expert help, and counselling (currently available virtually).
- Our Staff Health and Wellbeing website is a comprehensive guide to wellbeing support available at Kent, featuring common health topics and upcoming national health promotion.
- The Learning and Organisational Development team have put together a series of wellbeing webinars to tie-in with its Belong and Grow Week and Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020).
What’s been the response so far to the Employee Assistance Programme?
There’s been great support from management and all affiliated trades unions on campus in spreading the word about the EAP. It’s early days, but it seems colleagues are engaging and using the resources when needed – especially over the early weeks of the Covid-19 crisis.
What other health and wellbeing initiatives would you like to see at Kent?
I am heading up the University’s working party looking at implementing the Government’s ‘Thrive at Work’ initiative. The initiative recommends employers provide a structure for mental health support for all, especially for those struggling with mental ill health problems/disabilities.
Outside work, and out of lockdown, what do you enjoy doing?
Gym exercise, socialising with friends, good food and wine, playing cards and board games, music concerts and visiting relatives in Wales.
What will you look forward to most once we’re back on campus?
Going back to Rock Choir – I haven’t managed to make any of the virtual sessions so far! And going for lunch with my team
[*To access the EAP website, use the login: uokent and password: university]