Health and well-being is quickly becoming a major consideration for workplaces across the country. We often find ourselves in a task-orientated, results-driven environment with little time to consider our psychological state of mind on a day-to-day basis.
It is well recognised that high levels of psychological well-being are associated with not only improved physical health, but a motivated and productive workforce. Yet, we rarely find the time or feel that we have the necessary skills to facilitate and monitor our own well-being in the work environment.
The University of Manchester is pioneering a new approach to health and well-being for its staff and students. Professor Cary Cooper CBE was appointed the University’s “Well-being Champion” in 2016, and is at the forefront of the strategy. Professor Cooper highlights three important benefits of enhanced well-being in the workplace, both in terms of the individual and the organisation: it decreases the likelihood of illness, it increases productivity, and you “get more” out of your work life.
The Well-being Strategy focuses on a number of ways of creating an environment to support every member of the University community to “feel good and function well.” The first step of the University’s ambitious long-term well-being strategy, the “Manchester Ways to Well-being,” focuses on the specific actions you can build into your day-to-day life. The strategy not only outlines the importance of health and well-being, but also lists a number of helpful approaches to ensuring you are equipped with knowledge and skills to facilitate your own health and well-being programme.
Alys Kay (Online Development Oficer, Graduate and Researcher Development) has been introducing the “Manchester Ways to Well-being” during postgraduate induction workshops this past autumn. Alys asks participants to look at where they spent their time and energy, explaining how a typical scenario such as cooking with friends can often reveal important insights in terms of managing one’s own health and well-being.
“So what is it about cooking with friends/family that makes it such a tonic? Food and cooking are connected to our physical health and well-being in various ways. As well as being directly mood enhancing, cooking is usually a gratifying and relaxing experience. The social aspect of preparing and eating food gives us feelings of belonging and inclusion.
All of the 6 Manchester Ways to Well- being are fulfilled by preparing and sharing food with friends:
- 1. Connect. When it comes to well-being, other people matter. Sharing the joy of cooking is a great way to share a positive emotional experience with others.
- 2. Learn and Discover. Sharing cultural knowledge and passing on recipes. My friends are from all over the world, I learn about the food that they cook at home, and it improves my cooking skill. I also get to eat some great food.
- 3. Be Active. Getting ingredients and preparing food is a more physical leisure activity than watching the television or using social media.
- 4. Take Notice. There is much to appreciate when you prepare and enjoy a meal with friends – the communal sense of achievement when the meal is ready, relishing the banter and the laughter, and cherishing the sense of fellowship.
- 5. Give. One of the joys of cooking is that it gives pleasure to others. Additionally, cooking your own food from scratch allows you to be more environmentally sustainable by controlling and reducing the amount of waste you produce, and making ethical choices about the ingredients you choose to use.
- 6. Be Healthy. Home-cooked food allows you to be healthy because you can know exactly what’s in the food you eat.”
So here is what research says will make you feel good and function well:
- 1. Connect: Make an effort to relate to other people.
- 2. Learn and Discover: Be open to new learning experiences.
- 3. Be Active: Find a physical activity you enjoy. Go outside.
- 4. Take Notice: Ask what am I grateful for? (Answers are not necessary, just searching helps).
- 5. Give: Looking out as well as looking in. Think about how you can connect your happiness to the wider community.
- 6. Be Healthy: Look after yourself, respect your body, make healthy choices.
As well as implementing this novel framework, there are a number of specific objectives of the Well-being Strategy. This includes capturing and responding to a series of distinct requirements from three groups: staff, research students and taught students. Having an iterative framework will allow these important considerations to be incorporated into the framework as it evolves. Specific areas of implementation of the strategy include provision of information, guidance and support aimed at increasing awareness of, and possible actions to enhance well-being. A number of events and activities aim to engage people in developing their well-being strategies, which consequently allows for a two-way communication about well-being.
Well-being events at Manchester
The University of Manchester holds a numbers of varied events across the year to support and encourage well-being practices. Additionally, the University of Manchester Counseling Service runs an extensive programme of free group sessions
to support mental well-being and physical health. These take place in the New Well-being Rooms, Simon Building, and include sessions around actively managing your mood, relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. To find out more about the programmes available, please visit the Counseling Service website: (www.counsellingservice.manchester.ac.uk/ events/workshops).
Another important event at the heart of the University’s Well-being Strategy is “Well-being Week” held in November. A programme of events is tailored around creating opportunities to discover ways of trying something new, with all events focused on health and well-being. All activities are totally free and are drop in sessions (no requirement to book). Events include Sunrise Yoga, Tai Chi for Health, Pilates, UV Dance and Trampolining. A full list of events from 2016 can be found at www.sport. manchester.ac.uk/fitness/wellb/wellbeing-week.
Alys Kay shares a number of different options to explore to help you think about your own health and well-being strategy. Some of these, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, you may find familiar from the rest of this issue of Incite. (Ever seen Karate Kid?)
Connect with societies. This is a brilliant way to meet new people who share your interests and enrich your time in Manchester. There are over 400 societies at Manchester which can be found online (www.manchesterstudentsunion.com/societies) as well as a number of varied interest groups (www.meetup.com/cities/gb/18/manchester).
Learn and Discover well-being workshops on relaxation and mindfulness, run by the Counselling Service (www.sport.manchester.ac.uk/fitness/ wellb). There are also professional development opportunities available via the training catalogue (app.manchester.ac.uk/training).
Take Notice and find “three good things” each day (www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/ nd- three-good-things-each-day) to cultivate your ability to appreciate the good in your life, by finding 3 positive things every day. Practicing mindfulness aims to increase your ability to observe and reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Small bites of mindfulness are also an effective way to de-stress (www.pocketmindfulness.com/6-mindfulness- exercises-you-can-try-today).
Give and get involved with social responsibility. Some of the ways you can do this are detailed on the social responsibility webpages (www.manchester. ac.uk/study/postgraduate-research/why- manchester/doctoral-college/community/social- responsibility). There are also many volunteering opportunities available (www.volunteers. manchester.ac.uk).”
What does the future hold for the University of Manchester Well-being Strategy?
The launch of the “Manchester Ways to Well-being” and the appointment of a University well-being champion are the important first stages focusing on raising awareness of well-being in terms of healthier working and studying practices. Future goals of the initiative focus on promoting accessibility and engaging initiatives and activities, as well as introducing a “well-being discussion” as part of staff performance reviews, postgraduate supervision, and first year undergraduate tutorial programs as standard. Implementing and monitoring well-being strategies at managerial level is also a key focus of the strategy, through appropriate training and development.
The University Well-being Strategy is an important initiative to increase awareness and the importance of health and well-being in the context of work and studying practices, as well as more wider lifestyle choices. The tools are available to help you consider well-being on a daily basis and set aside the time to engage with your chosen strategies and actions. There are a number of initiatives and events held across the year to get involved with. The diversity of the scheme means there is something for everyone. So go ahead, and try something new.
More information can also be found on StaffNet’s Wellbeing pages: http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/wellbeing/