Staff wellbeing within the context of higher education: a mixed method study

Douglas, V., 2021. Staff wellbeing within the context of higher education: a mixed method study. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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The effects of stress and burnout on performance and staff retention in the education sector has been a focal point of the research in recent years. However, less is known about staff perceptions of wellbeing and their lived experiences in the context of higher education. This study adopted an exploratory mixed methods research design to gain insight into how staff perceive their wellbeing, to understand the factors that have diminished or enhanced their wellbeing at work, and to examine the effectiveness of current university interventions.

To explore staff perceptions of wellbeing and to gain an in-depth understanding of their lived experiences, 21 semi-structured interviews (Study 1) were conducted, revealing that staff wellbeing is promoted through personal development opportunities, support from colleagues, the ability to make a difference to the lives of others, and by the nature of their professions. Yet staff wellbeing is undermined by the organisational policies and processes that prioritise student wellbeing and the lack of management commitment and interventions available to support them. Staff offered insights into what can be done to promote their wellbeing including a review of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) experiences of wellbeing, opportunities to engage in wellbeing discussions, and the development of a wellbeing charter and index.

The second research study was performed to further investigate the association between anticipated future wellbeing and current wellbeing experiences in Higher Education, organisational culture, the dimensions of wellbeing, and available services to support staff wellbeing and responsibility for wellbeing, as identified in Study 1. Data was collected from an online survey (Study 2) of 299 staff working in higher education. The results from the survey indicated several factors affecting staff future wellbeing, including current wellbeing, university commitment and communication about staff wellbeing. Future wellbeing and current wellbeing were strongly and positively correlated. A linear multiple regression model identified three key factors explained anticipated future wellbeing: their current wellbeing, work demand and stress and the availability of support from colleagues and managers. This study also presents a new measure to assess staff wellbeing in higher education, shown to have high construct validity and internal consistency.

The final study aimed to identify and examine current staff wellbeing policies in higher education to classify the key approaches taken to supporting wellbeing and highlight areas requiring further exploration. A total of 135 UK universities responded to a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) (Study 3). Results suggest that wellbeing services are provided, including counselling and occupational therapy services. However, the records regarding the use of these services are incomplete, with universities indicating they do not hold the information requested. Similarly, while university staff wellbeing policies indicated an absence of a working definition of wellbeing in several cases, they did incorporate definitions related to the physical, social, and mental health of staff. Among those reviewed, 35 universities indicated they had a specific policy on staff wellbeing and the majority of these did not specify who had contributed to their development or give a review date for the policy.

Together, the outcomes of these three studies provide a comprehensive understanding of staff wellbeing in Higher Education, although limitations do exist. For example, the study included staff in pre and post 1992 universities only and it is recognised that private universities were excluded. Further research can extend this study by including private and international universities to build on current knowledge in this under-reported area.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Douglas, V.
Date: April 2021
Rights: This work is the intellectual property of the author (Note: if there are other owners of the IP, they must also be named here). You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed in the owner(s) of the Intellectual Property Rights.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 17 Jan 2023 12:32
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2023 12:32

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