This past January, more than 2,700 employees (approximately 1/3 of the workforce) responded to a mental health and well-being survey conducted by UCalgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy (CMHS) and supported by Staff Wellness.
The survey was designed to gather workplace data to inform the renewal of the CMHS and help the university better understand staff and faculty uptake of mental health and well-being programming across campus.
Following the survey, focus groups were conducted to build on findings and provide a space for faculty and staff to explore thoughts and ideas on how UCalgary can sustain and improve the mental health and well-being of those working in this community.
Below are some high-level findings from the survey and focus groups, as well as key takeaways.
*Note: some of the following figures do not add up to 100% due to rounding
Overall health and well-being
The survey opened with questions about overall health and well-being, with approximately 60% of employees stating they felt content with overall mental health and well-being, as well as feeling mentally and/or physically well.
I am content with my overall mental health and well-being
TOTAL RESPONSES 2712
I feel mentally well
TOTAL RESPONSES 2695
I feel physically well
TOTAL RESPONSES 2698
In general, how would you rate your current mental health?
TOTAL RESPONSES 2742
As a research-intensive university that includes a committed focus on teaching and learning, we are very proud of our staff, faculty, postdocs and students. We understand the need for an environment that is both excellent and healthy. The results of this survey reinforce the need for employee well-being and mental health as we move forward together to build a strong tomorrow.
Dr. Penny Werthner
Interim provost and vice-president (academic)
1. Prioritize Psychosocial Factors most important to the university community
The survey asked UCalgary employees their thoughts on the 13 Psychosocial Factors.
Developed by researchers from the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction at Simon Fraser University, these factors are used by mental health and HR professionals at UCalgary to define and measure indicators in the workplace that promote and support the mental health and well-being of employees.
Out of the 13 factors, the priorities identified by UCalgary faculty and staff in order of importance to address were: 1) civility and respect, 2) workload management, and 3) clear leadership and expectations.
Focus groups echoed these findings, bringing forth a desire for more psychological safety practices from leaders, with ideas for more training around emotional intelligence, difficult conversations and creating psychologically healthy and safe work environments.
Focus groups also shared a desire for clearer channels of reporting misconduct, a review of respectful workplace practices and more effective resolution strategies.
Top 3 priorities the university should address
(OF 13 PSYCHOSOCIAL FACTORS)
1. Civility and respect
2. Workload management
3. Clear leadership and expectations
2. Build awareness of available mental health resources
When asked about awareness of resources, more than 73% of participants stated they were aware of how to access mental health supports at UCalgary; however, fewer knew of specific resources and trainings available to them.
Survey participants that have accessed Staff Wellness’ Mental Health Consultant saw the resource as useful and non-judgmental, however, only 50% of those surveyed were aware of this resource. This percentage is slightly higher than awareness of other mental health resources, such as The Working Mind and WellBeing and WorkLife’s e-learning modules. The Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) had the highest awareness, with almost 60% of survey respondents being aware of this resource.
These findings were also expressed in focus groups and indicate an opportunity for the Campus Mental Health Strategy and partners across campus to build stronger awareness of these services to employees.
I am currently experiencing burnout
TOTAL RESPONSES 2683
I have experienced burnout at some point in the last two years
TOTAL RESPONSES 2683
UCalgary offers a number of training and programs each year to address and promote work-life balance. UCalgary’s mental health and well-being expo, UFlourish, aims to help the campus community de-stress, make new connections, and build positive coping skills through activities, events and workshops. “By supporting each other in prioritizing time for our well-being, we collectively demonstrate our commitment to a caring campus community, as academic, work and other stressors fluctuate throughout the year,” says CMHS director, Dr. Andrew Szeto.
My work is aligned to the UCalgary mission
TOTAL RESPONSES 2573
41% | 1054 - Strongly agree
36% | 926 - Somewhat agree
12% | 295 - Neither agree or disagree
4% | 96 - Somewhat disagree
1% | 30 - Strongly disagree
7% | 172 - I don't know
4. Embrace and build on successes
The survey found UCalgary has an engaged community of employees who value the work they do. More than 75% (strongly agree and somewhat agree) of those surveyed felt like their work aligns with the overall UCalgary mission. More than 87% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that they felt their work has purpose. More than 85% of employees also strongly or somewhat agree that they were treated with respect by their immediate supervisor.
This information is telling and in step with UCalgary’s updated Strategic Plan, Ahead of Tomorrow, which strives for "community-focused excellence and accessibility, a sense of belonging, where all can thrive."
“To live this value, we must keep a sharp focus on the mental health and well-being of UCalgary’s faculty, staff and post-docs,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD, director, Campus Mental Health Strategy. “A flourishing and resilient workforce is key to fostering a caring campus community. And, while employees feel respected and supported by their supervisors, it is important that respect, empathy and support is extended between teams and working groups, as well.”
Ahead of Tomorrow Strategic Focus Area #4
Guided by long-term, foundational commitments, including mental health, Ahead of Tomorrow, UCalgary’s new strategic plan, highlights four strategic focus areas. Vice-President (Services) Michael Van Hee says, by creating improved and more efficient processes, strategic focus area #4, “has the potential to foster a workplace environment that supports mental health and well-being.”
This is possible through action items such as investing in process improvement and professional development, as well as creating yearly awareness initiatives targeted to faculty and staff about the services and supports available on campus.”
Well-being survey focus groups also correlated workflow and systems having an impact on workload and burnout. Career advancement and stronger resource awareness building were also areas underlined in focus group findings, as well as a tie between workflow and systems having an impact on workload and burnout.
High-level survey data has been shared with the provost’s team and deans, at General Faculties Council and with the Board of Governors, and with other operational units on campus. These results help direct and navigate current and future initiatives, as well as empower faculties and units to act. Here are a few ways this happens:
- The CMHS and Provost’s Office are exploring how to further share faculty and unit-level data with leaders.
- UCalgary’s Executive Leadership Team will implement an ongoing Employee Engagement Survey, which will include some metrics that will link with this survey.
- Faculty and unit leaders are encouraged to put this data into useful action, such as facilitating meaningful conversations with teams to explore tangible ways in which the best conditions to foster well-being at work can be created and maintained.
Highlights of the updated CMHS strategy are also now ready for feedback from the UCalgary community. Learnings from the survey and the focus groups are reflected in many of its guiding principles. Please find more about the renewed strategy here, including ways to give further feedback.
The exceptional faculty, postdoctoral scholars and staff at the core of the UCalgary community have boldly brought UCalgary to the world stage. To sustain our ambitious trajectory, we know the well-being of our workforce is crucial, and we all have a vital role to play. This survey enables us to move forward with clear, authentic input and helps us power positive change. Thank you to all faculty, postdoctoral scholars and staff for your engagement.
Ed McCauley, PhD, FRSC
President and Vice-Chancellor