FT – ask questions re: #wellbeing so it’s not forgotten in planning, priorities, policy development, and interactions with students.
In Tom Cruise’s memorable role in Jerry Maguire he taught us to create an inspired mission statement and to back it up with practice. Cruise’s sports agent grew tired of his industry and wrote a mission for the business. It was entitled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say – The Future of Our Business.” The well-being of our student staff is very much the present and future of our professional business. We should think of staff well-being as part of our mission, but we must also speak to well-being by asking questions during our practices of planning, prioritizing, and developing policy.
I have been a student affairs professional for nearly fifteen years and in my observation we don’t talk nearly enough about well-being of staff in a practice sense, beyond an in-service topic, or healthy snacks at meetings. Take for example the month of August. We all know the potential brutality to our schedules and souls that it poses. However, it happens every year and we are seemingly less prepared each time. Well-being conversations need not wait until July 30 as to how a person will take care during the next month. As soon as we begin planning for August, which should ideally be the September before, that is when we need to be questioning practices of well-being.
Are our priorities for staff well-being equal to other priorities? Are we actively considering how much work time they are being compensated for during training? Do we systematically review position descriptions and responsibilities to ensure staff members are not overworked? Do we have the courage to cut tasks when needed rather than sacrifice our staff for these same tasks that will only get done inefficiently at best, and poorly at worst? Yes, each individual has responsibility for his or her own well-being. Still, we must own what is our responsibility. That responsibility as employers is to proactively create systems, strategies, and success plans by asking questions early and often, not late, and too late. We must take our missions out of the thought box and road test them through tangible practices advocating for well-being so staff may see our commitment to their success in this area.
We care greatly about our staffs. Now let us show in addition to tell. Let us better recognize their priorities for their work and beyond. Let us plan assessments of position work load rather than be resigned to saying “that can’t be quantified.” And let us schedule significant time to get the right people in the room to create and update policies on a variety of well-being related issues: religious accommodation, replacing broken office furniture, and policies so student staff can no longer work 20, 30, and 40 hours a week on duty and still be expected to give more.
We care greatly about our student staffs and their well-being. Now let us bring mission to life by questioning sooner and say what we need to: “Show me the practice.”