Creating a Thriving community involves more than just celebrating Thrive three times a year. There are many things we can do within our own departments and faculties to encourage our colleagues and peers to Thrive all year long.
Most people understand empathy in terms of trying imagine and understand what another person is going through. But creating an empathetic environment goes beyond merely visualizing what another person might be going through. It also involves acknowledging out loud and through practices that the people that you work with, study with, or teach have multiple facets to their lives and that the thing you do with them is not the only thing that they do.
Acknowledgement can come in many factors, such as stating out loud that you understand people come from different backgrounds and situations and that those situations can create hardships; as well as creating flexible study and work guidelines to allow for differences in personal situations while still optimizing each person for success within your environment.
Using normalizing language can help people within your department realize that they are not alone if they are struggling or facing personal challenges.
Text that could be added to syllabii or email updates to students:
"We want everyone in our university community to be successful. We also know that being a part of the University community has unique challenges and stressors. During this time, it is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, and experience
difficulties. Please know that you are not alone. When you are faced with these challenges, please reach out to your instructor, your advisors or other services available to students through Counselling Services and Health Services."
Text that could be added to a staff email update:
"Your leadership wants you to be successful both at work and at home. We recognize this is a busy time for our department and we encourage you to contact us if you feel like your workload is becoming unmanageable or if you are struggling with work/life balance. Please know that you are not alone. We all face these challenges from time-to-time and there are resources available to staff including the Employee Assistance Plan and Occupational Health."
Creating a culture of personal wellness
You can build wellness into your team, department, and faculty culture by:
- Creating opportunities for your staff, colleagues, and/or students to build a community and friendships: Getting to know your peers whether in a work context or a school context, can help people when they are struggling by providing a point of contact for that person to talk to. Creating a friendly work and school environment also just helps with general well-being and happiness, which increases mental health. From a staff perspective, this can mean having monthly get togethers that are not work related, like a book club, or a paint night which can enable friendships amongst staff to be formed. From a student perspective, this can mean hosting a games night, paint night, or other non-academic focused event that can foster a sense of community, solidarity, and friendship between students.
- Encouraging your staff or students to take care of their health preventatively before things get bad: Consistently remind your people about the pillars of self-care, which include getting enough sleep, eating well, getting exercise, taking time for yourself, and creating balance. You can do this through personal conversations betwee managers and staff, advisors to students, and faculty to students. You can also include these reminders in emails, newsletters, or at the beginnings of lectures.
- Providing resources proactively: Remind your staff, faculty, and students of the resources available both on and off-campus throughout the term. A list of these resources is provided at the end of this document.
Sharing failures and celebrating successes
Many people working and studying in university environments deal with imposter syndrome at some point in their career. Imposter syndrome is when you believe your accomplishments are due to luck instead of your talent, skills and qualifications.
Proactively sharing a time that you made a mistake or experienced failure can help people in your area feel like they are not alone and normalize the idea that life is not a series of upward achievements, but instead a journey take can take you both up and down sometimes.
Conversely, when a project or milestone is completed, make sure to take time to pause, acknowledge, and celebrate people's achievements before diving into the next task or project. This shows that you appreciate their efforts and allows them to bask in the glow of a job well done.
Creating equitable environments
Equity is a shared responsibility. Given each of our intersecting identities, we all need to engage in work to unpack our privilege(s) and develop our understanding, skills and knowledge. Consider taking a course from the HREI department to help broaden your understanding and learn more about how to create equitable environments within your working and learning spaces.