DIY! Building your toolkit for resilience

Sarah Turner MAUA |  Student and Faculty Validation Officer, University of Portsmouth

Lisa White MAUA  | Academic Administration Manager, University of Portsmouth

How many of us are facing ‘re something’ in our working environments? Restructuring; review; re engineering processes; relocations; regrading? The HE sector continues to change rapidly, impacting on all of us in the AUA. Building personal resilience is essential to better cope with uncertainty and to support and lead others through change.

Growing resilience as part of your continuing professional development can contribute to:

• Greater ability to adapt positively to change and try new things
• Better team working and working relationships
• Improved communications
• Feeling more engaged and motivated; and
• Reduced stress

This article gives an overview of the workshop we facilitated to share good practice at the AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition in March 2018. We collaborated with delegates to create a ‘shopping list’ of items that could be part of a toolkit to build and maintain resilience.

Formal training opportunities are a useful starting point, and at the University of Portsmouth a wide range of development activities linked to resilience are offered, including workshops for ‘Mental Declutter’, ‘Leading Others During Change’ and ‘Managing Stress in the Workplace’. The University is linked with, an online learning platform offering access to an enormous range of online resources ‘on demand’. There is also an annual Support Staff Conference, which brings people together across the institution for a themed development day. Our Vice Chancellor circulates a monthly bulletin, and holds open, topical Q&A sessions, in addition to a weekly newsletter.

Although it can be challenging when we are all busy, allocating time to read communications about your institution and sector can encourage a sense of belonging and connection, and support resilience

Although it can be challenging when we are all busy, allocating time to read communications about your institution and sector can encourage a sense of belonging and connection, and support resilience.


How can you find ways to strengthen your engagement within your institution? In terms of networking, could you expand your links to AUA networks or to role related peer groups? Participation in working groups, committees and social clubs will bring you into contact with new people and new ideas, extending your connections beyond your daily working sphere. Work shadowing could also help develop your network and provide experience of other areas. At Portsmouth we have been piloting a ‘multi service’ shadowing scheme where a small group of staff
visit a number of different departments and central services.

Mentoring relationships are another option, providing space for you to seek advice, explore challenges, and work towards personal goals. We use an online tool to match potential mentors with mentees and we are also considering the possibility of developing mentoring circles. Perhaps some of this might already be in place in your own institution, but if not could you start something new?

Some interesting ideas were shared by delegates at the workshop. For example, a monthly ‘quiet space’ for activities to support wellbeing. We rather liked the sound of a deskside shoulder massage, lunchtime yoga or mindful colouring as options to improve resilience too.

Your resilience may be reinforced by connecting with services like Chaplaincy, or HR, or your professional Union. For many of us, sports and social clubs are beneficial in providing
informal networks alongside health benefits. Remember to take advantage of your institution’s library; they will have all kinds of resources to add to your toolkit.

Mapping tools for resilience to the AUA behaviours revealed many connections, with three key links:
• Managing self and personal skills
Mindful of how you impact on others and, enhancing your personal skills to adapt
• Using resources effectively
Identifying and making the most productive use of resources including people, time, information, networks
• Embracing change
Being open to, and engaging with, new ideas and ways of working. Adjusting to unfamiliar situations, changing demands and roles

Our final message would be to take action! Take advantage of the many things on offer that can help build resilience, suggest something new for your institution to try, and start to pack your
personal toolkit to carry into the future.


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