Students Staff

20 July 2020

How often should I take breaks and what are the benefits?

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:41 pm

Our Workplace Wellbeing Manager, Stuart Henty, tells us more about the importance of taking regular breaks, especially when you are working at a computer for long periods of time.

Stuart Henty

Stuart Henty

Time away from your screen can be more difficult to manage when working remotely, with no commute nor the need to walk to attend meetings across campuses. This can result in long periods working in the same position, which could be detrimental to your health.

The NHS article Why we should sit less says that ‘Sitting for extended periods with no breaks or regular exercise is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat’. Long periods of inactivity may contribute to or increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal or circulatory conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

How often should I take breaks and what are the benefits?
The Health and Safety Executive recommend breaking up long spells of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work with rest breaks of at least 5 minutes every hour or changes in activity. Setting alarms or reminders on your smart phone will help to remind you to take a break.

During these breaks, you could consider doing short activities, whether that is walking or similar light exercise, such as these examples kindly provided by Essex Sport and the NHS. We also offer additional lunchtime activities such as art and crafts with Wellbeing at the Hex, as well as weekly healthy back and yoga sessions.

Making time for regular short breaks to concentrate on non-work activity will not only provide physical health benefits, but can also help with your mental wellbeing. This time can be used to manage feelings of stress through mindfulness exercises and allow you to return to a task refreshed, which can lead to being more productive and focused during your working day.

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16 July 2020

Decolonising the social epidemiology curriculum

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:22 pm

Dr Cara Booker is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research. Here she tells us why systemic racism is the missing factor to understand health inequalities.

Dr Cara Booker

Dr Cara Booker

When I describe what my research expertise is, I usually say social epidemiologist. Social epidemiology has been defined as “the branch of epidemiology that studies the social distribution and social determinants of states of health”. To do this, we examine the sociostructural factors of a society to determine how they impact the distribution of health and disease. Gender, social class, social capital, social policy, discrimination and race/ethnicity are just a few examples of the sociostructural factors that have been explored in their relation to individual and population health.

While these factors are inextricably linked there is an over-riding driver of some of these factors that is often overlooked: systemic racism. When I am analysing data on adolescent mental health, I often explore inequalities by ethnicity. However, what my and many other’s research have failed to properly account for are the laws, regulations or unspoken policies that have perpetuated the oppression of people of colour and may be better predictors of the observed inequalities compared to the ethnicity of the individual. There are several reasons for why systemic racism is not accounted for, but I will focus on two: lack of discussion in lectures and poor measurement of systemic racism.

I attended the University of Southern California (USC) which is located in South Los Angeles. A couple of years before I arrived, the 1992 riots occurred following rising racial tensions and the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. These riots were close to the USC campus and the effects of the riots could still be seen two years later. The riots should have opened doors for discussion in my classes about the systemic racism that allowed these events to occur. Dialogues on redlining*, racial profiling, gentrification and racism in medicine should have been imbedded in lectures. Wider discussion of how these systems directly and indirectly impact health and the inequalities we observe in population health should have been taking place in our classes.

Ignoring systemic racism does a disservice to those who wish to examine social determinants of health and, in turn, to reduce health inequalities. We are trying to address this problem with only partial information. Thus we are not equipped to develop suitable questions nor can we include information in our analyses that sufficiently captures the ongoing impact of systemic racism. We were not trained to do so.

The past 5 months have highlighted this lack of training and poor measurement of systemic racism. The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted people of colour. While some of the reasons may be related to social capital, social class, or discrimination, there are also structural and systemic racist policies and laws that have driven these inequalities. Many of these laws have been repealed, but their impact lingers on. Explicit training which provides future social epidemiologist the tools and vocabulary to identify the structures within their society continue to contribute to inequalities and marginalisation based on race is necessary. Such training should not be limited to one or two classes, but should be embedded from the onset and underlie all training of social determinants of health. Graduates should not have to learn these lessons once they embark on their own career paths. We should all work to call out those structures to create meaningful change.

*Additional resources on redlining

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15 July 2020

Healthy from Home challenge success stories

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 3:16 pm

Stuart Henty, our Workplace Wellbeing Manager, shares your success stories from the ‘Healthy from Home’ challenge.

We hope you enjoyed and benefited from the recent four week Healthy from Home Challenge.

Stuart Henty

Stuart Henty, Workplace Wellbeing Manager

It isn’t finished however, as even if you didn’t take part you are still able to access Kaido Experiments. These are programmes that you can use to proactively manage areas of your health and wellbeing that are important to you. From kicking caffeine to breathing better to beat stress, Kaido Experiments can support you to make improvements to your health and wellbeing.

Congratulations to the 140 members of staff that took part in the challenge, forming 27 teams. In particular, well done to our the Pre-Award Team (REO), ISER Staff and Students and Team IADS who came in the top three. The Fab Four were also the lucky winners of Stonehenge Tickets in a milestone prize draw.

We have loved seeing you engaging with the programme and have recorded 275,075 minutes of physical activity, 30,409 minutes of meditation and 2,311 reflections.

Key highlights include:

  • 74% of staff noticing an improvement in their health
  • 88% feeling the challenge helped them to better cope with the current lockdown
  • 45% feeling calmer
  • 51% feeling more motivated to improve their own health and wellbeing

Thank you all again who participated in the challenge.

If you have feedback about the challenge or want to find out more about the Kaido Experiments, please email Stuart Henty.


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Celebrating our annual staff picnic

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:01 pm

For the first time since the 1990s, there will be no staff picnic this year. Mandy Borges, from our Organisational Development team, tells us more about the history of the picnic and what we have got planned. You can also watch our video to see some highlights from previous years.

Our staff picnic has always been a popular event, and it’s a great way for people to spend time with colleagues from across the University. The first picnic took place in 1997 and was designed to celebrate all the hard work that people put in over the course of the academic year. It was originally known as the VC’s strawberry picnic because the Vice-Chancellor at the time, Professor Ivor Crewe, agreed to pay for the strawberries out of his own budget as a ‘thank you’ to staff.

The first year we held the picnic, we arranged for musicians and buskers to entertain people. This included David ‘The Balloon Man’ and some people may still remember the balloon sculptured animals they were presented with. Since then we’ve enjoyed a variety of different entertainment. In 2010 East 15 performed a 15 minute adaptation of the Riverbank Scene from the Wind in the Willows, whilst in 2013 we marked our 50th anniversary with an ice cream van giving away free ice-cream.

The picnic has always been held at the beginning of July, originally by the lake nearest the library, although in recent years it’s moved to the lake near Wivenhoe House. The weather hasn’t always been kind and when rain has meant the picnic can’t be held outside, we’ve used various locations to make sure it goes ahead, including inside – with people sitting on their picnic blankets on the floor – and under umbrellas on the squares.

The picnic couldn’t go ahead without the help of people from across the University. Organisational Development co-ordinate the whole thing and Estates and Campus Services have always helped to make sure it goes ahead without a hitch. Over the years they’ve helped by providing a generator for the musicians, and transporting the strawberries to the venue, as well as making sure everything is set up on the day. Our Catering Section are responsible for ordering the all-important strawberries and, more recently, staff from the Sports Centre have been very creative with arranging sports activities for everyone to enjoy.

This year, we’re going to be celebrating the staff picnic virtually on Thursday 23 July, and we’d love you to join us by enjoying your own picnic wherever you can. To help us document the event, please email us your photos to, along with your favourite strawberry based recipe, craft or drink, so we can share this very different picnic with our whole community.

We’re really sad that the picnic won’t be going ahead as usual this year, but hopefully we’ll all be back on campus again in 2021 for the next one.

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8 July 2020

Help us tackle hate crime

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:02 pm

To help tackle problems with hate crime, our Colchester and Southend campuses have been assigned as Hate crime Incident Reporting Centres (HIRC).

A HIRC is a location whereby our staff and students can receive support from trained Hate Crime Ambassadors (HCAs) in reporting hate crimes to the Police in a safe environment. HIRCs and HCAs also help to raise awareness as to what hate crime is and why it’s important that it’s reported. HIRCs are particularly beneficial to support people who may not feel confident or comfortable to go directly to the Police.

We would like to ensure that as many front-facing staff as possible are trained as Hate Crime Ambassadors (HCAs). Essex Police will be providing the training free of charge to anyone wishing to become an HCA via Zoom on Tuesday 21 July from 10am. The training will be around 90 minutes.

Please contact Suzanne Harrison for more details.

You can find out more about hate crime and the support we offer to people experiencing hate crime on our Report and Support platform.


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7 July 2020

Support our Hardship Fund

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 6:00 pm

The Coronavirus pandemic has raised a lot of challenges for everyone at Essex, but it has also seen our community come together to support each other.

We launched our Hardship Fund at the start of April and the Essex community has already raised over £140,000 to support those students who need our help most. We have received donations from £5 to £10,000 from a total of 345 people scattered across the globe and we are incredibly grateful for all your support.

Students receiving support from our Hardship Fund

It’s incredible to see teams finding novel ways to fundraise. Our Estates team recently auctioned off bikes, generating an impressive £1,235 for the fund. We want to thank them for their innovative efforts, and to anyone who bought a bike – you have made a huge contribution to helping our students.

We’ve been amazed to see how our students have responded to the challenges of this year and proud to see them rally together to support their peers and contribute to the fund. When given the opportunity to receive £30 for completing a recent ISER survey or donate this fee to the Hardship Fund, many students opted to donate their fee, raising a further £540 for the Hardship Fund.

We are grateful to have received donations from all over the world, from alumni, honorary graduates, local residents, students and staff. We have all come together to help as many students as possible, at a time when they have needed it most.

At the start of this campaign we set an ambitious target of raising £250,000. We are over halfway there, but there is more we can do. We want to support 500 students with £500 bursaries, making sure that they can overcome financial hardship and complete their studies here at Essex.

To make a donation to the Hardship Fund please click here.

If you have any questions about the appeal, or ideas about how you can fundraise to support Essex students, please email

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1 July 2020

Your pathway to permanency during COVID-19

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 3:46 pm

We’re supporting new academic staff on their pathway to permanent positions by providing an extension to Pathway to Permanency (P2P) agreements.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created exceptional circumstances for the University which is impacting on everything we do. During this time, a priority remains supporting our community of new Essex academics who are at an early stage of their career and on our Pathway to Permanency (P2P) process.

Flexibility is already inherent within our current procedures but we appreciate that the current external environment may present colleagues with a number of challenges in achieving their specific agreed objectives and we want to be as flexible and supportive as possible. We also appreciate that individual circumstances and pressures will vary and that it is not always easy for colleagues to voice their concerns.

In order to ensure that P2P staff experience no detriment as a result of a likely 12 month period of disruption, we will apply a 12 month extension to complete P2P agreements. This will provide the additional time needed to reflect on, adjust and complete agreed priorities while supporting staff to work towards establishing their academic career.

An automatic 12 month extension for every colleague will ensure equality of opportunity and affirm our commitment to our people and communities as set out in the University Strategy 2019-2025.

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