Picture: Friends. Credit: Helena Lopes (Pexels).

On 16 May 2018, CLEX staff, students and affiliates on our mailing list received a rather curious email with the subject line Hump Day Tip. Since then, the Centre’s Diversity and Culture Committee has sent roughly 140 more messages with that same subject heading. What started as a bit of a gamble has turned into an important part of CLEX culture that is appreciated and deeply valued by many.

The Hump Day Tip is a weekly email from the Diversity and Culture Committee that raises awareness around wellbeing, mental health and diversity & inclusion. The emails encourage readers to take a few moments out of their day to consider practical wellbeing tips, spark thought and conversations on the nature of work in science and academia or offer fresh perspectives on equity, diversity and inclusion. We’ve shared TED talks, popular science articles, opinion pieces, journal articles from a range of disciplines, infographics and memes, newspaper articles and… cat photos. 

The idea of the Hump Day Tip germinated when CLEX COO, Stephen Gray, spent a couple of months working with the University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore, NSW. There he met a professor of psychology who is a leading researcher in the field of Compassion Focused Therapy. At the time, that organisation was struggling with a number of destabilising issues that were affecting staff morale and wellbeing. In response, a small group met over coffee and discussed ways that compassion could lead to more positive outcomes for struggling individuals and the workplace at large. One idea that emerged was to circulate regular “compassion tips” via the centre’s mailing lists. These were immediately well received.

But it’s one thing for a respected researcher and practitioner in the field of mental health and psychology to send such a message among colleagues in an organisation in a regional city known for its warm and fuzzy vibes and penchant for kaftans. One of the pillars of the Centre’s Equity Plan is around wellbeing and centre culture. The Diversity and Culture Committee was keen to normalise conversations about all aspects of wellbeing; so the Hump Day Tip was born. So back in May 2018, the following email was sent to 400-odd climate scientists in Australia and around the world. And since then (almost) every week something has landed in people’s inboxes with the aim of sparking conversations about wellbeing and looking after ourselves and others.

Dear Colleagues

The Diversity and Culture Committee is launching a new initiative – namely a short, thought-provoking weekly email in the middle of the workweek to focus on wellbeing. It might be a very simple tip – like this first one, an article with some interesting research or a link to an online tool or app that helps keep wellbeing front and centre in our minds.

Academia is an environment that can be stressful and very demanding on time and energy resources, so it’s important to be conscious of ways to maintain and enhance wellbeing and not lose sight of the fact that we are all a bunch of complex humans, not tireless automatons!

So, with no further ado, wellbeing tip #1: Step away from the computer at least once an hour!  When is the last time you stood up and stretched? It’s not only good for your physical health but can also be a good trigger to find a new solution to an old problem. It also means that inevitable procrastination time that we all have throughout the day is spent more productively than staying at our desks and getting sucked into a social media vortex 🙂

The feedback from that first email and all that followed has been positive and encouraging, meaning that the Hump Day Tip is now a permanent and much-loved fixture in the life of CLEX.  Staff and students have embraced it and often bring suggestions of topics and articles that resonated for them to the committee to share more widely.

We leave you with a taste of the responses to just some of the 140 Hump Day Tips circulated so far.

  • EVERYONE i know **loved** last week’s tip on Kindness in Science. Thank YOU 
  • Thanks for sharing this bit of advice. It truly counts.
  • Thanks!! Awesome article, honestly 😊
  • This is such a fantastic video (nearly got teary) and great way to get people thinking beyond their bubble! 
  • Just a quick note to add my voice to those thanking you for these hump-day notes. I enjoy reading them, and really appreciated the one last week focused on dads in academia!
  • I think the idea of a weekly wellbeing email is brilliant. Thanks again for sharing
  • Thank you! Lunch away from desk is the one thing that I was missing from my life.

And finally

  • I’m not sure if you get any feedback or comments on these emails, you probably have received them already, but I wanted to send you a line saying how useful and comforting I often find them. Receiving various comments of this kind may encourage you to continue sending them or may convince whoever it needs to convince to continue supporting this initiative. It is a great way of making us feel less lonely in our little daily struggles as scientists.

Thanks for all the positive words of encouragement. We’re humbled and grateful.

Yours in wellbeing,

The Diversity and Culture Committee