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Unitec quick to respond to student and staff needs during current lockdown

Health and Wellbeing remains a major focus for Unitec as it responds to the welfare needs of its staff and students during the current Alert Level 3 conditions.

Mary Johnston, Executive Director, People & Infrastructure at Unitec, said they were drawing on their experiences of the last COVID-19 lockdown, including how to support their staff and students remotely.

“Although we’ve all had experience of working and studying from home from the last lockdown, not all those experiences were positive,” Ms Johnston said.  “We appreciate that our staff and students have other things going on in their lives besides work and study at the moment – running businesses, caring for children, whānau in other parts of the country they can’t get to.  It’s a worrying and stressful time.”

In a ‘mood check’ survey sent to all employees yesterday, staff were asked to describe how they felt by clicking on an emoticon.  They were also asked to indicate if they wanted access to further assistance or support, or a phone call to check in personally. 

The majority of staff who responded to the survey said they felt good and were coping well.   Human Resources staff have reached out to those who indicated they weren’t doing well and have been offering follow-up support as needed. 

“I’m really impressed with how our staff are handling things,” said Mary.  “A lot of our teams developed their own set of coping mechanisms last time, and it’s great to see everyone practising our Te Noho Kotahitanga values and looking out for each other with online chat groups, activities and social sessions.”

Staff have been offered free counselling and support services via external agencies, while Unitec’s Sustainability & Wellbeing team has introduced a range of online activities and initiatives, including yoga, Hula dancing, home workouts and mask-making, all of which are run by Unitec volunteers.

In addition, Unitec is continuing its Learner Outreach Project to check on the welfare of its students, including assessing and fast-tracking hardship cases and providing loan devices and non-perishable food items to students who need them.  Its Student Support team has shifted its pastoral support services online as increased demand is placed on community options.

Unitec’s Director of Student Success, Annette Pitovao, said, “COVID fatigue has started to kick in for a lot of people and we’re monitoring the welfare of our students closely, especially our new students in 2020. They’ve been very responsive and we’ve been encouraged to see that they’re supporting each other across a variety of platforms, and drawing on their experiences of the last lockdown. It’s incredible what many of our students are trying to balance whilst studying.”

Unitec has been delivering classes online since Monday, 17 August and will reassess its teaching options once the Government’s directive on a change in the status of alert levels is known.