When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in Europe early 2020, a large technical university asked the team at My Wellness Check to help them assess the wellbeing of their students and staff. This request led to the development of an instrument with NeuroUX that systematically measures wellbeing over time in a total of 4 iterations from June 2020 - June 2021. The goal was to identify wellbeing needs and ideas on how to deal with them in order to inform institutional action. For each iteration, the instrument was reevaluated by engaging ‘wellbeing stakeholders’ (e.g. student councils, students, teachers, academic counselors, deans, psychologists, etcetera) to ensure that we were ‘asking the right questions.’ What this means in practice, is that there are certain established wellbeing metrics that can be used. However, the present situation was unfamiliar and rapidly changing. Therefore, we asked those within the system (university) to inform us about how they experience the effects of their context (a university during COVID-19) on their wellbeing. This resulted in a set of contextualised wellbeing metrics additional to metrics that were used from existing literature.
Over all four iterations of both student and staff, we’ve gathered a total of over 12000 responses. The approach of contextualising the assessment instrument has proven to be successful in both informing policy to improve wellbeing in response to the ongoing crisis, as well as improving the questionnaire experience. The latter was an objective to improve the quality of the data by making the questionnaire experience more enjoyable, satisfying, and worthwhile. By comparing our contextualised version with two existing questionnaires (CSSWQ and WEMWBS), we saw significant improvements across all measures. The latter has been proven by assigning students to different versions of the survey, where the content could differ based on their experimental condition. In all versions we’ve included a central measure of life satisfaction. This was to investigate whether the predictability of the contextualised version was on par or better than existing measures. These included (SWLS, CSSWQ, WEMWBS, HILS, etcetera.) In conclusion, contextualising wellbeing assessment instruments seems to be a strong approach to informing institutional action and we recommend that in order to integrate wellbeing as a core metric for success, any institution can install and maintain such a wellbeing feedback loop.