In my interview for the lecturing role at UWS I talked about offering value for time as a key factor to engagement and listed the Power Hour format as an example. Little did I know then that this would turn into the Power Hour of Writing – a supportive community at UWS and beyond. And I never would have thought that this community would be key to my mental health and wellbeing during a particular difficult time.

The Power Hour of Writing started as an in person activity in 2019 hosted in the different campus cafes across UWS. The idea was born from a similar group I ran while a postdoc at Heriot-Watt University called Hide & Write and is similar to the Shut up and Write format. The start at UWS however, was really slow and despite our best efforts to visit the different campus locations and provide support – the walk to the cafes to write seemed a step too far. We did get the occasional person joining us but most of the time it was myself and my colleague Claire.

Two coffee cups on a table (one take away cup, one a ceramic one), a bag of sweets and the a sign advertising the writing group.

We could see the benefit and were determined to not give up. So, towards the end of 2019 we applied for an Advance HE Good Practice grant and were successful. With the Covid restriction looming we had to ensure Advance HE that we could move the Power Hour online to be granted the award. In line with the guidelines from March 2020 we started to work remotely and with that the Power Hour moved fully online as well. Understandably it took a while for people to get used to remote working, the emergency pivot to online education and the whole array of personal and professional challenges. But we were set and determined to keep the sessions running. Slowly attendance and the group grew and we could see a real community forming. Even though attendance ebbed and flowed, a core group established and is still going. Our research into the Power Hour of Writing shows that PGRs and staff appreciate the protected time these sessions provide and the community beyond writing. The goal setting and follow up time has become a way to brain storm, share ideas and challenges and celebrate non-writing and writing related wins with the community. We have seen how sharing of work practices has increased participants confidence and how they use the group as a sounding board for sometimes difficult decisions.

The community and needing to show up really helped me when our manager passed away unexpectedly in July 2020 and we were left with little support as a team. We had emotional support but no real guidance on how to contribute to strategies etc. We managed through peer-support as a team and focusing on the core function and our key deliverables. Then in 2021 a major restructure was added and it became very difficult to focus, find joy at work and showing up became difficult as we found ourselves isolated still working remotely. Most contact with the team or the institution was around managing the restructure. During this time having these little pockets of supportive community who needed me to show up really helped me. I called it my Happy Project. I can’t stress enough how this online community helped me in those difficult times to focus on the joy of my role and look forward, while they also listened to my many rants and offered guidance and support.

In 2020 and 2021 we trialled different formats and played around with the length e.g., a double Power Hour to provide more time; Power Hour plus to focus on a certain aspect of writing, as well as trying different times and days of the week. In June 2021, the core group asked for more sessions to provide them with more opportunities to protect time and increase the chances to attend the sessions. So we set up regular morning Power Hours that no longer require a host but are guided by the community and whoever happens to write that session. We kept the Friday afternoon session as a hosted session to ensure Claire and I are still in close contact with the community.

Now in 2022, the group has found its rhythm with the morning sessions no longer requiring a host and a Friday afternoon session to close the week with community. On the last Friday of the month we also host a day of writing with four Power Hour sessions. The membership still ebbs and flows but the core group is strong and has really used these session to their benefit. Looking back, I can honestly say that organising these sessions, meeting and supporting colleagues and PGRs really helped me through a difficult time in 2020 after the unexpected death of our manager in July, and the death of my partner’s mother that October, as well as a restructure process in 2021. I totally underestimated how beneficial this online community would be for my own wellbeing and I am very proud that we kept going when things looked a bit bleak. I am proud of the community we have built at UWS, and are now building outwith UWS as well. After presenting the Power Hour format at conferences in 2021 and 2022 we made some amazing connections and have since established a collaboration with the Society for Research in Higher Education where we host a monthly Power Hour of Writing. We are also working with from South America to set up a Global Power Hour between our institutions. And of course, we love seeing the Power Hour format popping up at other institutions as well.

If you want to know more about the Power Hour of Writing, read our recently published work, download our resources or get in touch – please Visit our Power Hour of Writing website.