Remote work is the new normal for most of our staff. The combined stress of working in a new environment (and perhaps sharing that environment with partners and/or children) and coping with the uncertainty of a global pandemic are weighing heavily on all staff. Burnout, feelings of isolation, stress, and anxiety are all normal reactions to these pressures. Across the last month, EAB’s Student Affairs Forum convened groups of senior student affairs leaders for a discussion about how to support staff self-care and well-being amid COVID-19. Here are some top takeaways.
This resource is part of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Initiatives in Higher Education Resource Center.
1. Help staff formalize self-care
It’s easy to talk about the importance of self-care, but it’s harder to make sure staff feel empowered and able to dedicate time to self-care on top of their other work-related responsibilities. Iowa State University has encouraged teams to fill out Employee Action Plans. The plans outline specific strategies for how individuals and teams will prioritize well-being—which helps take self-care from abstract to concrete. These documents also signal that Iowa State is committed to staff well-being. Their Be Well website has lots of ideas and suggestions to plug into each of the plans’ sections (Keep Community, Stay Informed, and Be Well).
2. Ask staff what they need
Your staff is not a homogenous group, so check in to ask them what support they need right now. Some may be craving more opportunities to engage and connect with colleagues, while others dread seeing more meetings added to their calendars. University of Miami sent out a poll to student affairs staff to gauge interest in different activities and events. Other institutions are asking on a more individual basis, like during check-ins.
3. Equip managers with resources to help
While many interactions in employees’ day-to-day lives have been disrupted, they’re likely still checking in regularly with their managers. Equip managers with tools and resources to help them support their staff. Whether it’s a conversation guide to help managers and employees talk through remote work arrangements, an FAQ that helps managers answer common questions they’re likely to be asked, or a cheat sheet with all of the mental health resources available to staff along with signs that someone may be struggling, think about (and ask!) what managers need to effectively lead through this crisis.
How are you supporting staff self-care and wellness? Please share your ideas with us at TFrenzel@eab.com.