Six Tips to Respond to Employee Anxiety About Returning to Campus

Adapted from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)

In order to support the psychological health and safety of your employees, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) recommends employers consider the following six tips for supporting the mental health of your staff as we transition back to campus.

1. Have a plan.  Let employees know that you and leadership are thinking and looking ahead, that you will stay well-informed and that you can answer the questions they already have: What if I get sick? How do I take time off work? What if my family member contracts the virus? You may want to compile frequently asked questions and direct employees to them often. Refer to the COVID Updates webpage or consult with your Human Resources Strategic Business Advisor (HR SBA).

2. Communicate, share and be open. Worry and fear grow in the absence of up-to-date information. Let your employees know that they can expect regular updates from you on what returning to campus may look like, ask if they have any questions or concerns and let them know you will continue to have discussions with them as updates are shared.

3. Empathize. Share that you know change can be stressful. Recognize that it’s okay to be anxious, excited, or feel nothing at all. Remind your employees of resources (EFAP) that are available for those who are experiencing stress.

4. Reassure—as best you can. USask is taking many steps to ensure that we all return to campus safely. Listen to any concerns your staff may have and direct them to the appropriate supports. Many answers on what USask is doing can be found in the Re-Open plan at:

5. Understand. Recognize when stress has become unmanageable for individual employees. Stress can lead to anxiety and even panic. Some employees may need to engage with mental health supports and medical intervention in order to cope. Encourage employees to practice self-care activities on-the-job and reassure them that it’s ok to take steps to manage stress, such as relaxation exercises, listening to relaxing music or taking regular breaks. 

Some good on-demand webinars to share with your staff are:

  • Managing Worry and Anxiety
  • Mental Health Awareness
  • Resiliency: Bouncing Back After a Setback
  • Tools to Handle Stress
  • Learning to Relax
  • Mindfulness: Being Present in Your Work and Life

6. Recognize this is not quite ‘business as usual’ just yet. Know that work may be impacted as we navigate another transition. Reassure staff that expectations will shift accordingly, and that’s ok. It is important to build trust with your staff so they can bring any concerns about workload, work-life balance, etc. to you.

Adapted from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
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