Latest Blog

Blog Date Title Description

Letter to the Community - Pride Month

It was with deep sadness and disappointment that I learned of the defacing of The Rock during Pride Month recently. When I came to MSU and learned of the traditions surrounding The Rock, it seemed like a great community-centered forum for expression, an interesting focal point on campus for ideas and engagement. It seemed to be a place for positive expression, where ideas can be expressed safely, without fear of defamation.

Intersections of Identities at Work

Starting with a news story from the BBC, we unpack the pressures of work and how they intersect with personal identities.

WorkLife Office Supports Caregivers

The WorLife Office is a strong advocate for support for Spartans who are caregivers - faculty, staff and students all benefit from the backup dependent care program, for example.  We appreciate the struggles, we see the challenges, and we are here for you.

Crisis on Capitol Hill: Supporting Colleagues in Turbulent Times

As people who value strong community and equitable practices, we too condemn the misleading rhetoric and destructive behavior recently seen on Capitol Hill.

Letter from the Director - January 2021

WorkLife Office Executive Director Barbara Roberts shares a message to start the new year.

Outstanding Supervisor Series: Deb Martinez

Deb Martinez is Deputy Director of the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). She has a drastic and positive effect as a supervisor and a leader in the Office of Institutional Equity. Martinez is an asset to MSU, a role-model, and a passionate and developmental member of the OIE team.

Out at Work

The documentary "Out at Work" takes place in the mid-1990s. It focuses on Cheryl Summerville, a cook at a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Georgia, who was fired for "failing to demonstrate normal heterosexual values." At that time, more than 40 states made it legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation. This documentary tells the stories of 3 workers who seek workplace safety, job security and benefits for gay and lesbian workers.

Outstanding Supervisor Series: Dr. Julie Libarkin

Dr. Julie Libarkin is a professor/advisor for the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. She is also the Director of the MSU Geocognition Research Lab (GRL), an interdisciplinary lab that focuses on investigating how people perceive, understand, and make decisions about the planet. Libarkin goes above and beyond as a supervisor and mentor. By putting her students first, even if that means sacrificing time dedicated to her scientific contributions as a researcher. Libarkin is so deserving of this award and recognition for several reasons.

Outstanding Supervisor Series: Dr. Kelly Millenbah

Dr. Kelly Millenbah is Associate Dean and Director for Academic and Student Affairs (OASA) within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). She is a manager who demonstrates her integrity with every interaction. People want to work for Millenbah – and they work hard for her. She is someone who makes Michigan State University a better place for several reasons.

Outstanding Supervisor Series: Monte Pride

Monte Pride is a Project Delivery Supervisor with Infrastructure, Planning, and Facilities (IPF) in Planning, Design and Construction (PDC). As a supervisor, Pride leads PDC's Planning Team, a diverse group of subject matter experts. He leads with character, candor, foresight, and a willingness to listen. Pride is responsive to the needs of his staff and continually looks out for their interests, while simultaneously meeting the needs of Michigan State University. It's not one or the other. Pride does it all.

Outstanding Supervisor Series: Sarah Handspike

Sarah Handspike is a Coordinator of Advising and Undergraduate Services for the Psychology Department. As a supervisor, Handspike understands the job roles of everyone in the office and is an excellent trainer and mentor. She is detail-oriented and oversees each employee with respect and care. She is also a great source of motivation and encouragement every day. Handspike is a huge asset to the department and is so deserving of this award and recognition for several reasons. 

Respect, Patience and Compassion Essential in the Shifting Landscape of Work

Barbara Roberts, Ph.D, Director, WLO

An opportunity for profoundly positive culture change has landed in our laps with the onset of COVID-19 restrictions.

Applying key questions to what work comes back to campus - an APA example

By Barbara Roberts
A consistent set of principles, key questions or values goes a long way in clarifying complex decisions. When we get back to primary principles, and away from personal circumstances, we can make better decisions.I like what Fisher and Ury say in "Getting to Yes," at the Harvard Negotiation Project: "Separate the people from the problem. Be soft on the people and hard on the problem.” If we can identify the “problem” or the challenge as the work that must be done on campus, independent of the people initially, we can solve the problem better together and protect the people.

Why We’re Tired: Surviving Online Meetings

By Barbara Roberts
Working in this medium for hours on end is not good for the health we are trying so hard to preserve! Let’s be intentional about how we pace ourselves, and we will last longer in the end. We are all learning to function in a new medium, which takes energy in terms of attention, concentration, learning in real time while doing, and learning without hands-on, in-person supports.

Ergonomics of Working Remotely: Position in Life is Everything

By Barbara Roberts
A supervisor during my occupational therapy internship in spinal cord rehab taught me, with only a little tongue-in-cheek, that “Position in life is everything...”; that is, the physical position you are in to do any task affects your safety, comfort, endurance and effectiveness for the task. Earlier in life, when learning to use a hammer effectively, instead of whacking the nail at some odd angle, my father taught me to “Get your [backside] behind you.” Good advice when positioning to exert force. Position matters.

What’s OK and what’s not when meeting with people online?

By Barbara Roberts, WorkLife Office Executive Director

When we take our daily work into an online venue, whether Zoom, WebEx, Skype or discussion spaces, we need to remember it’s nonetheless a work setting. While we might still wear our fuzzy slippers no one can see, it’s important to remember that we need to maintain business decorum in our dress, manners, and comments. Here are some pointers to keep in mind to make your new work setting as professional, productive and personally respectable as possible. Let’s reflect on our ethics, and then look at some tips for effective participation.

The Importance of NOT Socially Isolating While Simultaneously Practicing Social Distancing

By Jaimie Hutchison
Social distancing is the important strategy of physically separating ourselves from one another to avoid the spread of the Coronavirus. Social isolation, on the other hand, is often physically isolating ourselves (which we are doing) AND emotionally isolating ourselves, which we cannot afford to do.

Inclusive Online Participation: One Perspective

By Barbara Roberts, Executive Director, WorkLife

In my long career working with how people participate in higher education and professional settings, I have had the joy of being in meetings where information is shared in many ways simultaneously. I have attended conferences, run by students, where there is simultaneous French/English translation, American Sign Language interpretation, Braille and large print copies of slides and hand-outs, all happening seamlessly over the heads of service animals quietly lying beside their companions. I have presented to the United Nations where the headphones and microphones are filled with different languages and cultural nuances, and where the pace of the meeting is nonetheless productive, respectful and creative.

Things to Do to Keep Kids Active, Engaged and Learning While Home

By Jaimie Hutchison
In these challenging times, it is important to acknowledge that each family will have their own work and home situation that will be unique. Some people may have more flexibility, more caregivers in the home, or older children who are more independent. Others may have less flexibility, younger children and may be the sole caretaker of those children. We honor all of you and know that you are doing the best you can.

Best Practices for Working at Home with Children

By Jaimie Hutchison
These suggestions and guidelines offer you some direction on where to start. We are all in this together and every situation at work and at home is different. These are not suggestions to do all of these things, but rather to consider what may work for you. We need to work together with compassion to decide which priorities are valued. It is time for us all to dig deep and practice a level of flexibly that we have never had to exercise before.

Taking Care of Yourself in Times of Uncertainty

By Jaimie Hutchison
We are all in this together, let’s work to keep ourselves and those around us safe, healthy, and supported. If you are in need of resources or information on work-life fit, workplace wellness, remote work, or anything else that comes up, the MSU WorkLife Office is a great place to start. We will all be available as we continue to work to support you and your families during this uncertain time.

Remote Work Structures and Working Together with Your Supervisor

By Dr. Barbara Roberts, Executive Director
There is suddenly more discussion than ever about implementing remote work strategies, as we seek to reduce our in-person contact for a while, yet not fall out of touch or cease operations. The WorkLife Office has a great deal of experience addressing alternative work arrangements, including telecommuting, flexible scheduling, work-from-home or teleworking, and multiple means of participating on or off-site. There are many and varied reasons for working remotely, all the time or sometimes - accommodation of disability, childcare or eldercare needs, commuting constraints/savings, work that spans locations and time zones, winter weather - We already do this in many circumstances; we have the knowledge and ability to adapt to evolving needs for flexibility and remote work.

Common Questions about Working Remotely

Thoughts from Dr. Barbara Roberts, Senior Advisor to the Provost for WorkLife on questions like "How do I manage working from home and taking care of my kids?" and concerns such as "My supervisor suggested that I can’t work from home if I have kids at home. But there is no school and not enough childcare to care for my kids. Plus, I don’t want my children to be at risk of being exposed or exposing others."

Your Mental Health Matters

By Jaimie Hutchison
Your mental health is very important. The current circumstances have added extra stress and pressure to many. These are unusual times where many things are unknown. Please know that you are not alone, and that you are valued.

Preparing for Childcare and Family Arrangements

By Jaimie Hutchison
The WorkLife Office staff knows that this unprecedented experience will require preparation, thoughtfulness, and certain resources. We are working hard to support you in the best ways possible. To that goal, we have developed many resources on our website including this post about supporting your family during these trying times.