MSU Employee Furlough and Layoff Information
Is now a good time to look for a job?
How to make a career change within higher education
Supporting Each Other Through Layoffs, Furloughs, and the Changing Nature of Work
By Jaimie Hutchison, MA, LPC
MSU faculty and staff have experienced many challenges during COVID-19. Layoffs, furloughs, working from home challenges, working on campus with new protocols, and returning work to campus challenges are some examples. In addition, many employees are managing the pressures of working from home with children, overseeing online school, and caretaking duties of children and/or elders in new ways. Even if we have found the silver linings, the stress associated with the unknown during these unprecedented times are taking their toll.
While some of us feel fortunate to still have a job, we also wonder if that job will continue to be secure. Often, people feel guilty if their job was spared while others in their department are now facing financial challenges and are no longer employed. Work and life are connected. For many people, coworkers become very close friends, coworkers are often referred to as work family. What can we do to manage expectations, stress, new responsibilities and worries?
Spartans Will. We are high achievers, we take pride in our work, and we have shared values. For some of us, especially high achievers, asking for help does not always come easy. So how do we support each other through this next normal? What can we do to take care of ourselves and those around us?
Engage in self-care. We need to start here, because if we do not have our wellness, we can’t be the effective family member, employee or coworker that we want to be. We are worth investing in, just for being us. Start with the basics. We all know the basics about self-care, but by making them a priority, we can improve our overall health.
Exercise is a good stress reliever and keeps us healthier and stronger. Try to build in movement each day. Take a walk, stretch three times a day, and try to get at least 30 minutes or more of continuous exercise where you can. If you can get outside to exercise, that is a bonus!
Eat healthy, take time to prepare food to have ready for snacks, meals and days where your energy is zapped. Spending a few hours on a Sunday, for example, can make the rest of the week so much easier.
Drink water. Staying hydrated is crucial to regulate body temperature, keep your joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2017).
Breathe. Focus on your breathing. Mindful breathing will help you stay focused, and better deal with stress and anxiety (Greater Good in Action, n.d.).
Support. Find time for supportive others. Make time to connect with people who you laugh with, who are good listeners, and who support you. Your self-care is important while navigating the unknown for the duration of this public health crisis and the recovery period after things return to the new normal.
Support each other. Acknowledge the feelings of those around you. Many people are tired, overwhelmed, stressed, isolated, and grieving. We are not in this alone. By acknowledging what you hear from others, you will help to normalize people’s responses and emotions. There is no right or wrong way to feel, but these times are hard, and we can support each other.
Check in. Go deeper than “How are you doing?” during one on one conversations. Ask open ended questions that allow people to share their experiences. Ask, “How are you taking care of yourself today?” “What is something you miss that surprises you?” Ask a sincere question and listen deeply. You may be one of only a few people that interacts with your coworker on any given day.
Know resources and refer. Get to know campus and community resources and share them with people. Here are some resources to get to know on campus: WorkLife Office (referrals, consultations), EAP (counseling), Health4U (classes, articles, consultations), MSU HR (leave policies, trainings). These resources are created to support faculty, staff and postdocs. You are not alone. These offices are open although many staff are working remotely, Teladoc and/or virtual and phone meetings are available. If you or someone you know are in need of other campus or community resources, please reach out to the MSU WorkLife Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participate in or create times to connect. Connecting is different now. If your office or department offers a way to connect, like a virtual coffee hour, participate to stay connected. If there is not a time that you gather virtually or in person with colleagues, consider creating an inclusive virtual meeting to strengthen the comradery in your department or unit.
Continue taking advantage of professional development opportunities. Many budgets have been reduced and professional development funds have been reduced or eliminated. That does not mean that you cannot pursue networking and developing your professional skills. Take advantage of web-based trainings, read a book about a skill or trait you would like to strengthen. Use Elevate U, a free online platform for training through MSU HR, which allows you to work at your own pace. Discover free courses through Coursera. Look into to industry specific podcasts that you can listen to.
Do not give up on your opportunities to network or develop professionally. Options may look different, but you are worth investing in. Identify issues that cause stress and work together to identify solutions. By having transparent conversations with leaders and co-workers alike, you can identify common stressors, and work to identify solutions to strengthen your team. Often there is no fix, but by brainstorming together, you may be able to support one another and remind each other that we are not alone. The healthier our work environment, the better we can handle everything else that comes our way that is out of our control.
Isolation, stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and burnout are high. These times are difficult. We can do hard things and we do not have to do them alone. Whatever you are feeling, it is OK. You are doing your best. If there was ever a time to reach down deep and give ourselves and those around us grace, that time is now. The words we tell ourselves and each other matter. You will get through this. You are not alone. We see you, we hear you, and we are here for you.
- Center for Disease Control. (2020, May 5). Employees: How to cope with job stress and build resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2017). The importance of hydration. .
- Greater Good in Action. (n.d.). Mindful breathing.
- Kurtessis, J. (2017, March 9). Creating a supportive workplace. Society for Human Resource Management.