The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Taking Care of You, Your HR Colleagues and Your Campus Community

The last several months have been like nothing we have ever experienced, as COVID-19 disrupted and reshaped our lives and our work. These work and life challenges have taken a toll on our mental health and well-being, and it is so important that we acknowledge this and find ways to address these challenges for ourselves, our HR teams and our colleagues across campus.

In September, CUPA-HR leaders from across the country met virtually in small groups and shared ways they are coping and thriving in this uncertain environment. Here are some of their recommendations:

Taking Care of You

  • Intentionally take short breaks to get up and move, and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Create space for yourself. Be willing to put down the phone and walk away.
  • Make time to get out of the house or office and enjoy the outdoors. Take quick walks, go for a run, visit a nearby park. Getting outside is important.
  • Spend more time and stay connected (even virtually) with family and close friends.
  • Find your outlet, whether it be exercising, reading, listening to music or some other activity. This might be the time to start a new hobby!
  • Intentionally look for the good in our world and other people every day.
  • Turn off the news and social media, or significantly limit the amount of time and energy you dedicate to them. Minimize or distance yourself from negative influences and negative people.
  • If you are working from home, try to make your schedule closer to what it was before the pandemic. For example, if you had a commute, use some of that time to listen to podcasts or go for a walk instead of jumping right into email.

Taking Care of Our HR Colleagues and Our Campus Community

  • It is important to connect with our higher ed HR colleagues from across the country. HR jobs are challenging, and we frequently have limited opportunities to connect with colleagues on campus due to the nature of our roles. Let’s use the CUPA-HR community to connect and support each other!
  • Be intentional about connecting virtually with your team if they are physically separated. Make time to engage in one-on-one connections and team-building activities. Let people on the work team know they are doing a great job. Give somebody positive feedback at least once a day.
  • Increase communication regarding the availability of Employee Assistance Programs and other resources to support employee mental health. These benefits are often forgotten by our employees and could be very useful now and in the future.
  • Create virtual learning opportunities for faculty and staff that are not work-related. Virtually host workshops and get-togethers to do cooking demonstrations featuring simple and healthy meals, yoga (including chair yoga), making essential oils, etc. The women’s soccer team at one institution used Zoom to share workout routines!
  • Create a virtual 5K run or walk and invite faculty and staff to participate.
  • One campus is using its public radio and TV stations to share educational and entertainment programs that help support at-home learning for employees with children.
  • Create flexibility in policies and procedures to help employees. One institution has asked employees to take 30 minutes, three times each week to do something for themselves. They have asked all supervisors to document when employees are taking their 30 minutes, three times each week.

I saved my favorite “taking care of me” strategy for last. Here is what a member of the CUPA-HR team shared with her group:

“I bought a small pool – 8 feet wide, 30 inches deep. It’s deep enough for a floaty, and I spend my lunch break and weekends on my floaty to help relax.”

I am so grateful to our CUPA-HR leaders for sharing these suggestions. I know that you are also doing great things to support yourself, your family and friends, and your campus community. I also encourage you to use and share the mental health and well-being resources we have created and curated. Many of these resources will help you and your colleagues as we work through these challenges together. Take care and be well!

Related resources:

HR Pros Are Resilient, But We’re Also Human (Higher Ed HR Magazine)

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint – One HR Professional’s Reflections on COVID-19 Burnout, Financial Anxiety, and the Need for a Really Long Nap (Higher Ed HR Magazine)

Mental Health Toolkit (CUPA-HR members-only)

Workplace Well-Being (CUPA-HR Essentials Video)

Higher Ed HR Magazine – The Well-Being Issue (Winter 2019-20)


The CUPA-HR national office will be closed July 4 in observance of Independence Day.