Supporting Staff Wellbeing during the Return to Campus

Front of the Diamond looking up Leavygreave Road

Over the coming months as more staff transition back to campus to rediscover the benefits of on-campus working and experiment with the hybrid working model, it is natural after such a prolonged period that many will feel a sense of anticipatory anxiety about navigating this and the wider relaxation of restrictions in our daily lives.

'Anticipatory anxiety is where a person experiences increased levels of anxiety by thinking about an event or situation in the future.' Anxiety UK

In the same way as the sudden change to working from home during the lockdown was unsettling for many, the transition back to campus may equally raise a wide range of emotions as we learn to adjust to new routines and return to some of our previous activities. Take a look at our Wellbeing in Times of Change resources.

We have collated some useful wellbeing resources and sources of support both within the University and the wider community to help with this period of transition.

How individuals can support their wellbeing

Take time for Self Care Sheffield IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), an NHS service, recently delivered a 'Life After Lockdown' online session for University staff and have the following tips to help with navigating these changes:
  1. Recognise your achievements - Try not to compare yourself to others and celebrate small accomplishments.
  2. Take stock of how you feel - Plan time each day or at the end of the week to check in with yourself.
  3. Reframe your thoughts - Thoughts are not factual, try to take a step back, be kind to yourself and ask what would a friend say?
  4. Find new rhythm - Try to plan in a balance of activities - ACE - Achievement, Connection, Enjoyment - start small and build up gradually, recognise what works for you.
  5. Focus on the short term - Try to stay in the moment, break down each day or week into small chunks, try not to get caught in worry.
  6. Reach out to others - Speak to trusted friends or family and get practical advice about work, money, etc.

Sheffield IAPT provide a range of free wellbeing courses and one-to-one therapy available to all adults who live in Sheffield. Courses cover topics such as overcoming anxiety and worry, managing health worries and managing stress. The SilverCloud Health Programme offers flexible online therapy designed to help with low mood and anxiety and provides material and resources for you to work independently with the guidance of a clinical supporter. To book a place on a course or to book an assessment appointment to discuss options please visit the IAPT website and complete the online form or telephone 0114 226 4380.

Sheffield IAPT have also produced a number of Self Help Guides exploring topics such as panic and anxiety including ways to recognise and manage symptoms.

How to Cope with Panic - Our University Counselling Service and Student Access to Mental Health Support (SAMHS) team have created a short video on how to cope with panic, to help colleagues and students who might experience anxiety or panic about coming back into work on campus. Alternatively, take a look at this written guidance, which highlights the main messages from the video, including what panic feels like, what you can do in the moment to manage your anxiety and also the steps you can take afterwards to help to prevent future panic.

Speak to our staff advice line and counselling service, Health Assured on 0800 028 1947 or visit Health Assured (username: Sheffield, password: University) if you are struggling.

Try Health Assured’s breathe easy techniques featured on the My Healthy Advantage app (download and sign up using the code MHA000149). Three quick, easy and relaxing techniques to give you extra headspace, be more productive and clear your mind.

Log onto Health Assured (Username: Sheffield / Password: University) for access to their series of webinars. In particular, Managing Return to Work Anxiety and Coping with Change outline the importance of preparing for change and explore how we respond to that, as well as some of the practical measures we can take to cope with back to work anxiety.

Connect with the people around you

Sharing your experiences with colleagues about what has gone well and not so well will help build connections and support your collective return to work. Have these discussions in your team meetings and 1:1’s.

Consider joining one of our established and ever growing staff networks or contacting one of our peer support groups, including the Cancer Support Group and the Staff Mental Health Peer Supporter Scheme. Talking to like minded colleagues with shared lived experience can be a real help.

The following trained Wellbeing Champion colleagues have kindly volunteered to be available for all staff across all areas of the University between now and December, regardless of whether they are in your department/Faculty or not. For details of how to contact them go here. Whether it’s a walk and a chat around the park, an online cuppa and a chat or a catch up over lunch, the Champions are supportive colleagues, trained to provide an impartial listening ear, who can also signpost you to further expert support and resources if needed. Champions are not counsellors however, but can point you in that direction if you require this level of support.

Be Active

Look after your physical health, going for a walk, eating well and trying to get a good amount of sleep can all help your mental health and provide energy for managing difficult feelings and experiences. Try some of our suggested staff activities and tips for building aerobic activity into your commute.

When you return to campus, make sure you retain the positive wellbeing habits that you may have developed whilst working from home that help you to manage anxiety. Understand what works for you. Try to get outside for part of the day, use the parks and green spaces close to campus, and enjoy the good weather (when it’s available). Save the stress of traffic and parking and leave the car at home if you can, walk, cycle, run or share your commute with a friend and colleague.

Take Notice

Explore our suggested meditation and mindfulness resources including a 10 minute practice created by those behind the Calm App that aims to ground you in the present moment.

Stand still and reflect. Consider using this 4 week self training plan on how you can cope with change. It helps you keep track of positive practices and to identify what might work for you.

Keep Learning

For a greater understanding of anxiety, download Anxiety UK’s Understanding Anxiety Self Help Guide here.

Give Time to Others

Whilst we all move through this period of transition, it’s important that we remember to check in on each other. Giving your time to others at work can include checking in on colleagues, helping to create a culture of openness and respect, and setting up opportunities for connection.

For more activity ideas and wellbeing resources, please visit our 6 Ways to Wellbeing web pages.

How to support the wellbeing of individuals who are returning to campus

People managers and colleagues can play a part in supporting an individual’s return to campus.

Have a conversation

This short video takes you through the basic principles of a conversation around wellbeing, how to start one, how to spot signs that a member of staff may be struggling, and what you can do about it.

Ask, observe, notice - you don't need to be a mental health or a wellbeing specialist to be an effective people manager. Show your genuine care by building three simple principles into your everyday interactions; ask, observe and notice. Just noticing and showing someone that you care is in itself a wellbeing intervention.

Staff Helpline & Counselling Service - 0800 028 1947

Please do signpost colleagues to Health Assured, our Employee Assistance Programme and route to Confidential Staff Counselling (up to 8 sessions with a BACP counsellor).

Managers can also seek emotional support through the helpline and access coaching support to help them respond to the issues their team members might be facing, e.g. bereavement or worries about a child or eldercare, or problems with colleagues, or their struggles to adjust to life after lockdown.

Health Assured specialists can help managers find an appropriate response, for example to someone else’s grief, anger or anxiety; they can role-play situations with you, or coach you on behavioural issues.

Occupational Health and CEV Staff

Understandably, staff who have previously been identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) may have significant anxiety about the fact that the removal of government restrictions have been lifted altogether beyond 19th July and of course the expectation that in addition to this they are expected to return to campus.

The HML Occupational Health Assessment Tool may be helpful for managers to use with colleagues who have concerns about any health vulnerabilities, particularly if they are unable to be vaccinated. Guidance for these cases is detailed in the COVID Managers Guidance. This individual assessment tool may be useful to talk through the individual's concerns and can help you make a decision on whether an Occupational Health referral to HML is necessary. This Manager Guide to Individual Risk Assessment may also be useful. Occupational Health referrals are most useful where there is a clearly discussed need and where employees can see the benefit. Less complex cases can often be resolved without Occupational Health intervention. If in doubt please contact your local HR Advisor or a member of the staff wellbeing team.

How to lead through change and uncertainty

How to lead through change and uncertainty. This digitally blended learning module focuses on the key skills, behaviours and attributes required to lead through change and uncertainty.

Managers Wellbeing Toolkit

Managers Toolkit. Resources to help managers support the wellbeing of their staff.

Further Resources

Work continues to collate information and resources around this area so please do keep checking back for updated signposting.