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Returning to Campus: Information and Support for Faculty and Staff

As employees return to their offices, classrooms, and campus spaces, it is useful to acknowledge that a range of reactions may take place. In this time of transition, please remember that:

Measures Taken by Northwestern

What is Northwestern doing to keep faculty and staff safe and informed?

Psychology of Change and Ambiguity

What lessons from psychology can help us understand our response to change and ambiguity?

stress and eustress diagram

What can we do to acknowledge, address, and decrease our unease with change and ambiguity?
  • Cornell Health states that to be our best selves and function at our highest capacities, we need to find a “healthy tension [and balance it] with self-care practices that bolster resilience.
  • The Family Institute at Northwestern University teaches us that with our return to campus, we are all likely going to experience some form of reintegration anxiety, which means that actively thinking through and planning our navigation of “engagement and safety,” will enable us to effectively tend to our own needs.
  • Anxiety may be there for a reason, so being able to identify, express, and mitigate it in healthy ways is one method by which we can help ourselves keep it under control.
  • In Harvard Business Review, Dr. Alice Boyes (clinical psychologist, researcher, and author) suggests that we show ourselves self-compassion by being kind to ourselves, balancing our negative emotions appropriately, “and expecting [ourselves] to make the best decision [we] can in the situation [we]’re in.”
  • Elizabeth Grace Saunders (author and time management coach) advises in Harvard Business Review that we should “reclaim the routines that helped [us] feel prepared and manage [our] time well.” Imagine what a typical workday will look like and carefully think through each element—big and small—to craft a schedule that will give you comfort. Example elements are meal planning, morning and evening commutes, household chore assignments, school pick-up and drop-off, etc. Eventually, the routine will come to feel more natural, and the stress of the transition should decrease.
  • One approach toward easing anxiety and increasing comfort with the transition is identifying your values and priorities, planning for the risks that may emerge as a result of your priorities, and preparing to have difficult conversations that may be required. In preparation for or upon your return to campus, Harvard Business Review suggests that you plan ahead for your hazardous half-minuteopening exchange as it relates to the difficult conversations. It is important to begin by creating psychological safety, which is done by demonstrating a sense of care for the person’s needs and concerns and conveying a feeling of respect for them.
  • Lack of resiliency training may contribute to burnout, but several external stress-inducing systemic factors should also be evaluated to potentially mitigate some of the stress. They include inefficient workplace processes, excessive workloads, and negative leadership behaviors.

Available Resources

Where can you find support?

Human Resources


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Contact Information

If you have any questions, please contact: