Adjust Your Work Approach for Success During Challenging Times

Written by Danielle Hook, Learning and Development Manager for HR Organization and Professional Development

This past month has many of us experiencing the feeling of “…this again?” Frequent and unexpected changes to priorities, workspaces and expectations can make productivity and focus feel impossible. Perhaps you find yourself working from home with small children (again), adjusting to staffing changes within your team or experiencing feelings of burnout or languishing.

In addition to requiring greater patience and flexibility, we’re finding ourselves called upon to take an alternative approach to how we normally complete our work. Whether you feel like you’re stuck in a pandemic time loop, where each day blends into the next, or you’re struggling to manage your time and projects while in a state of uncertainty, there are a few simple steps that can help guide your work approach during this time.

Have a Plan

If there is a chance you could find yourself pivoting quickly to accommodate a change in your work plan — your child’s daycare closing, a new colleague, uncertainty about whether you’ll be working in-office or remotely — a loose plan can make the transition a little smoother. The reality is that no amount of planning can fully alleviate the physical, mental and emotional drain many of us feel when faced with this much uncertainty. However, with a bit of intention, a sudden change in circumstances can become an opportunity instead of an obstacle. Having a structure in place that allows for adaptability and accounts for your specific circumstances can provide you a clearer path should things change unexpectedly.

Read related article: What’s Your Plan? Six Steps to Align Your Goals with What’s Important to You

Align Expectations With Attainable Goals

Consider how you would define success during this period of time. Identify what might indicate success and align your expectations accordingly. Set truly attainable goals, both personally and professionally. Think about the types of activities or tasks you could reasonably make progress on under the circumstances in which you’re working. Of those things, is there something you can work on that might even bring joy or satisfaction?

Read related article: Adapting Your Goal-Driven Approach During Times of Change

Choose Work That Fits Your Circumstances

This requires some insight into your strengths and work style. Consider the nature of the various tasks on your to-do list. Where possible, prioritize those which hold the highest likelihood of success within your current context. Your supervisor may be able to help with reprioritization and appreciate being informed of your plans. Here are some examples of this differentiation.

  • Some individuals will find the most success with independent work that allows them to engage in spurts and intervals. This work can easily be left and returned to without consequence.
    Examples: drafting documents, working with data and metrics, developing strategy, processing forms.
  • Others may find success using this time for engagement. Making calls and participating in discussions can be a great use of time for someone with busy hands who can’t be in front of a computer.
    Examples: an informal project check-in, idea generation discussions, one-on-ones with your team.
  • Is there a way you can use this time to catch up on things not often prioritized but still important?
    Examples: Cleaning up an inbox, managing or reorganizing documents, getting caught up in Teams.
  • Alternatively, sometimes there are things that can be set up now that benefit your future self.
    Examples: Did you know you can use the Quick Parts feature in Outlook to store templates for email content you use repeatedly? Or, that with Microsoft Planner, you can set up multiple tasks lists, assign them to yourself and others, assign due dates and more? Consider drafting and scheduling email communications that need to be distributed at a future date.
  • Professional development is another option to expand your skillset and engage in learning around the topics that mean the most to you.
    Examples: Virtual courses through HR Organization and Professional Development, Health4U, and IT Training, self-paced elevateU learning programs, professional podcasts, audiobooks, and live webinars.

Additional Resources

It is worth recognizing that each individual situation is unique, and solutions are never one size fits all. Some resources to help guide you through this period are included below, and know there are many additional services available to you as an MSU employee if you’d like further assistance, including Organization and Professional Developmentthe WorkLife Office, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and Health4U.

Adapting to Change

Rapid Change: Making Your Way Through (blog post)

Strategies to Thrive Through Change (2-minute video)

Determining Your Work Style and Strengths

Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work (3.5-hour Zoom course)

Identify and Maximize Your Strengths (4-hour Zoom course)

Mental Health

Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU (blog post)

Recognizing and Managing Stress During Times of Change (blog post)

Motivation and Focus

Are You Procrastinating? Increase Motivation and Take Action with These Simple Steps (blog post)

The Art of Staying Focused (on-demand, 30-minute virtual course)

Working from Home with Children

Best Practices for Working at Home with Children

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

Employee Discounts to Support your 2022 Resolutions

Another new year means new resolutions, and MSU Benefits Plus wants to make those goals and tasks more achievable than ever. Below, you can learn more about these exclusive health, wellness, and other helpful discounts for MSU employees and start your journey to a happy new year today!

To access all of these discounts and more, login to MSU Benefits Plus today. If you haven’t used MSU Benefits Plus previously, register using your ZPID number (located on your Spartan Card ID badge or in EBS). 

Exercise and Mental Health:

  • Zeamo – On Demand workouts and fitness classes from top fitness brands and instructors – select free workouts and get 50% off your first month of gym and studio access with promo code 50OFF09.
  • Fitbod – Workouts that improve as you do by studying your strength and training ability, all from your phone – 25% off membership with promo code CORE.
  • Calm – 57% off of a one year subscription for the Apple App Store and Google Play Store’s most popular mental wellness application ($29.99 instead of $69.99).

Travel:

  • LMT Club – A free membership to the exclusive Last Minute Travel club (a $50 value), a website created so you can get the best deals on hotels and other travel needs.
  • Tickets at Work – Find deals of up to 60% off hotels in tons of destinations using this exclusive link.

Taxes:

  • Turbo Tax – While it’s no one’s favorite part about the new year, get a little more excited about filing your taxes by saving up to $20 using the link found on the MSU Benefits Plus website.

Education:

  • Spartan Bookstore – If you are looking for books to learn something new or just to enjoy some reading, visit the Spartan Bookstore for 10% off new and used books with your faculty/staff ID.
  • Walden University – The new year is the perfect time to gain some new knowledge that can support you in your career. Receive10% off your tuition for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs at Walden University with this link.

Tech:

  • Apple – Get ready to get the best deals if you choose to spend your holiday gift money on new Apple products because MSU employees get exclusive pricing through the Employee Purchase Program using this link.
  • Dell – Ready to upgrade your workspace in 2022? Get the best prices from Dell’s Work from Home Bundles with Member ID PS113067902.

The HR website also offers other deals you can find on-campus through the MSU Tech Store, MSU Bakers, and the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, among others. You can check out some of those deals through the MSU HR Website.

For more information on discounts from MSU Benefits Plus, visit the HR website. If you have any questions about the discounts, please call MSU Benefits Plus at 888-758-7575.

Leadership Blog Series: Happiness, Well-Being and Psychological Wealth

Written by Sharri Margraves, Director for Organization and Professional Development

Am I happy?

How do I know if someone is happy?

What can I do to influence the happiness of others?

Happiness is subjective — each of us has our own vision of what happiness means to us. The many definitions of happiness and the different topics connected to it can lead us to more questions than answers. As such, is it worth your time as a leader to consider whether your employees are happy and take action to increase happiness within your team?

Happiness and Well-Being

Let’s consider the relationship between happiness and well-being. Happiness is a component of well-being; it can exist without well-being, but well-being can’t exist without happiness.

Happiness contributes toward health and longevity, which can be measured with a number of physiological tests including immune system strength, plaque build-up, and healthier behaviors such as a propensity toward physical activity or wearing a seatbelt.

As a supervisor, this is worth noting as happy employees can lead to lower healthcare costs, fewer sick days, lower turnover, and greater productivity and creativity.

Happiness and Psychological Wealth

Dr. Ed Diener, recognized as an expert on Subjective Well-Being (SWB), posits that being happy provides psychological wealth, stating, “Psychological wealth is your true total net worth, and includes your attitudes toward life, social support, spiritual development, material resources, health, and the activities in which you engage.”

SWB is good for work, families and society as a whole, but it’s important to note SWB doesn’t replace workplace basics: flexibility, respect, having the right tools, knowing the goals…these are all still contributors toward one’s psychological wealth.

Happiness in the Workplace

What brings someone happiness may change over time. Fulfillment in your early 20s often looks different than in your retirement years. What was most critical such as family and employment may eventually transition to health and leisure.

Regardless of where your employees are in their professional and personal journeys, there are key ways you can create an environment that supports their happiness and well-being.

  1. Empower employees to craft their jobs. Provide training and build relationships that are connected to a purpose. Do your employees know how what they do serves the greater good? Can you honor flexibility in working conditions? Research has shown flexibility can contribute to reduced turnover and physical and mental health improvements.
  2. Honor core organizational values and encourage employees to define their own personal core values. While we each have our own core values, organizational values that are practiced, observed, and honored foster happier employees.
  3. Ask employees for help in problem solving workplace issues — then actually implement the improvements to reduce stress and help retain employees.
  4. Foster social belonging. Each work environment has its own microcultures but recognizing each other should be a regular feature. Leading with kudos — both internal and external — can foster happiness and well-being by building positive relationships.
  5. Think positive. Self-sabotaging a positive mindset affects you personally, but as a leader, it also has the added impact of influencing others. You are worthy of success and adequate. You can do hard things. When you feel the need to lament on something — and let’s face it, we all have our moments — be sure you are reaching out to a neutral party to vent or process.
  6. Build healthy habits. From stretch breaks to healthy snack choices, lean into fostering a healthy environment by engaging with Health4U and other resources for MSU staff and faculty. Below are a few ideas to help you get started.

Recommended Resources

Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU

Compassionate Leadership: Awareness of Mental Health Needs as the Pandemic Continues

Recognizing and Managing Stress During Times of Change

References

Diener, E., Diener-Biswas, R., Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth (Blackwell, 2008). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdxbmVbr3NY

Kelly, L., Berkman, L., Kubzanksky, L., Lovejoy, M. (2021). 7 Strategies to improve your employees’ health and well-being. https://hbr.org/2021/10/7-strategies-to-improve-your-employees-health-and-well-being

Recognize World Diabetes Day with Livongo

World Diabetes Day was November 14 and MSU HR is here to remind you that if you are living with diabetes, Linvongo can help. 

Livongo is a diabetes management program offered completely free to MSU employees and their spouses/dependents. The Livongo program aims to reduce the burden on those living with diabetes by offering technology and support to help members easily manage their health.

You can enroll for Livongo at any time and it takes less than 10 minutes to sign up. Once you register, you will receive a welcome kit in the mail. The kit contains your own Livongo connected meter, unlimited testing strips, a lancing device, lancets, a carrying case, and optional coaching by a healthcare professional. 

One of the first to enroll in Livongo was Jeff Brodie, a Management Analyst for MSU Human Resources, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011. Here’s what Jeff had to say about his experience using Livongo: “There is nothing to lose at all, and everything to gain. Even if you sign up and do the [minimum], you will be healthier than if you didn’t sign up at all.” You can read more about Jeff’s experience using Livongo in this previous HR blog post.

To learn more about using your free Livongo benefit, visit the Livongo for Diabetes Management webpage. If you have questions or are ready to sign up, visit the Livongo website. 

Recognize World Diabetes Day with Livongo and find more testimonials like Jeff’s here! Do you have your own experience with Livongo? We’d love to hear in the comments below or email us at hrcommteam@hr.msu.edu.

Take Action Now to Reduce End-of-the-Year Stress

Ready or not, November is already well underway. When you think about the remainder of 2021, how do you feel? If thoughts of work deadlines, family get-togethers, or planning for the holidays and new year ahead have you feeling overwhelmed or anxious, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are practices and resources we can utilize to help us center ourselves and approach this time of year with a healthier mindset.

Consider Your Sphere of Influence

We all know allowing worry to grow uninhibited can lead to a number of negative consequences, be it with our health, work performance, or relationships. So, why do we allow our minds to spend so much time in a state of worry? In a previous blog post, Jennie Yelvington, Director of MSU Faculty and Academic Staff Affairs, discussed how worry can seem very active — spending time in that mindset can feel like you are working on something productive — but in reality, you are burning through energy that could be better spent.

When you notice yourself worrying about what might happen, stop and ask yourself, “What can I do about it now?” One way to visualize this is the Sphere of Influence.

Graphic representing one's sphere of influence. Three circles are centered on top of each other. The smallest circle in the middle represents "control," the next biggest circle represents "possible influence but no control," and the largest circle represents "no control."

Within the Sphere, there are three areas:

  • No Control. If there is absolutely nothing you can do to change or influence a situation, you can only assess whether you can learn from it, then let it go and refocus on something else. This would apply to things like the weather, supply chain issues this season, or flight cancelations. To reduce feelings of worry and improve your well-being, spend minimal time and energy regarding any matters that fall within this area of the Sphere.
  • Possible Influence but No Control. If there is a step you can take that may influence an outcome, person, or situation, determine what action you can take to maximize that influence, follow through, and then let it go. Resist the temptation to convince yourself that worrying about it means it is within your control.
  • Control. If the issue you are wrestling with is completely within your control, then you have control over your decisions, attitude, and behavior. What action can you take that you’ve been putting off? What self-care practice can you initiate to support your well-being? When you practice shifting your focus and attention to what is within your control rather than allowing what is out of your control to consume your time and thoughts, feelings of helplessness and overwhelm decrease significantly.

Make Yourself a Priority

When asked why we don’t make our well-being a higher priority, the most common answer is: not enough time. Although we can’t add more hours to the day (No Control area of the Sphere of Influence), we can take actionable steps to better manage our time and carve out space to improve our overall wellness (Control area of the Sphere).

Here are a few ideas to help you focus your energy on areas you can control when it comes to your well-being this time of year.

  • Schedule downtime. Block downtime off on your Outlook calendar like you would for a meeting or other work engagement.
  • Be selective. Most of us have an extraordinary number of demands on our time lately. This time of year often brings on even more. Before you commit to anything additional, give yourself a little time to consider: do I really need to do this right now?
  • Get back to the basics. Consider your current relationship with sleep, physical activity, and eating. What are one or two simple steps you could take to improve your physical health? Even something as small as not having your cellphone next to your bed at night or scheduling short blocks of time on your calendar to stretch at your desk can have a tremendous impact. Ensuring your basic, physical needs are met helps ensure a solid foundation for all aspects of your well-being.

Utilize Your Resources

One major goal within MSU’s new strategic plan is to support the “well-being of staff, faculty and postdoctoral research associates at MSU, focusing on creating a best-in-class workplace culture and environment in which excellence and opportunity thrive.” From one-on-one counseling to self-paced learning opportunities, many resources are available to you as an MSU employee to improve your well-being and take care of yourself this year and beyond. Recommendations to get you started are listed below, along with contact information for specialists at MSU who can provide extra support.

Health4U Programs | Register online for free courses including Chair Yoga, Increasing Your Psychological Flexibility, and Understanding Shame and Building Shame Resilience. Health4U also provides a wealth of online resources regarding emotional wellness, food and nutrition, and health coaching.

The Power of Habit Virtual Course | Next offered via Zoom on February 16, and April 13, 2022. Registration is available in EBS.

elevateU | Free, self-paced resources including short videos, online courses and books around a wide variety of topics. Highlighted topics include:

Employee Assistance Program (EAP) | Free, confidential counseling for all faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees, and their families.

WorkLife Office | Find affinity groups, webinars, and personalized support to help you facilitate success in your many roles and guide you in creating synergy between those responsibilities.

Mental Health Matters: Resources from MSU

Health is no longer seen solely as a way to measure how often you go to the gym and how many veggies you eat each week. Now, in today’s world and workplace, mental health is recognized as one of the biggest players in your overall health. That means resources to support mental health are more important and more available than ever before, but they can be hard to navigate. Here are some resources you can use at MSU to improve or keep up your mental health and improve your overall health along the way. 

MSU Health 4 U

MSU Health 4 U is part of the Office of the University Physician and is a way to get resources for all aspects of your health through Michigan State and with other employees. 

Employee Assistance Program Counseling Services

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential counseling service provided at no cost to MSU faculty, staff, retirees, graduate student employees, and their families. Learn how to make an appointment on the EAP website. These appointments are offered virtually through Zoom or in-person if you are comfortable. This is the only direct-through-university program offered for employees currently, so the wait time for an appointment is higher than normal. If you are in need of support earlier than EAP can offer, check out the offsite resources below.

Teladoc and Best Doctors Service

As a reminder, benefit-eligible employees also have access to Teladoc and Best Doctors Behavioral Health Navigator for mental health services. Teladoc offers 24/7 access to a healthcare professional via web, phone or mobile app for employees enrolled in an MSU health plan. Employees and their dependents over 18 can also receive medical care for behavioral health (depression, anxiety, grief counseling, addiction, etc.). If deemed medically necessary, a prescription will be sent to the pharmacy of your choice. The Behavioral Health Navigator can help you get a second opinion on any medical decisions and access to coaching and online educational tools.

Your mental health matters and MSU resources and benefits are available to get you—or keep you—on the path to a healthy body and healthy mind.

MSU: The Gold Standard for Sustainability

Michigan State University is and has always been at the forefront of sustainability in higher education. With programs set up to improve our impact on the planet around every part of campus, it is no surprise that the University received a Gold Rating for sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in 2019. Even after MSU earned that ranking, which you can read more about here, Spartans continue to innovate and create new ways to be sustainable. 

But what does sustainability mean? Sustainability is the practice of adjusting how we live, learn, and work so that we limit and eventually cut out our uses of limited resources on this earth. Basically, we partake in practices that can be sustained over time, reducing our personal impact on the environment. The MSU Department of Community Sustainability helps the whole University do this. 

The Department of Sustainability is a great resource for staff, faculty and students of the University because of the weekly events it puts on to encourage sustainability in daily life and the resources it provides for members of the community interested in implementing more sustainable practices into their life and work. Through weekly programs, staff certifications, support for student-run gardens, recycling programs and much more, MSU Sustainability has it all.

On Wednesdays, MSU Sustainability and MSU Health Promotion team up for Well-Being Wednesdays. This fall, staff, faculty and students are all getting together on Dem Field to reunite “in Motion” by doing activities like blender bike composting, bringing sustainability into healthy living. On Fridays, MSU Sustainability and MSU Broad Art Labs team up for Spartan Upcycle Fridays, a fun, open-house style event where you can bring your own materials or reuse theirs to create art out of anything. This is a program everyone is excited to see come back in person as it was a fan favorite before the university went all online. Register for upcoming Upcycle Fridays here.

MSU Sustainability also has a certification program just for faculty and staff coordinators. You can get certified in sustainable practices for your unit that reduce your waste impact in the workplace through the Green Office Program while working towards a greener MSU community. Not only does this certification create a better workplace at MSU, but the training can be brought into daily life, making every step you take a step towards a fully sustainable lifestyle. 

One of the best ways to practice sustainability is buying local produce, and this is possible with the MSU Student Organic Farm. Sustainable agriculture is being taught at MSU, and as a consumer of the goods from the farm, you can support the mission to make growing practices better for the environment while enjoying great produce and great prices. Interested in becoming a sustainable farmer yourself? Look no further than the Organic Farmer Training Program, currently registering members of the MSU community for in person training starting in 2022. 

Finally, one of the simplest but most important things you can do to decrease your carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future is to recycle. At MSU, learning to correctly recycle is as easy as watching a short video or reading the recycling and reuse guidelines, both located on the MSU recycling website.

With the help of the MSU Department of Community Sustainability, it is easier than ever to change up little parts of your lifestyle and Go Green!

Coping with Change at Work

Written by Andrea Williams, Organization and Professional Development

How are you feeling about work lately? Burned out? Frustrated? Apathetic? If so, you may be experiencing change fatigue, and you’re certainly not alone. Changes at work can lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, anger and helplessness. With the rapid rate of change right now, it’s important to take time to gauge whether you’re having feelings of change fatigue and learn skills to cope with, or perhaps, even embrace change as an opportunity to grow.

Six Stages of Reaction to Change

You’ve likely heard of the five (or more) stages of grief commonly associated with loss. Did you know there are also typical stages of reaction we experience when confronted with change? Being aware of these tendencies better allows us to work through our reactions with intention and feel less overwhelmed and alone in this very normal process.

  1. Shock: Often experienced as feeling numb or as if you can’t grasp what’s happened. You may think or say things like, “I need time to process this or make a decision,” or “I can’t believe this is true.”
  2. Denial: You might try to deny the reality of the situation or continue as if nothing has happened. You could say things like, “It doesn’t make any difference.”
  3. Anger: You want to defend yourself against the change or resist it. Strong hostile or negative statements and behavior may occur during this stage.
  4. Passive Acceptance: Once you realize nothing can be done about the change – it’s happening regardless of how you feel – you begin to accept the change as a fact of life and simply get on with your work. You might start having the mindset of, “It’s out of my hands,” or “This is just the way things are.”
  5. Exploration: When you accept that change is inevitable, you may also start actively engaging with it, trying to learn more and generally becoming explorative and curious. Thoughts are more along the lines of, “I wonder what effect this will have,” or “Why is this being implemented?”
  6. Challenge: Although its name implies this is the most difficult stage, this is actually the point at which you feel most empowered. You’re willing to come to grips with the change and actively contribute to developing solutions and resolving difficulties. You may make useful suggestions, ask constructive questions and offer to contribute toward any new goals.

Escape vs. Active Coping

Experts believe there are two general types of coping: escape coping and active coping. Which way have you been coping with recent changes?

Escape coping involves changing your behavior to try to avoid thinking or feeling things that are uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing change fatigue, you may be escape coping.

Active coping allows you to tackle a problem head-on. This approach is healthier because you are addressing what’s causing your negative feelings, rather than avoiding it.

The ability to adapt to change — which typically goes along with active coping — is advantageous to your professional and personal life. One of the most important ways you can cope with change in the workplace in a healthy way is to simply acknowledge it. Recognizing and accepting change is one of the first steps toward managing it.

Tips to Actively Cope with Change

If you find yourself escape coping or feeling stuck in a stage of resistance or fatigue related to work changes, try the following approaches.

Take a closer look at your response. Our reactions to change often reflect our interpretations – or “stories” – that we believe to be true. In reality, our stories are often subconscious and are not always accurate. What is your primary emotion when considering a change? Once you identify it, ask yourself, “What do I believe to be true that’s making me feel this way?” This can help influence your perception of the change and better understand the stories driving your emotions.

Help others. If you feel uncomfortable with a change in the workplace, there are likely other people feeling the same way. If you can take the focus away from your own situation and direct it toward someone else’s, it can help you cope. Whether it’s a check-in with a colleague via Teams or inviting someone in your office for a walk during your lunch break to discuss the situation, the act of helping others and communicating your thoughts and feelings will allow you to better deal with stress, feel less isolated and helpless, and adapt more quickly to change.

Embrace new opportunities. Change often translates to possibility for those who are willing to embrace it. Ask yourself, “What are the opportunities with this change,” and “How will these opportunities help me and others?” Things may feel bleak when you don’t agree with a change, but studies show having a positive outlook can open you up to new possibilities and be more receptive to change.

Whether we like it or not, change in the workplace is inevitable. Although sometimes disruptive and uncomfortable, there are clear benefits to change — the development of new skills, increased innovation, and new and better opportunities, to name a few. If you find yourself experiencing ongoing change fatigue or feelings of burnout you can’t shake, there are many resources available to help, including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Health4U, Organization and Professional Development, and the WorkLife Office.

Sources:

Castrillon, Caroline (2020, February 26). How to Cope with Change in the Workplace. Retrieved July 13, 2021 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinecastrillon/2020/02/26/how-to-cope-with-change-in-the-workplace/?sh=4904dd38d207

Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Organizations Change So Get Ready. Retrieved July 15, 2021 from https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/COURSES/pd_31_a01_bs_enus

Wiens, Kandi and Rowell, Darin (2018, December 31). How to Embrace Change Using Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved July 13, 2021 from https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-to-embrace-change-using-emotional-intelligence

Unplugged: How to Disconnect from Work and Enjoy Your Vacation

As travel restrictions ease and the summer heats up, there is no better time to take a vacation or staycation. Taking time away from work has many health benefits including improving your connection to yourself and loved ones and resetting from or avoiding burnout.

The Benefits of Taking a Vacation

Vacationing and taking time away from your job promotes a long, healthy life and has tremendous benefits to your mind. Taking a break from routine in fun and different ways can have the same benefits as consistent meditation exercises and help you build connections with not only your loved ones but yourself, too. In addition, taking a vacation has been scientifically proven to boost brain power. Taking time off from learning, working and gaining new information every day allows your brain to consolidate existing knowledge, resulting in improved learning after vacation.

The benefits go beyond just your mind — they affect your body too. Through reduced stress, vacations can improve heart health and decrease chances of metabolic diseases or conditions. Vacation time also improves sleep as poor sleep habits can be broken when sleeping in a new place. Coming home after vacation feels like sleeping in another new place, allowing those improved habits to continue.

Using vacation time is one of the best ways to reset from or avoid burnout. Check out this video from Jamie Hutchinson, the Deputy Director of the MSU Worklife Office, where she explains the five phases of burnout and how to avoid or correct them. Taking a vacation and then coming back to work helps reset a person to their “honeymoon phase,” a term used in Hutchinson’s video. 

Before Going on Vacation

To take full advantage of these benefits, you should consider fully unplugging from work — those emails and phone calls won’t go anywhere. 

Before you head to the airport or hit the road, set up automatic email replies with your out-of-office details including when you will be back, who to contact in the meantime, and how to contact you in case of an emergency if needed. If you use a shared calendar with your team, add your out-of-office dates as early as possible and notify your team verbally and/or by email. If you have ongoing projects, consider asking a coworker, supervisor, or team member to check up on them while you are away and plan to share updates when you return. If possible, leave work-related things at home or at the office to prevent the temptation to focus on work. Finally, prepare for the day you return from work before you leave by keeping your schedule as clear as you reasonably can on your first day back.

Returning from Vacation

Returning to work can often be stressful and sometimes undo the rest you achieved on vacation. To avoid getting immediately burned out, take time to ease back into your work routine. Try to avoid scheduling several meetings on your first day back and try not to set or meet big deadlines during your first week back in the office. The more time you spend away, the more time you should give yourself to get back to your normal work pace and routine.

In addition to easing into your normal work routine, it’s important to unplug from work at the end of each day. It’s easy to get burned out if you are mentally on the clock 24/7, answering emails and catching up during nights and weekends. You can use Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Google Calendar and other work team services to set out-of-office messages at the end of your workday. Finally, avoid stress by taking the necessary steps to be productive and engaged as shared in this earlier post about avoiding and reducing burnout. 

All these tips and more are available through these links:

Leadership Blog Series: Recognizing and Managing Stress During Times of Change

Written by Sharri Margraves, HR Associate Director for Organization and Professional Development

Based on some of my behavior choices over the past year (e.g., purchasing 50 lbs. of flour — why?), some might say I did not handle the stress of the pandemic very well. I’d have to agree. Personally, it was terrifying last spring when the threat of economic collapse seemed imminent. Those fears lessened but were then replaced by worries of illness, death, and the safety of my loved ones as the pandemic doubled down in Michigan and throughout the world.

Many of us are now preparing for a new kind of stress that reflects more unknowns, such as potential changes in work location, expectations, tasks, and what that all means to us as employees and colleagues. We are collectively experiencing unprecedented change across the organization by virtue of budget impacts and changes in senior leaders — both of which have a way of cascading through an organization and challenging the status quo.

Check Your Stress Level

One thing the pandemic did not do was ease the “normal” stressors in life such as divorce, familial issues, debt, and job change, to name a few. Consider taking the Life Change Stress Test, a self-assessment scale developed as a predictor of an individual’s well-being and the likelihood of illness. Where are you currently on the life-change stress index?

We may not share a common experience to change. What one person feels is a great idea might feel like an unnecessary and stressful change to another. You might find exhilaration in tackling new systems while others might find the same experience overwhelming. How leaders navigate these next few crucial months is expected to impact employee stress and, therefore, employee motivation and satisfaction — essential aspects of building a healthy and positive culture for our students and colleagues.

Are You Languishing?

The fact is there are many unknowns still surrounding the pandemic that, when combined with our everyday stress to navigate, can lead to even fun activities like weddings and graduations causing an increase in stress and a decrease in motivation.

In the work context, the continuous change we have been experiencing along with ongoing uncertainty can lead to what Adam Grant of The New York Times recently described as languishing. People may not be considered depressed, but they’re not flourishing either. After months of being on high alert, our bodies and brains are likely tired, stressed, and burned out by this state of hypervigilance.

Reduce the Impact of Stress

Keep in mind that stress does not need to be negative to have an impact on you, and not all stress needs to be immense to add up. Often, it is the compounding of little things that have a large impact. Recognizing your typical and atypical stressors — be they “positive” or “negative” — and how they impact you personally and professionally can better prepare you to successfully manage your stress and move out of a state of languishing. Engaging in reframing your situation, learning new coping strategies, exercising, or seeking services through Health4U Stress Reduction, your healthcare provider or EAP are all places to begin.

Take some simple steps to help yourself and your team get through this period of continuing uncertainty with improved stress management strategies and increased motivation. Here are a few additional, self-paced resources you might find helpful:

elevateU Online Resources

Additional Resources

Grant, A., May 5, 2021. There’s a name for the blah you are feeling: It’s called languishing. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html

Holmes, T.H., and Rahe, T.H. “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 11:213, 1967. https://www.dartmouth.edu/eap/library/lifechangestresstest.pdf