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Supporting Employee Well-Being

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Management Topic: Supporting Employee Well-Being

Dear Colleagues, 

Last month we discussed emotional intelligence, its importance to being a well-rounded leader, and how the
Manager’s Toolkit III can help you in developing these essential skills. Continuing with this theme, this month we are providing you with ways to support your staff’s well-being and encourage a healthy work-life balance.

Resetting Expectations

Our current work environment has us connected through so many avenues: email, text, calls, Zoom, Slack and more, each with their own sound notification and alert. Although these channels support swift communication-sharing, they also blur the lines and make it harder for staff to disconnect, especially when these alerts are heard and received outside of standard business hours.

As a leader, it’s important that you communicate to your team what your expectations are. Although we hope our team members feel comfortable setting work-life boundaries that work best for them, sometimes we need to remind staff what is expected (or not) from them. These expectations include:

  • When are staff expected to respond to emails? (not past 5 p.m., not on weekends, etc.)
  • When are staff expected to take meetings? (anytime a customer needs one or only before 5 p.m.?)
  • Are staff expected to take occasional and infrequent phone calls during their vacation day or has a backup been established so they can turn off their phone?
  • Are staff encouraged to communicate these boundaries to others and do they have your support to enforce them in standard situations?
  • Are staff encouraged to block their calendars to ensure they can take time for lunch? This should also be encouraged of exempt staff, even if only required of non-exempt staff.
  • Encouraging staff to use their vacation time as actual vacation.

Creating a safe and supportive work environment that encourages team members to set reasonable work hour limits, prioritizes health, and encourages people to access mental health support as needed is essential. It's also helpful to model these statements through your own actions. Other ways to encourage staff to set these boundaries includes providing resources to prevent others from interfering with these established boundaries.

Examples include email restrictions:

Out of office sign on a chair
  • Email alerts to mute your computer outside of business hours so the sound of an alert doesn’t draw you back. For many, the brain has been conditioned to want to act at the sound of an email’s arrival. Muting these sounds prevents that mental activation.
  • Ensure staff create automatic absence messages about whom to contact while they are out of the office to avoid unnecessary interference with their time away and allow staff to fully disconnect.
  • Set email to “work offline” outside of standard business hours. This setting disconnects Outlook from the server, preventing emails from being delivered to your inbox.
  • Create dedicated blocks of time for work on your Outlook calendar and enforce those times so you may work without interruption.

*Note: You or your staff may worry these limitations could cause challenges in addressing emergencies outside of working hours. Ensure you have a backup plan for urgent matters. For example, in an emergency, plan to send a text to this individual that an email requires their attention.


Continuous long hours, constant demands, tight deadlines, and more can create an unsustainable situation for team members and result in burnout. “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.” ( Signs and symptoms include: exhaustion, lack of motivation and interest, withdrawal and isolation, among many more.

To address burnout: notice signs of burnout or mental health changes, discuss these concerns with staff if you are comfortable doing so, and act where you can to help them resolve these issues, including providing resources. It is critical these conversations are led with empathy and do not just occur once. Make sure to follow up and check in as team members work through these issues. In addition, it’s important to be flexible, as each employee’s needs will vary. Encourage self-care (sufficient sleep, regular physical activity, making time for outside hobbies, mindfulness, taking breaks as needed, etc.); open communication regarding needs like vacation, when others aren’t respecting their boundaries; promote resiliency; request ideas to help balance workloads to support work-life balance; and strongly encourage the Staff & Faculty Counseling Center as a free and confidential resource. You can also refer staff to August 2021’s MMT: Providing Resources Across the Employee Lifespan for a comprehensive list of resources depending on staff’s needs.

Helpful Websites and Articles to Learn More About This Topic

Interested in reviewing prior months’ topics? Visit our Monthly Management Tips website.

Stay Safe!

Leadership 2029

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