UNC System HR Community Resilience Summit

October 2, 2020

Section 1: Top Tips from CHROs on Maintaining Balance, Helping Employees, and More

Remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint.

  • Focus on being present, engaged, supportive, and compassionate in your dealings with faculty, staff, and colleagues. 
  • Communicate frequently and transparently; meet people where they are.
  • Hold HR town hall meetings where employees can ask questions in real time. 
  • Continue to engage with faculty and staff senates.
  • Keep providing reminders about EAP and other resources.
  • Adapt learning and professional development programming to be relevant to current events.
  • Consolidate information and communicate about wellness and well-being resources. Provide single portal for information to make it easier to find.
  • Consider a monthly newsletter/email with tips for stress relief, wellness. 
  • If your campus offers Mental Health First Aid training, is it virtual or can it be made virtual?
  • Take advantage of opportunities to discuss/deal with other areas of stress — social/racial justice dialogues, financial wellness, mindfulness.
Maintain Community
  • Provide opportunities for individuals to gather virtually to focus on connection and decompression. That may be a weekly virtual think-tank session for faculty and staff as an informal space for collective brainstorming and problem solving (UNC Asheville’s center for teaching and learning) or a Wednesday Wind-Down for managers (NC A&T’s manager development program)
  • For team/department meetings, have conversations that get beyond the surface to open or close: What are you grateful for? Tell us something that made you smile today.
  • Provide opportunities for drive-through appreciation and celebrations.
  • Partner with staff senates to provide employee appreciation activities like thank-you notes.
  • Have some fun! Consider a team event with fun appreciation awards.
  • Encourage employees to use vacation to alleviate stress/burnout. If your campus is ending classes at Thanksgiving, use that extra time to offer additional opportunities for flexibility.
  • Set expectations around work hours and be a good example. Ensure that emails at all hours don’t become the norm. This is also a form of self-care; it’s easy to fall into a pattern of constantly working when you’re working from home.
  • Look outside the box for resource management ideas if staff become overtaxed. Can you tap subject matter experts who can help others get up to speed?
  • Set up dropboxes and other ways to transport/contain sensitive documents. 
  • Rotate on-campus presence so someone is always available for on-campus employees.
  • Look to the future. What can you learn from operations today that can benefit your workforce in the future? 
  • Create cross-functional teams to work on COVID response where possible to help break down barriers and silos.

Section 2: Panel Questions


  • Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychiatry, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Steven Trotter, Associate Director of Wellness and Fitness, East Carolina
  • Sharon Hill, Training Specialist, Winston-Salem State
  • Liz Grimes, AVC for Human Resources, UNC Wilmington

Question 1: The COVID pandemic has increased the workload for many of us as well as our clients, causing us
to have to stay engaged in work and meetings more than ever. As a result of the increased workload as well as the increased external stressors, we are seeing a rise in burnout. What are some successful techniques that we can use to combat burnout in ourselves as HR professionals?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • Start with the basics: get adequate sleep, eat well, physical activity (preferably outside). 
  • Maintain social connections; don’t let yourself get lonely and isolated.
  • Find things that bring you joy — even if you have to adapt them for the current situation.
  • Be aware of your screen time — put down the devices. 
  • Monitor your coping skills, both constructive and destructive. 
  • If you’re feeling stuck, reach out for help.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 52:22 on the video above.

Question 2: Many UNC HR professionals reported having a difficult time “turning work off” after 5 p.m. And many probably are laughing at the prospect of being able to stop working at 5 p.m. What are some techniques we can use to turn off work and be more present after 5, or 6, or whenever we are able to stop working?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • Be kind to yourself. We are our own worst critics.
  • It’s not about work/life balance, it’s about work/life harmony; find what works for you.
  • Consider batching tasks – for example, only read email twice a day for 30 minutes.
  • Schedule yourself in blocks throughout the day, allowing breaks.
  • “Eliminate, automate, delegate” – be effective. 

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 58:45 on the video above.

Question 3: Many of those in HR leadership positions reported that they were having a difficult time finding ways to maintain employee engagement among their teams while working remotely. What are some techniques we can use to help employees feel connected and maintain engagement?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • It’s important to know how your employees are managing everything; it’s okay to ask, “How are you doing?” and “Are you taking care of yourself?”
  • Create a structure for engagement with others: schedule regular meetings or touchpoints.
  • Know your team members and what works for them. Have a check-in by phone during a walk, but make time to catch up about non-work topics as well. 
  • Be respectful and consider that others’ experiences and needs may be different from yours. Provide a buffet of options; don’t expect one size to fit all.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 1:03:41 on the video above.

Question 4: All day and all night we are bombarded with news, much of it concerning. Whether it be news related to COVID, issues related to social justice, the election, or any number of other things, the constant bombardment can be very anxiety-inducing. What are some ways in which we can cope with all of the anxiety-inducing news while remaining effective at work?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • Figure out how to turn it off. The 24-hour news cycle is meant to be addictive. 
  • Put yourself on an incentive program: work for 30 minutes and then check the news for five minutes.
  • Leave your phone at home when you go for a walk.
  • It’s bad for our bodies and brains to be constantly connected to news/social media.
  • Use Google alerts – put in a keyword and get one daily email with a digest of news articles. This can help you control what news you consume.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 1:12:51 on the video above.

Question 5: Between the possibility of furloughs, pay cuts, and the tenuous course of the pandemic, as well as the election this November, people are experiencing quite a bit of uncertainty these days. How can we keep moving forward while coping with uncertain times?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • Stick to a routine; uncertainty is scary, but a routine (that includes self-care) provides a sense of empowerment.
  • Embrace fresh air and sunshine.
  • Get plenty o f sleep. Keep a pad and pen by your bed and write down what’s on your mind so you don’t have to worry about remembering it and it won’t interrupt your sleep.
  • Take a break from media. Listen to news in the morning and then turn it off.
  • Practice social connection; call, text, check in with people.
  • Focus on the things that are in your power, not on things that are out of your control.
  • Be grateful for the things you have; look for the positives.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 1:17:46 on the video above.

Question 6: What are some ways in which we can maintain our social well-being in an environment where we are socially isolated?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • Social well-being leads to happiness. Strive to accumulate six hours of socialization throughout the day (not just face-to-face – include email, meetings, instant messaging).
  • Allow for conversations about random things.
  • Open up meetings for moments of pride, good things that have happened, things you’re excited about. 
  • Activate your brain and your body; mix social activity and physical activity.
  • Strengthen your existing networks – meet for a socially distanced conversation at a coffee shop or in a park.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 1:24:05 on the video above.

Question 7: We typically spend a significant portion of our day, if not almost all of it, in front of a computer either working on projects, responding to emails, or in video meetings. What are some successful techniques you’ve found to combat screen fatigue?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • Take breaks from the computer.
  • Consider blue-light blocking glasses.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your eyes hydrated.
  • Use eye drops if needed. 
  • Check glare, lighting in work area.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 1:31:40 on the video above.

Question 8: What is the most appropriate way to address employees’ concerns regarding potential furloughs and pay cuts when we in Human Resources are unsure of the future?

Top Panelist Tips:

  • HR is used to having answers – with all this uncertainty, it’s even more challenging.
  • Concentrate on listening, hearing concerns.
  • Validate others’ feelings, even if you don’t have them or agree with them.
  • Offer context – what do you know that others might not?
  • Acknowledge the challenge: we are here to support our campus colleagues but right now HR staff may need help too.

To see the full answer to this question, forward to 1:34:43 on the video above.