Mental and Emotional Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s important to acknowledge that while we are required by circumstances to work in new ways at Harvard, we are also adapting to new realities and disruptive changes in many realms of life. We should expect feelings and emotions about these events to carry into the work arena; they may be expressed in indirect or subtle ways.

Awareness of and access to resources that could help may be impeded by the reluctance of our colleagues to share personal concerns that may be interfering with their work performance or quality of life, such as:

  • bereavement (including anticipatory and prolonged grief);
  • medical issues and chronic health conditions;
  • exacerbation of old behavioral health problems or the emergence of new ones (especially depression, anxiety, insomnia and substance use disorders);
  • tension or conflict with household members;
  • domestic violence;
  • food insecurity;
  • homelessness.

Regular reminders of available supports – irrespective of individual concerns – are important in reducing stigma and bias, fear of reprisal and ambivalence about help-seeking in general. Departments and units should remind employees to care for themselves and to explore the resources they have available to them. A good summary of these resources can be found here.

In addition, these resources can be of help.

  • Harvard’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) – Harvard’s EAP has developed a COVID-19 resource page which gathers resources for coping with grief, supporting others, self-care and working from home. This is in addition to their broad range of convenience and crisis services, which include free financial and legal consultations. Harvard’s EAP is now offering new ways to access services.
    • Chat option for sensitive and other conversations where privacy is challenging or asynchronous consultations may be necessary
    • Telehealth option for individual counseling and assessment.
       
    As always, managers may receive unlimited consultations from Harvard’s EAP to support them as they deal with a range of issues related to teams and individuals, as well as personal concerns that pose challenges to their effectiveness as managers.
     
  • Mindfulness Programming – Mindfulness can increase physical and psychological resilience and the ability to respond skillfully to stressful situations. Mindfulness programming continues remotely and new programming, which is designed to meet the evolving needs of the workforce and their families is offered on a regular basis.
     
  • Ten Percent Happier app – Harvard University now offers benefits-eligible faculty and staff free access to the Ten Percent Happier mindfulness app (beginning June 1).
     
  • Many Harvard wellbeing resources are now available virtually.
    • Harvard University Center for Wellness – Offers online yoga, meditation and movement.
    • Harvard Recreation – Offers virtual Zumba, yoga, barre and conditioning classes.
    • Harvard’s Fitness Reimbursement – For the remainder of 2020, for those who have not yet claimed it, the fitness reimbursement will include subscriptions for online cardiovascular-related fitness classes and certain cardiovascular exercise equipment you buy (new or used) to be used in your home. This equipment is limited to treadmills, stationary bikes, stepping machines and revolving stairs, rowing machines and elliptical machines.
    • Harvard’s wellbeing newsletter, Your Life Well Lived, provides links to many more resources and benefits to boost resiliency and provide relief.