How to support higher education staff during an ongoing crisis

Supporting your university’s staff during the COVID-19 crisis is crucial and multi-layered, from resources and training to mental health and emotional support. 

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has motivated many institutions to invest in new tools and systems to address the challenges of the crisis.  

However, as the crisis continues, is your institution continuing this investment and providing ongoing resources and support to its staff?  

While your staff may be trained on new online learning systems, it’s crucial that continuous feedback and support are offered, new tools are adopted as needs change and concerns are listened to and addressed.   

So, how are you supporting your institution’s staff and addressing their mental health needs to ensure they don’t feel overwhelmed? 

Read on below to discover the key areas that your institution should consider when examining how best to support higher education staff during the coronavirus crisis.  

Mental health and emotional support 

According to a piece in Harvard Business Review, a global study of employees conducted in April 2020 found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined since the outbreak began. 

In October, a BBC article highlighted the fact that the pandemic has “either sparked or amplified much more serious mental health problems” with the piece citing Australia’s Black Dog Institute, a leading independent mental health research organisation, which states that “a significant minority will be affected by long-term anxiety”. 

Notably, the British Medical Journal predicted that “the mental health impact of the pandemic is likely to last much longer than the physical health impact”. 

For those higher education staff at your institution that have pre-existing conditions like anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), proactive support and resources should be provided on an ongoing basis.  

It’s important to note that some staff may not be comfortable disclosing medical conditions or chronic illnesses to their employer so available resources and support should be promoted across your institution.  

Additionally, examine what mental health services your institution currently provides to staff and what the engagement and uptake of these services are amongst staff.  

Talk to staff about what services or support they would like to see, how current services could be improved and what support gaps exist.  

By continuously reviewing these services and listening to staff, your institution can provide vital mental health and emotional support to higher education staff during an extremely challenging time.  

Resources and training 

As mentioned, higher education institutions were quick to adapt to the coronavirus crisis with the adoption of online learning platforms and collaboration tools. 

Training in these platforms was crucial as lecturers and higher education staff had to adopt new styles of teaching and administration.  

This investment in training must be ongoing. New technological features and tools are emerging as the crisis continues and as institutions explore the most effective ways for teachers to teach and students to learn.  

These insights are vital, not just to ensure better collaboration and cooperation between students and staff but also amongst your institution’s staff members themselves.  

In a piece by The Conversation, employers are advised to offer web-based training sessions on how employees can best work together online: During these sessions, leaders can establish ground rules for the use of collaborative technology and build awareness of individual and cultural differences in communication, including preferences for email, phone calls and conference calls. 

Determining how your staff can work best together, as both colleagues and educators, is crucial and an ongoing process.  

Flexibility and compassion  

An important part of staff support is the understanding that individuals work best under differing conditions.  

Being flexible and compassionate with your institution’s staff, adjusting hours and responsibilities to meet their individual needs, can be a critical source of support 

Demonstrating that you understand the pressure and stress that your staff face and that you’re willing to make reasonable accommodations to address any issues is essential.  

Supporting higher education staff during the ongoing coronavirus crisis is more important than ever before, and your institution should be taking a multi-layered, compassionate approach.  

The QS team is passionate about supporting institutions and their staff during this crisis by producing a range of insight-led reports. Download our latest report, Prioritising gender diversity in the workplace at higher education institutions, to discover how your university can support gender diversity across its workplace, and the current state of gender diversity across the global higher education sector 


More QS Insights

Example article by Bec
Read more

Sign up for industry insights

Receive the latest insights, expertise and commentary on the topics which matter most in higher education, straight to your inbox.

Sign up
This site is registered on as a development site. Switch to a production site key to remove this banner.