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Mental Health and Wellbeing Return to Campus Guide for Academic and Administrative Leaders

Toronto Metropolitan University campus

In the coming months, the process of shifting from remote working to return to campus will be a big task for Toronto Metropolitan University. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the daily routines of Canadians and drastically impacted mental health and wellbeing. As a community, it is vital to understand that the new normal will be different for everyone and needs will differ based on personal circumstances.

As a leader, you have a critical role to play in ensuring that a return to campus encompasses a wellbeing lens that puts people first, provides a safer space and supports employees in giving their best at work.

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Challenges employees may be facing

Man working on computer in the evening
  • Prolonged exposure to stress 
  • Loss, grief and uncertainty
  • Trauma
  • Racial trauma 
  • Domestic violence 
  • Gender-based violence 
  • Isolation
  • Financial and housing insecurity
  • Managing multiple demands
  • Working on campus throughout pandemic 

Impacts of challenges

  • Anxiety 
  • Insomnia 
  • Fatigue
  • Sadness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest 
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fear (i.e. taking public transportation, heightened risk of contracting COVID as the number of students and employees on campus increase)
  • Burnout 
  • Hopelessness
  • Stress
  • Anger 
  • Mistrust
  • Depression
  • Decline in physical health

How to be responsive

Two people on a conference call
  • Validate the challenges everyone is experiencing, enter each conversation with empathy and compassion
  • Acknowledge fear and anxiety that employees may experience as they adjust to the new normal
  • Realize that the longer employees have been working remotely, the more time they will need to gradually return
  • Engage in conversation with team members (individually) about return to campus, explore what their fears and concerns maybe when they return
  • Share details about safely protocols that will be in place
  • Ask employees what other protection they need
  • Recognize that return to campus may be transitional and needs may change, continue to check in with team members  prior to and during the transition 
  • Remind/Inform employees of supports available (see list of resources below)
  • Be transparent and address concerns from early on
  • Provide employees with as much certainty about the future as possible
  • Involve individual/ teams in setting up expectations, clear norms and working guides
  • Seek Support - As a leader,  you won't always have the answers and that’s okay.  It’s important to rely on your leader and HR to help guide you through the process.

Questions to ask your team prior to a return to onsite work

Ryerson staff on campus

Employees might, for example, express feeling fearful, which could be for a variety of reasons. Some examples may include fear of being in close proximity with others, changes in physical space at work, transportation to and from work or leaving loved ones after many months at home. If an employee reports concern about return to campus, it is vital to understand more about these concerns in order to address their needs. Follow up questions could include:

  • Can you help me to understand what is causing this fear?
  • What do you think would help you on your return?

For further guidance, depending on the outcome and individual’s concern, here are the resources you can use: contact HR, VPFA, return to campus, physical distancing, EFAP support.

Woman working at computer

If an employee disclosure a medical condition that requires accommodation refer to Workplace Wellbeing Services or Employee Accommodation Services.

People walking on Ryerson campus

Employees might prefer a different working schedule. For example, starting their day earlier. 

For more information refer to the agile workforce (document to be linked).


Woman typing at computer laying on couch

Employees might have enjoyed exercising during lunchtime or starting the day earlier. Provide space for employees to bring in moments of enjoyment to their work as they make the transition.

Questions to ask your team during transition/in monthly follow up check-in

Ryerson staff on campus

If employees report concerns, inquire about what the challenges they are facing and what they think may help them to address the challenge.

Man on a video conference

Employees might have personal or work-related concerns, in such situations show that you care, ensure to hear them and connect them to resources needed.

If individuals are experiencing any medically related challenges they can be referred to the Workplace Wellbeing Services, EFAP support.



  • EFAP - The Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) is a confidential and voluntary support service that can help with many kinds of problems and challenges for all employees (who are eligible for benefits).
  • Psychological Counselling (external link)  - Employees (MAC, RFA, OPSEU (FTCE, PYE, Term over 12 months) are entitled to $3500 per year towards psychological counselling services (plus massage, naturopathy etc.)