Maintaining Engagement & Recognition during COVID-19

Dear colleagues,

The University of Toronto consistently ranks among the best universities in the world because of the vital daily contributions of you, our faculty, staff and librarians. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in substantial changes in how we work, but not with whom we work.

It is just as important now that we foster a culture of appreciation at U of T with each other to ensure that all employees at the university continue to feel engaged in their day-to-day work, and recognized for the contributions they are making to the University from on and off campus.

Engagement Matters… Especially Now:

Maintaining strong employee engagement has always been important, but in our largely work from home environment, it’s more critical than ever. By working to understand the impact of our changed workplace on our teams we can work to actively ensure all our faculty, staff and librarians feel just as engaged today as they did before the pandemic.

  • Connect through frequent and open communication. When working remotely, employees can easily begin to feel disconnected. Schedule weekly check-ins with your team and manager to review what priorities are. Beyond an opportunity for quick realignment, these touch points assist us in feeling connected to broader goals of our departments, divisions and faculties, and the University.
  • Maintain the watercooler conversation.  For teams it’s important to actively create social moments to reconnect. From creating a Microsoft Teams channel specifically for non-work-related conversations to scheduling meetings where you intentionally don’t discuss work, there are lots of ways to maintain our social bonds while working from home.
  • Turn your camera on. Yes, even if your home isn’t clean, your children are playing, or your hair is a bit messy. Allowing others to see your face during meetings helps us all feel more connected to each other.

Showing Appreciation Remotely:

In our traditional work environments, it was easier for us to see, and recognize the contributions of our colleagues. When working remotely, employees can feel undervalued and under-appreciated. Each of us can do our part in continuing to foster our culture of appreciation at the University.

Crafting a well-tailored recognition to a colleague can take some practice to get comfortable with. Our guide on Recognition Best Practices is here to support you in writing more meaningful and impactful recognitions.

  • Intentionally recognize three people, each day. Whether it’s through a phone call, an email, or our True Blue Recognition platform, make acknowledging the efforts and achievements of those you work with a part of your daily routine. The best ways to meaningfully recognize someone include: being specific to what you’re thanking them for, being as timely as possible in sending the recognition, and speaking to the impact of what their efforts contributed to.
  • Say “Thank You”. As we move to typing more while talking less, it’s easy to overlook those two little words in our daily correspondence. Emails are more impersonal than the face-to-face conversations we are used to having; it requires more intention in our written conversations to convey our appreciation. When possible, pick up the phone or call your colleague on Microsoft Teams. The sound of your voice saying “Thank You” will be even more impactful.
  • Recognize at virtual meetings. Weekly team meetings are common in an office setting and can be a great way for collectively celebrating an achievement. With many virtual team meetings happening now, it’s important to still take those moments to publicly acknowledge the contributions being made.

More information:

For more information about employee recognition and engagement at U of T, or for any questions on how to use the True Blue Recognition Platform please contact the Employee Recognition & Engagement Team at

For all the latest information, please see the University’s Coronavirus page. Please take the time to review our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) the HR & Equity COVID-19 website, and the Research COVID-19 FAQs. If you or members of your unit have a question that is not covered, please use the Contact Us button located at the top of the FAQ section to submit your question.