Anxiety is at an all-time high for employees as they prepare to return to work in the office.
Will it be safe? Will there be social distancing guidelines in place? Will I have to hand-shake? What if I’m less productive? – the transition comes with a new wave of challenges and concerns; these are just a handful of them.
So, what can employers do to support their employee’s wellbeing in the ‘next normal’?
Out with the old, in with the new
A recent survey has found that over 55% of UK professionals feel anxious about returning to the office but only less than half of them feel comfortable enough to discuss their worries with a manager, due to fear of looking weak or not living up to expectations.
One of the key things that can be done to reduce office return anxiety is highlighting to the workforce that it’s okay to make adjustments and do things differently to what they did pre-Covid.
Gone are the days of rigid 9-5’s, crammed meeting rooms and working through lunch breaks, the pandemic has forced employers to understand and acknowledge the importance of mental wellbeing at work and must now adapt office life accordingly to maintain a healthy and happy workforce.
It’s okay to put wellbeing first
The return to the office provides businesses with an ideal opportunity for a workplace reset. Employees should feel empowered to reclaim time to support their mental wellbeing and encouraged to make small changes to their working week to help them stay well.
Here’s our suggestions on what you as business leaders can promote to let your people know that the permission to prioritise their wellbeing is there…
To stop the shift to in-person or hybrid working from being a sudden shock to the system, staff should be given permission to experiment with their own different ways of working. That could involve protecting their diary for meeting-free work time, lunch breaks and regular moments to simply pause and have some breathing space away from their desk. Blocking out ‘me-time’ is essential and can help to regain focus and clarity.
Remember those casual colleague convos’ you used to have in the hallway or office kitchen? It seems so long ago since we’d ‘bump’ into one another and stop for a Netflix debrief, to discuss weekend plans or have general chit-chat.
It’s only since the shift to remote working and the noticeable lack of these simple connections that we’ve realised how important they are for our wellbeing and developing a positive team culture. By encouraging your people to catch-up and connect during the working day when back in the office, it may help to diminish those feelings of disconnection and isolation that have been prominent for many over the last 18 months.
Some members of staff may have spent over a year shielding themselves or their loved ones so the thought of spending time in close proximity to colleagues will be daunting. By allowing your people to set their own boundaries (within reason!) such as declining large face-to-face meetings if it makes them feel uneasy or saying no to particular work, it may help them to feel more comfortable and calmer about their return.
Even if it’s anonymously! Your people need to feel heard and know that you’re listening and taking their anxieties seriously. We know by now that we can’t just assume employees will say if they’re feeling anxious, instead managers must provide a safe environment for their team to speak up. A good way of doing so is using an anonymous assessment tool.
During this transition, it’s crucial that organisations listen to the needs of their staff and use their feedback to spark decision-making and planning as we move into the ‘next normal’.
The Key Wellbeing employment assessment tool can assist you to build an appropriate Covid-19 recovery plan to help your people better cope with the challenges ahead. Get in touch: https://www.keywellbeing.co.uk/wellbeing-assessments