Support your staff returning to work after COVID-19

As we transition back to our previous working environments, a key focus of any organisation will be the mental health and wellbeing of their employees.

With the sudden and unpredictable wave of lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of issues and concerns that can impact your employee’s wellbeing.

Creating an environment whereby employees know they can approach their leaders should they have any concerns is paramount as they transition back to work.

Common concerns with coming back

Many employees may be concerned about returning to work as this may mean adapting to a different routine.

Whether they have been working from home, furloughed, or are looking for a new job, returning to the workplace can be quite stressful for many employees.

Several factors may add to this anxiety:

  • Busy public transport to and from work
  • A crowded office or workplace
  • Face-to-face meetings
  • Customer interactions
  • Social events after work

Wellcome, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, is publishing new research on workplace mental health: Putting Science to Work – Understanding What Works for Workplace Mental Health.

The research by 10 global teams reviewed evidence behind approaches to tackling anxiety and depression at work.

The reviews highlighted common actions businesses can adapt to maintain better mental health.

1. Breaking up excessive sitting

Light activity just one hour per eight-hour day may reduce depression symptoms by around 10% and anxiety by 15%.

Encouraging employees to break up excessive sitting by introducing sit-stand desks, standing meetings and movement breaks may help the employee not to feel overwhelmed

2. Stress relieving interventions

To ensure employees are finding the right work-life balance, you could encourage them to make time in their day for something they find relieves them of stress, such as knitting or going for a walk.

Many employees may find it helpful to develop end-of-day habits such as tidying their desk or writing a list of things to do tomorrow.

Specific interventions like meditation and mindfulness can also be useful techniques to relieve stress.

If you’re looking for ideas, check out our 5 Steps to Improving Your Employee’s Wellbeing.

3. Flexible working

By allowing employees to start and end work at times that suit them, this will cater for different schedules and will mean employees may have more work-life balance.

The research by Wellcome highlights the importance of a leader or manager’s support of flexible working when it comes to the success of reducing anxiety and stress, as well as creating a positive workplace culture around different working hours or days away from the workplace.

4. Connect with your team

As you welcome them back to work, encourage your team members to speak to you and share any concerns they may have.

Let them know you understand how returning to the workplace may be overwhelming for a number of reasons and you are mindful of their mental health during this time.

Where possible suggest opportunities for working from home for longer, perhaps even just a couple of days a week to help them settle in.

5. Remember, everyone in your team is different

Wellcome’s research also highlights how much we still don’t know about what works for different people and in different contexts.

For example, many research teams commented on the lack of data about younger workers’ mental health.

The evidence available also widely differs between geographies – for example there is significantly more research on mindfulness in high-income countries compared to low and middle-income settings, with particularly big gaps in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Comparison across different studies was also difficult, as not every organisation uses the same approach to measure their employees’ mental health in the workplace.

When it comes to the individuals in your team, remember that each employee may need a different approach when it comes to supporting them back to the workplace after a long period away.

6. Share details of your Employee Assistance Programme

If you are a customer of CiC, we can support employees with the issues they may be facing when transitioning back to work.

You can share our details with staff to remind staff of how we can support through this time. It may be useful to remind staff of all the different ways we can help, such as in-the-moment support but also with legal and financial advice too.

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