As we start to return to work, people are thinking about how safe they will be in their workplace. With everyone being told to stay home because that’s where we are safe, being told to go back into work can be worrying for some people. Even more so if they have older or vulnerable relatives in their home.
Lots of people are feeling anxious about going back into work and are contemplating things such as, will it be safe? How can work make sure that if people are unwell they stay away from the office? Is it the right time for me to be going back? What if I infect a loved one who is vulnerable?
As an organisation, it’s our job to make sure employees feel as comfortable as possible when they return to work. For employees who already suffer from mental health problems, their worries and anxiety may be heightened by the current situation. It’s important we get this right!
Organisations should be introducing a range of adjustments to the workplace which must comply to the government recommendations. These adjustments should take into account each individual employees current situation. Vulnerable, those with children and those that are high risk should all be carefully considered.
Every employee is different. However, as we return to work, there are some general steps we can take that will give employees and employers the best chance of remaining positive.
Ensure you have done everything possible to safely reintroduce office working
This includes, sanitiser, gloves, social distancing procedures, masks and making sure you let your employees know every step of the way what procedures you are introducing. With the media reporting on statistics constantly and negative news dominating the headlines, lots of employees may be worried about getting sick. Make sure to reassure them that the workplace is going to be safe on their return. Communicating this effectively will help reduce any anxiety they may be feeling about returning to work.
If you haven’t already introduced flexibility in your workplace, then this is the time to do so. We have been forced to move remotely, and lots of companies are reconsidering their office requirements for when Coronavirus dies down. Some employees who aren’t used to working remotely are now having to do so. This can bring a whole different set of challenges when it comes to mental health. Lots of people use work as an escape from homelife. Yet some may be enjoying the freedom that comes with flexible working for the first time. There are lots of different individual situations here that need to be considered for the individual. Letting employees know that they have the option to continue working flexibly can do wonders to ease anxiety.
Being mindful as a business to any employees who you think may be struggling at home alone or living in an uncomfortable situation should also be considered. Not everyone is happy at home and some people use going to work as a form of escapism.
Take your time
These are unprecedented times for everyone. Things have slowed down worldwide. This may just be the chance we need to reevaluate and recuperate. The world is changing so vastly at the moment, with updates on new ways of going about our lives changing daily. Taking things one step at a time at the moment is the best way to go about things. As a business, we want to plan ahead and make quarterly plans. All of this can still go ahead but we need to be mindful that these may change at any minute. If this happens we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it. Let employees know that this is the case and remind them that work isn’t going to be the same as before. Instead, these times are providing us with new opportunities.
Don’t expect everything to quickly return to the old days. We may not be able to go back to our pre Corona ways of working for a while. But ho knows, this may be an opportunity for us to take a step back from a business POV to do things differently – or better. It might be the time to support our employees mental health better than ever before.
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