Stress-Less Tips for Returning Employees to the Workplace
It’s finally happening. The moment small business owners across Ontario have been waiting for: Stage 3. While all of us aren’t there yet, we’ve been preparing for the transition to reopening since we first went into isolation.
Things will be different when we return to our daily routines. Not everyone will be coming back into the office / storefront whether it’s due to social distancing protocols or layoffs. The way we manage employees has evolved, too.
We’ve had to learn how to be more empathetic and connected with employees to ensure that they’re coping with fear, anxiety, stress, isolation, illness, and potentially reduced income while ensuring continued productivity.
Through checking in with staff, providing information about how to stay safe and well, and continuing benefits—even for those who’ve had to be laid off, we’ve forged stronger more authentic relationships with the employees we rely on to keep our businesses stable and profitable.
We know through our own experience that the pandemic has been hard on the world’s mental health. What isn’t frequently discussed though is the simultaneous hardship to our overall health and wellness, which is comprised of physical, financial, and psychological health.
The maelstrom of these stressors occurring simultaneously means that we all have a lot on our minds at a time when we may not be in an optimal state to handle everything that’s going on.
So, as we prepare to move back into normal routines, it’s not surprising to learn of a new phenomenon starting to take hold: return anxiety. Yet another a blow to mental health, return anxiety is the fear of resuming our normal day-to-day tasks that take us out of the cocoon of our homes that some have come to view as the only real safe place.
Managing this anxiety along with integrating people back into a combination remote workplace / inhouse workforce will take some skill. Luckily, if you’ve been staying engaged with your staff throughout the pandemic, it shouldn’t take too much extra effort.
Tips for returning employees to the workplace
Let’s examine how to ensure the best possible return to work initiatives to ensure the success of your business:
Continue keeping staff informed: Don’t assume just because you’re seeing employees back in the workplace or that staff is busier as work ramps back up that you’re obligation as an employer to deliver up-to-date information and reliable resources related to health and wellness ends. Regular emails and video conferencing from and with you and between in- and out-of-house staff needs to continue indefinitely.
Provide ongoing and augmented support: Benefits are a terrific way to help your employees improve and maintain their overall wellness, and an additional way to show and provide support. A recent study said that employees who had access to EAPs reported better mental health than employees who didn’t receive help from their employers. Benefits also demonstrate compassion and an investment in employees and their families that can help reduce some anxiety and fear around physical and financial health. Some insurance carriers added mental health supports to existing plans during the pandemic, making it easier for employers to provide this benefit.
Be available and communicate openly and honestly: Return anxiety is definitely one place where being responsive to concerns, listening with genuine empathy, and, if possible, enhancing return to work options to help deal with concerns around safety and work flexibility relating to child and senior care responsibilities will make a difference in your relationship with your employees and to their productivity.
Respect and follow all public health guidelines: Never put the health and safety of your staff or yourself at risk. If you require PPE, make sure you provide it. Go to your worksite ahead of the return to disinfect the space, put up instructional and informational posters, fill soap and hand towel dispensers, and put out hand sanitizer. As well, be vigilant in enforcing the guidelines in your workplace. An outbreak not only affects your business, it damages your reputation with your employees and breaks down trust. Your staff needs to see and hear that their safety is your top priority every day.
Celebrate successes: Start with those returning to work. Let them know you’re happy to have them back in the office, acknowledge the huge step they’re taking re-entering the workplace, and how much you value their help in rebuilding your business. Encourage those working at home by letting them know they’re missed at work and how you want to have everyone back working together as soon as it’s safely possible.
Get and give feedback: Talk with staff to see what you could do better to reduce the anxiety of others returning to work, or ask staff to share their experiences and strategies that made it easier for them to come back. And if someone just can’t seem to manage the idea of returning, suggest help. EAP benefits have mental health support options, or anyone can access local counselling, distress lines, or online resources.
Consider making changes to or adding additional benefits: Benefits have been shown to improve employee loyalty and retention, increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and attract new hires. Bensol Consulting has affordable options and can customize a plan that helps get your staff back to work and supports them to keep them motivated, productive, and engaged.
We all want things to be back to normal. We hope these tips reduce your return anxiety by giving you tools to deal with whatever obstacles we may face next.
We’re working on our own return to work plan and continue to operate remotely to help small businesses get back to business. Talk to us. We’re here to help. Stay safe and well!