Many people are facing the ‘back-to-work’ anxiety after months of not being in an office environment. People have compared it to starting a new job again and finding your feet within a new environment. The truth is, it is going to be strange and it may take some getting used to again.
A lot of us felt excitement and relief when Boris announced his plan to get us back to ‘normality. However, equally as many people are fearful of the return to work. Some are worried about infection, some have pre-existing social anxiety and have lost their social stamina to interact with people.
The main thing to remember here is that you are not alone. Most of us, if not all of us, will be facing the same fears and concerns.
The question is what can we as employers do to help make our employees transition back to work smoother?
Firstly, employers should check in with their staff to ask for and consider their views to reach an agreement about returning to work. Employees should be ready to return to work at short notice.
Employers should also be equally flexible where possible as many of their staff may have concerns and worries about returning to work.
This is where communication is so important and understanding that this is a unique situation that none of us have experienced and that both employers and employees are figuring it out together.
Health and Safety
Making the workplace a safe environment to return to is vital This is not only part of the government guidelines but also this will make your employees feel much safer about returning to work.
Complete a risk assessment to identify what might cause harm and take reasonable steps to prevent it. You may also share this risk assessment with your employees to ease any anxieties about their health and safety concerns.
It is important to keep your employees in the loop as early as possible and start conversations with them regarding their return to work. Things you may want to discuss include:
– when staff might be able to return to the workplace
– how staff will travel to and from work
– any planned adjustments to the workplace, for example additional hand washing facilities, staggering start and finish times to avoid overcrowding or floor markings to help people stay apart
– if there might be a phased return of the workforce, for example some staff returning before others
– working from home arrangements if possible
Wherever you can, employers should speak to staff before confirming any plans. This can relieve any concerns from staff and help them to feel included in any decisions.
One of the main things you can do as Employer is listen to your staff. This is going to be an unusual time for everyone and by communicating with your team you can really help make the transition as simple as possible.
Inviting staff to complete questionnaires about what would make them feel safer when they return to work is an option. Alternatively, if possible, have meetings (virtually or in person if safe to do so) regarding their personal requirements will really help the process.
You may not be able to agree to everyone’s requests, however just by simply listening to your colleagues will help them to feel heard, respected and valued.