Advice by Nicola Jagielski – Associate Director of Clinical Services at Health Assured
The government’s roadmap out of lockdown was the light at the end of the tunnel that many people in the UK needed. We have a tentative roadmap out of lockdown, a successful vaccine programme, and the nation’s mood is lightening. For many of us, the easing of lockdown brings excitement, but the prospect of life returning to normal is an unnerving one and likely to make some people anxious. There are many genuine reasons people feel apprehensive about returning to normal life, and employers must take extra steps to support their staff who feel this way.
Here are some ways to help employees manage their concerns:
Encourage staff to be open and honest
If someone feels anxious about returning to the workplace, they might not feel too comfortable talking about their worries to their managers. Employers should foster an open culture in which people are encouraged to speak openly and confidentially about their worries, and you’ll be surprised at how many people find that reassurance makes them feel a lot better. This openness will spill over into other aspects of the business, too. When people feel they can speak more freely about the things that worry them or find difficult, this opens up problems to solutions.
For many, the morning routine consisting of a commute to work will have vanished a year ago. Take extra steps to encourage staff to keep up their daily routine to ensure they are making the most of their day. Encourage people to set their alarms and go to bed at the same times every day to get back into the habits they may have lost since the pandemic. Don’t go overboard, though, and demand people show up and leave exactly on time when they return. Let people have a little leeway while they settle back into the swing.
Alternatively, you could allow flexible working hours and remote work to stay in your business post-lockdown. As many employees will have found working from home beneficial, it could be a good time to leverage this. After all, if someone has found a way of working that is more productive to them and the business while working remotely, then you’re onto a winner. However, some staff may wish to return to the office for personal or InfoSec reasons. Offer staggered start and end times for people in this situation to show that you are continuing to support those returning to the office.
Be kind to yourself and others:
If employees are having difficulty and facing anxiety about returning to the office. Practising mindfulness at home and work is a proven way to relax and fend of those anxious feelings. Participating in light exercise, even just a lunchtime walk around a nearby park will help them physically and mentally. Remember, if you’re struggling and find a way to ease that for yourself, talk about it. Leadership is in part about providing an example.
Use the resources available:
If your organisation has an Employee Assistance Programme, this is perfect for anxiety. Access to free, confidential counselling is the ideal solution to mental health issues at work—it’s proven to reduce workplace stress by as much as 35%.