- Posted by Jon Harju
- On May 19, 2020
Across the country, employees are facing a variety of challenges, not only in terms whether they have a job or not and if it will be lasting, but also how and where they will be working, as they manage the fears of a phase 2 Covid-19 spread.
Returning to work, leaving the workplace again, continuing to work from home are all possibilities for those who have worked as an option and of course for those who don’t, trying to understand where the viable jobs will be both immediately and post-pandemic are key issues.
One thing is for the sure-the skill of being agile is critical for future survival in the world of work.
Understandably, many employers are eager for things to quickly return to normal, for steady revenue streams to return. But when it comes to a lift on restrictions, until COVID-19 is completely behind us, it is impossible for life to return the way it was prior to the pandemic—at least for the foreseeable future.
As businesses adapt to the changing restrictions governed in part by the rates of new infections, employers must put careful thought and consideration into implementing the guidelines, policies, and procedures that can minimize the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on business operations. These unprecedented times do not support a “one-size-fits-all” approach and what makes sense for one organization may be inefficient for others.
For the most part, it is understandable that employees who were working from home or waiting to return to the physical workspace may be hesitant to venture back. With a second wave looming in the back of our minds, many will experience anxiety about returning or remaining in the workplace, coupled with fears to use public transport again or to be in indoor spaces with many other people. For those who have been working virtually and will remain so, they may be at the point of ‘cabin fever’ as they look at the same four walls for both work and personal life activities.
It’s important to remember that everyone has had a unique experience of Covid-19 and may have adopted individualized rules for acceptable and not acceptable behavior. Any workplace change needs to be handled with sensitivity and care. Organizations must plan well to mitigate the transition risks while protecting the health and safety of employees.
5 considerations for supporting post-lockdown employee anxiety
1) Offer multiple working options
The reality is that lockdowns and exits may continue for some time in provinces where the threat of COVID-19 remains high. But for those where restrictions have been lifted, planning a staggered reintroduction to the office will help manage the number of workers returning and protect workplace health since having large volumes of employees return to a shared workplace presents the risk for the spreading and contracting of viruses. A great way to ease contamination fears and minimize exposure is to allow employees to continue working from home on certain days, or even rotate days off to include weekends for those who want to do so.
As always, it’s crucial to maintain healthy workplace hygiene by reminding sick staff to stay home – particularly vital with the continued risk of COVID-19 infection.
2) Rethink working spaces
For those with physical workspaces that are reopening, businesses will still need to observe regulations imposed during COVID-19, such as physical distancing, employee gatherings, and hygiene practices. It’s unlikely that pre-virus working environments adhere to these new restrictions and will require some thoughtful planning to protect the health and safety of employees. The health and safety requirements for 6 feet between employees inevitably impacts individual seating arrangements and shared spaces like cafeterias.
3) Maintain communications
It is unlikely that any workplace change will be permanent at this time, reinforcing the need for employee resiliency and agility when it comes to the work environment. Regular communications not only supports daily business initiatives but also provides reassurance and solutions for employees who understandably have questions and concerns about their workplace. Employee surveys can capture workplace sentiment and help reveal how employees feel so the right supports can be provided.
4) Nurture workplace morale
Many employees will experience one or several work environment changes as the pandemic progresses, including working from home, returning to the workplace, or a blend of both. Some team members may be permanently working virtually, while others may be rotating home and office. Much may have changed and some coworkers may not be returning at all. Successful businesses thrive on motivated workforces, so leaders must invest in rebuilding workplace morale. A recent survey revealed that 41% of employees were afraid to go to work because of the risk of exposure. It’s crucial to acknowledge employee concerns and handle announcements with sensitivity to aid the success of reintroduction to office life.
5) Provide ample mental health support benefits
Taking measures to ensure employees are in the best physical and psychological health at times of transition is paramount. Everyone will be facing and handling specific challenges that are unique to their situation, so it’s essential to be empathetic, understanding, and flexible as workers try to navigate their new and changing work environment.
Providing employees with a digital mental health benefit where they can connect to a licensed mental health professional will help them develop the appropriate strategies and introduce them to evidence-based tools to support them in navigating their fears and anxiety. Employees who struggle with pre-existing mental health issues may experience more intense symptoms and demonstrate a faster decline of performance and ability to cope. Having the right resources in place can be invaluable to your employees.
The power of your support
It has never been more vital that workers feel supported by their employers whenever possible, and the best way to demonstrate this is to practice transparency and empathy. The power of the words you choose and the compassion you show should never be undervalued. Your support for employees returning to the workplace on an emotional level, will be something they remember forever.
Book a demo of the Snapclarity virtual mental healthcare platform to see how it will transform your employees’ experience.