Hands On At Work
Employers and Managers face new challenges regarding employee health and wellbeing as businesses restructure their return to work and how that looks for the future.
It would be naïve to think everything will fit back into place as it was before, lockdowns affected people in different ways and some may have faced tougher challenges than others, bereavement in difficult times without the opportunity to say goodbye properly to loved ones, loneliness, stress, and anxiety. All of these affect mental health. Recognising differences in behaviour or outlook will be essential to support individuals if they are struggling.
Good communication is essential.
What do you have in place and what could be improved?
Employee Assistance Programmes have their place but nothing beats a one to one conversation with a member of staff. How will you integrate this in the new way of working?
These are just some issues which could affect an employee’s ability to carry out their work or feelings of increased stress and anxiety.
Have you communicated to everyone what to expect when they return to the office?
For example, has information concerning social distancing measures and enhanced hygiene protocols been sent to returning employees so that they know what they need to do when entering the building?
Should they expect to be working with screens dividing them from fellow employees?
What other infection controls will be in place?
Will there be a one-way system to adhere to around the building?
These may seem straightforward and simple to some but to others it can be a huge deal to know what is expected, so they do not fall foul of any new regulations, or perceived risks to their health.
If employees commute to work on public transport they may be worried about being in crowds of people at the busiest times of day.
Could you address those concerns by agreeing flexible start and finish times?
Being furloughed may have suited some people but others may be feeling anxious about their future.
Why were they chosen to be furloughed? Do they have a job to go back to once the scheme has finished? Have you kept in touch with them to keep them up to date with future plans?
They may feel that they have slipped behind with Learning & Development and this may jeopardise their future role in the firm. Feelings of vulnerability are common. Have they/do they have the opportunity to be included in current training programmes?
Job security worries such as redundancies and other financial worries may also have an effect on workers and those who had been furloughed may worry that they would be the first out of the door.
Family life and work life are intrinsically interconnected, if there are problems at home, you cannot leave them at the front door. Anyone who experiences issues at home will inevitably carry those worries on their shoulders when they return to work.
Being in lockdown has not been rosy for many people and problems at home may have been aggravated to unprecedented levels. It is not always easy to openly talk about this so how can you spot the signs that something isn’t right?
Are some employees, after returning to work, having more time off sick than they would have done previously. Is this out of character and if so, why is that?
Are they quieter than usual, or louder than usual?
An investment in training more members of staff in Mental Health First Aid would be a positive step to be on hand to support people and recognise signs of anxiety so they can listen to and guide them to the help they need.
Keep talking, keep the communication channels open and take this opportunity to create a more supportive environment.
Now is the time to make a significant investment in employee health and wellbeing.