September marks a number of workplace milestones. Tens of thousands of commuters poured back into central London on the first Monday this month, with the capital seeing its busiest morning rush-hour since the pandemic hit. And then at the end of the month, employers will need to decide whether to take back their furloughed workers or make them redundant as the government’s furlough scheme comes to a close.
There is no doubt that employee wellbeing has suffered over the past 18 months. We surveyed 2,000 of the UK’s working population who have worked from home during the pandemic to explore how they are feeling. We captured this insight, in ‘The Big Return’ report, which powerfully highlights that more needs to be done to support staff.
But as workers return to workplaces and furlough ends, how can you help your teams navigate this new normal.
Our insight revealed that seven in 10 workers are nervous about returning after the furlough scheme ends.
The employers we are supporting have real worries around how they are going to reintegrate people back into the office. You have to see the return of your employees as a ‘critical incident’ and employers will have to devote time to what will be a big project. Will those who have been extensively working from home settle in the office again? Will there be clashes between those who have been furloughed, those who worked from home and those who worked right through? Our counsellors have received calls from employees who feel aggrieved at the money and time spent on commuting to their workplace when their co-workers are able to remain at home. There will be much resentment, anxiety and insecurity. Even the most united group may not gel after a year apart. Our experts can offer a mediation service to smooth out differences between members of your team.
The end of furlough will bring many running costs under sharp focus, especially pay rolls, but ‘costly HR extras’ need to be fully considered at this time due to the huge financial benefits they bring. Put simply, better mental wellbeing equals better productivity. Businesses that aren’t looking after all aspects of their workforce’s wellbeing are missing a trick. Sourcing external support not only helps employees, but also employers, connecting someone with the specialist skills required quickly and accessibly.
Back on track
Our report also showed that many employees are returning to work feeling their career has been held back by the pandemic. 84% of furloughed staff believe their career has been negatively impacted in some way over the last 12 months.
Recognising this and showing an understanding that people are worried about the future, both in terms of the landscape of the office and their personal development is key. Confidence is fragile. The traditional model of how we work has been blown away, and it will continue to leave some people very anxious. They’ll need careful handling; it’s another area where robust wellbeing support can help.
Download the full report which is available here to discover how you can support your team not just in September but in the months and years to follow.
Heidi Stewart is the new group chief executive at BHSF, with over 20 years’ experience of leadership in some of the UK’s largest private companies and charities, operating across mental health, housing, employment, justice, and social care. She joins BHSF at a time of growth and opportunity, leading the drive to help more employees across the UK have easy access to the very best mental health and wellbeing support.