Return to Work Anxiety: How to Help Your Employees

August 27, 2020

As governments loosen restrictions, many employers have begun developing plans to ensure that employees are brought back to an office setting safely. This includes operational and logistical considerations, setting up employee schedules, elevator usage policies and much more. But it’s important to also address and plan for how to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety around the return to work.

These uncertain times have taken a toll on the mental health of many employees, affecting future productivity and engagement levels. According to a survey conducted by KRC Research and Weber Shandwick, 45 per cent of employees are afraid that their employer will bring them back to the office before it is safe. Additionally, only 34 per cent of employees feel safe returning to work when there is a vaccine or treatment and 52 per cent of employees have growing concerns about the future of their company and their role.

Here are few tips that can help employers strategize for the new normal and address return-to work anxiety:

1. Communicate transparently and regularly
Consistent two-way communication is key to managing employee anxiety. Ensure that your teams receive regular updates about company performance, ongoing initiatives and any business-related information. Keep employees abreast of information that is critical to their role and to the success of your organization. Endorse transparency and engage teams to be a part of the growing conversation.

2. Implement Recommended Public Health Measures
Employees need to be aware of how the company is implementing, monitoring and enforcing government recommended public health measures. CDC provides a comprehensive guideline to help businesses and employers respond to COVID19 within the workplace. Provide your employees with assurance that preventive steps are being taken, closely monitor developments and update protocols as the situation evolves.

3. Provide training to leadership teams
Employees will depend on their managers and leaders to ensure a smooth back to work transition. Organize virtual training sessions that focus on managing a hybrid workforce, developing emotional intelligence and building a collaborative work culture. Arm your leaders with the necessary resources and tools to effectively address employee anxiety over return to work and provide healthy ways to cope with it.

4. Be Flexible
If your company has implemented remote work, consider surveying your employees to see how they feel about continuing that arrangement for a definitive period of time. Gauge the success of your remote work experiment by monitoring the productivity and engagement levels. Employees will expect flexibility, particularly if they are looking after children and parents. For employees that thrive better in an office setting, evaluate and plan for hybrid working arrangements.

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