Returning to Work: Lending Emotional Support to
Employees As They Return to the Office
While some companies have opted to retain a remote work setup, others have gradually begun reopening their offices. With the impacts of the current pandemic, the process of going back to work can be difficult for employees. The last year has forced everyone to make adjustments, so after many months of staying at home, employees are feeling mixed emotions about returning to the office. Some may be happy about going back to in-person work and seeing their co-workers, but many are rightfully anxious.
Managers and HR leaders play key roles in this situation as they will need to support employees as they go through this transition. Having anxious employees will be a given, so you must come up with a concrete plan with regards to the process of returning to work. This plan must include the exact steps you intend to take to make the work environment safe, as well as other protocols that you will implement to help lessen your employees’ fears and concerns.
Here are a few things that you can do to prepare your employees for their return.
Offer Emotional Support
First and foremost, you must address your employees’ emotions by encouraging them to share what they are feeling. Anxiety, fear, sadness, and worry will likely be some of the most common answers you hear since the thought of returning to the office can be daunting. Many are worried about getting infected, while others may be concerned about their children who are either still studying from home or have returned to school in person.
A good communication plan starts with communicating your support to all of your employees. Get to know their situation and validate whatever they are feeling because everyone is coping with the pandemic differently. Lending emotional support at this time can be powerful as it shows that you value your people. While you naturally want your business to run smoothly, you must put your employees’ well-being before anything else when making decisions. By doing this, you can help your team feel more motivated and reassured.
Maintain Consistent Communication
Part of creating that emotional connection with your employees is constant communication. This is particularly more important now than it was before because of the gravity of the pandemic. Your employees may feel overwhelmed more often, so staying in touch with them will encourage them to be open about whatever they may be feeling. Managers and supervisors can also be more empathic and understanding about work performance or potential emergencies.
Evaluate the Workplace
Before you give the official go-signal for employees to return to work, make sure you have assessed your workplace thoroughly. Social distancing requirements must be in place, so you will need to keep your staff at least six feet from each other. Likewise, you will need to provide hygienic supplies like masks, hand sanitizer and promote hand-washing in the office, as well as, provide deep cleaning as required.
Employers must also check employees’ temperatures and assess their health before allowing them to return. Following CDC guidelines for businesses will be essential to ensure you are complying with proper health measures.
Allow for Flexibility
Being understanding at a time like now is crucial. Your employees have individual needs, so if possible, offer flexibility in terms of work arrangements. If your company can get work done at home but still requires some days in the office, you can consider a blended schedule, where employees only come to the office on certain days.
Some employees may find it difficult to return to their pre-pandemic work arrangement because of children or loved ones. Expect that these concerns may arise, so make sure you come up with proper contingencies that allow some flexibility while still ensuring the work is accomplished.
During the past year, it felt as if life at work would change forever. Perhaps that is true. Regardless of your company policies for workplace attendance, showing your support will help your employees cope with whatever the future holds at the office.