Ensure a smooth transition back to the workplace
Working from home has presented its own set of challenges to our mental health and productivity. See our Coronavirus: Quick tips for Line Managers for ongoing support in this area. We also think that organisations should think carefully about how they support their employees as they return to their normal places of work.
Why might people feel anxious about returning to their normal place of work?
- Some people will need to feel physically safe (from catching coronavirus) before they can fully contribute at work1. They may have spent over a year shielding themselves or their loved ones, so spending time in the proximity of others at work may be daunting.
- The levels of seniority and social norms2 in workplaces may make it hard for some to speak out when they are concerned or anxious – will more junior staff feel comfortable about speaking out?
- There will be some people who can’t wait to get back into the social environment of their workplace, and who will throw themselves fully into the “old ways of working”. This enthusiasm needs to be considered in contrast to those who are anxious. However, unintentionally, you may have 2 groups of people who find themselves ‘in conflict’3,4
- Some people may have never actually met their colleagues, particularly if they have joined during lockdown. Remember how hard the first days in a new job can feel!
What can you as an employer do to help reduce anxiety? A physical and psychological return-to-work plan
- Ensure a covid-secure workplace (and let your employees know it is safe)1
- Gradually expose5 people to the working environment – perhaps operating a ‘hybrid model’ of workplace and home working
- Acknowledge and understand the legitimate anxiety that some will be experiencing
- Involve6 your staff in creating their safe place to work – make it their environment again
- Increase the number of 1:1 meetings you have in the first few days and weeks of returning to the usual place of work. Create an environment of psychological safety so employees feel able to talk about any difficulties they may be having, and be open to any suggestions they might make. Be alert to any changes in usual behaviour which may indicate that someone is struggling.
- Hold regular team meetings to discuss how you can collectively work together effectively7. Make sure they are held in a covid-secure way – don’t increase anxiety by asking people to be in closed environments where they may feel at risk or anxious
- Make sure you have the correct information about where to refer staff who are struggling. Does your firm have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)? What support are you offering at this time?
What will getting this right mean for your organisation and your people?
- Improved employee engagement through:
- reduced anxiety,
- feelings of “normality” and control
- increased trust in managers and colleagues
- improved job satisfaction
- A return to optimum productivity sooner
- An enhanced reputation amongst existing and potential employees
- Provides a model for future organisational change
Watch: New ways of working and mental health
Health & Safety Executive – Making your workplace COVID-secure during the coronavirus pandemic
Charlie Waller Trust – Working from home: Your Wellbeing Action Plan
Charlie Waller Trust – Coronavirus: Quick tips for Line Managers
1 – Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological review, 50(4), 370.
2 - Berkowitz, A. D. (2005). An overview of the social norms approach. Changing the culture of college drinking: A socially situated health communication campaign, 1, 193-214.
3 - Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P., & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European journal of social psychology, 1(2), 149-178.
4 - Stewart, T. L., Laduke, J. R., Bracht, C., Sweet, B. A., & Gamarel, K. E. (2003). Do the “eyes” have it? A program evaluation of Jane Elliott's “Blue‐Eyes/Brown‐Eyes” diversity training exercise 1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33(9), 1898-1921.
6 - Miller, D. (2001). Successful change leaders: what makes them? What do they do that is different?. Journal of Change Management, 2(4), 359-368.
7 - Kauffeld, S., & Lehmann-Willenbrock, N. (2012). Meetings matter: Effects of team meetings on team and organizational success. Small group research, 43(2), 130-158.
Advancing the mental health and wellbeing agenda
A guide to help senior leaders put in place measures to ensure that workplaces are mentally healthyView resource
Coronavirus: guide for line managers
A guide to help employers support staff mental health during Covid-19.View resource
Coronavirus: Quick tips for Line Managers
Tips to help line managers protect their staff’s mental health when working from homeView resource
Five Ways to Wellbeing posters
Five posters - one for each of the Five Ways to Wellbeing: connect, give, learn, be active, take noticeView resource
Life after lockdown Wellbeing Action Plan
During the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been through enormous change and some of us may experience further uncertainty and change in the coming weeks and monthsView resource
Low mood poster
Poster created in partnership with Bank Workers Charity highlighting common causes of low mood, how to help yourself feel better and information on where to get more help.View resource
Patent and trade mark professionals
Protecting your mental health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark professionalsView resource
Aiming high can sometimes come at a cost. This eight page guide looks at ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ – how to spot it and advice on how to develop effective interventions.View resource
Warning signs poster
A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.View resource
Work from home wellbeing action plan
This is a personalised, practical tool that we can all use whether or not we have a mental health issue. There are sections for you to complete, including a positive daily plan.View resource
Was this article helpful?Your feedback helps us create better content so if this article helped, please leave a like below and let others know.
The Charlie Waller Trust
The Charlie Waller Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales 1109984. A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales 5447902. Registered address: The Charlie Waller Trust, Rear Office, First Floor, 32 High Street, Thatcham, Berkshire, RG19 3JD.
Copyright © 2021 The Charlie Waller Trust. All rights reserved.