By Stephanie Cox

Rising vaccination rates mean even more people are coming back to offices across the nation which is generally favorable news.  However, after one of the most stressful years in living memory, the transition back to the workplace could be a tough one for employees.

Three strategies will help you encourage their mental wellness as they re-adjust to the workplace:

Establish an emotional connection

The light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is brighter than ever, but it is still a stressful time. Employees may be handling the death of a loved one, the loss of a spouse’s job, or health concerns of their own. As they come back into the office, regularly checking in with them can go a long way. Not only does it provide support in a trying time, it opens up lanes of communication so you can assess and react to possible workforce challenges early.

A year-long break from in-person office work means your company’s culture will need to be re-defined and re-asserted. By being proactive about your priorities, you can hit the ground running as your employees return to the workplace.

Keep communication clear and above board

While the economy seems to be recovering as vaccination rates increase, there is still much uncertainty about the economic forecast and anxiety over lay-offs persists.  Add in changes to the work environment and new policies around working from home, and the rumor mill can ramp up quickly.

Tackle this on the front and back end. Prepare your HR department to shut down unsubstantiated rumors, and ensure executives answer questions quickly and honestly. Transparency leads to trust, and employees with a strong understanding of the company’s reasoning are less likely to harbor ill will.

Don’t leave resources on the table

Employee assistance programs exist for a reason, but often they are underutilized. Educate yourself about what resources your company offers and ensure your staff knows how to take advantage. Another option: check with your health insurance company to see if they offer counseling, training or wellness courses.  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.org) has a bevy of guidance and literature as well.

Frequent check-ins and managed expectations will be crucial as your staff comes back to work.

Source: “How to Manage the Mental Health of Returning Employees,” Paul Bergeron https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/how-to-manage-the-mental-health-of-returning-employees.aspx


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