For 6 months, many of us have been forced to work from home. With the government now recommending that employees come back to work if they can, some people are understandably feeling anxious about returning to the office.
In fact, 65% of British office workers are feeling anxious about returning to work. Common concerns include not being able to socially distance (42%), fears about commuting (38%), and worries that the office won’t be clean enough (37%).
If your team is returning to work, it is important to make sure you support them to make the transition from remote working to the office easier.
Have a Place to Communicate Anxiety
This could be as simple as telling your team to email you, but many employees might feel embarrassed about their anxiety, so you could set up an anonymous survey so that your team can tell you what concerns they have about returning to work. By doing this, you can make sure you act on any concerns as soon as possible. For example, if someone is worried about hygiene, you could add extra hand-washing stations around the office.
Show Your Team What the Office Will Look Like
A common cause of anxiety is simply not knowing what the ‘new normal’ will look like in the workplace. Tell your team early what measures will be in place so they can mentally prepare themselves. If you can, doing a video tour of the office and the safety measures in place could massively reduce the anxiety of your team, as it insures there’s no surprises on their first day back.
To start with, have your team come into the office just one or two days a week and allow them to continue working from home for the rest of week. This will help in two ways. Firstly, having less people in the office at once will reduce anxiety about getting ill. It will also prevent your team from feeling overwhelmed.
Understand Everyone’s Anxiety is Different
Some people will be excited about getting back to work, others won’t. It’s very unlikely that everyone’s anxiety will be the same, so make sure everyone has the opportunity to talk about their anxiety so that you can accommodate everyone. If it’s possible for some people to continue working from home, make sure you give people the option to do this. They might feel more reassured that the office is safe a couple of months down the line, but ignoring someone’s anxiety and forcing them back to work when they could work from home will be detrimental to their well-being.
Provide Extra Support for Anxiety
This could involve offering all employees a session with a therapist to help talk through their anxiety, or it could involve more long-term support. Either way, make sure that this is available to all employees to help them manage their anxiety.
Even when you’re back in the office, social distancing means there might be less meetings and therefore less contact than usual. Whatever it is that you’ve been doing to stay in touch whilst working from home, whether that be group chats or daily email updates. Keeping in touch and keeping everyone updated can help reduce your team’s anxiety.
Offer Incentives and Wellness Programs
This serves two purposes. Firstly, it can help your team feel valued and supported, but wellness programs can also make sure your team stays healthy and happy which is vital to tackle anxiety and reduce the risk of COVID-19 complications. Any program or perk that improves employee wellness is key, which could include a box of healthy snacks for your office.