How to manage employee anxieties returning to work
ACKNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTAND
For the past 18 months, it is important to acknowledge that everybody has been on their own journey. Some may feel very comfortable returning to the office again; others may find it overwhelming whether they are anxious about using public transport or being in a large office space with lots of people. Understanding each individual’s fears and anxieties with returning to the office will help you determine the type of communications strategy you will need to put in place. You could implement a staff survey or email an individual to get the employees’ perspective on their feelings; this will help you determine the level of support needed.
BE CLEAR IN YOUR SUPPORT
Throughout the pre-communications, in going back to the office, it is key to make sure that you are clear on what support is available to employees. This may be an arranged conversation on some of their worries and how they can overcome them. If transport is the issue, perhaps you can arrange a staggered arrival time so that employees aren’t arriving all at the same time or during the rush hour.
COMMUNICATE YOUR COVID-SAFETY MEASURES
A large part of the anxiety around returning to the office is the COVID-safety procedures in place. As an employer, it is your sole responsibility to communicate this before your employee’s arrival. You may want to create a video or photos of the step by step procedure explaining the sanitisation process and listing all the measures that have been taken. This will calm the nerves of some and make your first day back smooth and concise as people will know exactly what to do from watching the video or looking at the step by step guide.
PROVIDE STAFF WITH ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT OPTIONS
As public transport starts to fill with commuters again, it’s time to look at alternative options. Transport to work has been one of the biggest fears people have within returning to work. Why not explore other transport options and have employees discuss the alternative routes, whether that be a longer journey to work because they are walking or catching a less busy train. As you communicate these options with staff, it will understand what time they will be arriving.
SEND AN EMPLOYEE SAFETY KIT
Send all the following communications to employees accompanied by a safety kit. By providing them with some essentials to help them feel safe and secure whilst they are in the office and on their journeys to and from the office. This will help with any potential anxious thoughts about returning to the office.