Here are 7 ideas for how employers can ease employees’ anxieties before reentering the office:
- Company-Wide Communication: Create an open and honest dialogue addressing the discomfort and anxiety employees may be feeling about coming back into the office. By surveying employees preemptively before reentering the office, leadership can be aware of the reactions ahead of time and address them appropriately.
- Assigned Wellness Advisors: Employees will likely have questions as they begin to return to the office. Assigning a specific advisor to contact with questions can help employees feel more knowledgeable and at ease. This could be an HR representative or a member of the leadership team that has been involved with planning the return to the office. These advisors should be prepared to answer questions about the office, as well as support employees struggling with anxieties. Consider also creating a specific email address or survey where staff can submit questions anonymously too. Ensure any electronic communication is monitored regularly and staff know how quickly questions will be answered.
- Frequent Check-ins: Encourage managers to check in with direct reports regularly, both before and during re-entry, to see how they are adjusting. By empathizing with employee concerns, they may feel encouraged and less isolated.
- Promoting Mental and Telehealth Benefits: According to a Pew Research study in spring 2021, more than 20% of Americans are experiencing high levels of psychological distress. The last 14+ months of stress and uncertainty has likely impacted many employees in a variety of ways. Remind employees of the relevant health benefits available to them. If able, consider hosting other wellness events, like book clubs, social distanced yoga classes, meditation or providing other mental health resources.
- Social Distanced Events: While working from home, employees likely have been missing socializing with coworkers. Consider hosting safe, social distanced team activities such as an outdoor barbecue or happy hour for those comfortable with attending. Interacting with coworkers in a fun setting may help to off-set some of the anxieties initially presented with returning to the office.
- Branding your Return: Consider branding your return to the office in a way that is positive and personalized to the company culture. Along with branded social distancing and policy reminders, consider including encouraging notes and team slogans on signage around the office. While many offices are requiring employees to wear masks throughout the extent of the workday, consider designing branded masks and preparing packages of PPE and sanitizers if possible.
- Train employees ahead of time: Prior to returning to the office, consider hosting a virtual training to discuss expectations and lay out expectations for what will be expected of employees upon return and how the office or work atmosphere may have changed. Consider factors such as new health and safety procedures, dress codes, what the phasing in process may look like, and how to work with a hybrid team, if applicable. Addressing this ahead of time leaves less uncertainty and can help provide some comfort and security as employees can plan ahead.
While planning your return to the office, give employees time to prepare. If possible, inform employees of when they will be expected to return to the office even months in advance, even if it is just an estimate and subject to change. Having plenty of time to mentally prepare and a specific date in mind can help reduce the uncertainty of the situation.
For more information on when are how companies plan to bring employees back, structuring and leading hybrid workforces, vaccination trends and more, download our re-entry index here.
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