Companies are continually asking the question: how do I reduce my employees’ anxiety about returning to work?
There are a million ways to answer this question, but there are 3 basic solutions attainable to most.
To offer some insight, “of those who worked remotely during the pandemic and have returned on-site, reported mental health impacts have been mixed: 36 percent of respondents reported negative mental health effects of on-site work, while 37 percent report positive effects.” (Source)
Solution 1: Offer autonomy
One of the top motivations of any employee (and any human) is autonomy—the freedom of choice. You could offer autonomy for employees in a variety of ways. That could include offering a hybrid work schedule, where they are in-office for three days and home for two, or allow flexibility in the order the employees complete tasks. Working remotely in some way, even just for a few meetings every week, will enable employees to choose the environment and gives them a sense of power.
Autonomy can also be found in letting employers choose which kind of hybrid schedule they’d like. Some employees find it better for their mental health and productivity to be in the office. Allowing them to choose what works best for them will go miles in terms of providing a culture of health at your workplace.
Solution 2: Addressing physical safety concerns
Particularly for employees who don’t have the option of working in their home environment, you need to clearly address what you have done/are doing to help employees feel safe. Whether that is requiring weekly COVID testing, improved air filtering, social distancing, mask policies, etc.—make a plan and relay it to everyone.
As an employer, you are required to provide a safe working environment for everyone. While safety has become a somewhat grey area since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s up to employers to set non-discriminatory policies and positive attitudes towards helping to keep employees and their families healthy.
Solution 3: Communicate policy changes as soon as possible
Just as people needed time to adjust to working at home back in 2020, people also need as much notice as possible as to when they’ll be returning to work-in-person and what scheduling changes might look like in the meantime.
Employees need time to arrange for childcare, pet care, and other life requirements that they now need to find a new time and space for.
“During the pandemic, 40 percent of mothers and 27 percent of fathers spent an additional three or more hours daily on childcare and housework, per LeanIn.org and McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Report 2020.” (Source)
Three or more hours a day is significant in terms of the stress now felt by millions of Americans asked to come back to work in person.
Forty-four percent of respondents with children reported negative mental health impact, compared with 27 percent of those with no children in the home. While most of the conversation has been concerned with the work-life balance of working at home with small children in the background, a bigger conversation needs to start being addressed. Many families are growing more and more concerned with the Delta variant that seems to be having harsher effects on children. The thought of bringing home their coworkers’ germs is now another stressful situation, especially for those who have an immunocompromised family member.
In conclusion, the solutions that will work for one business may fail for another business. Not all employees have the same needs, and neither do companies. Companies would be wise to anonymously survey the concerns of employees and take their feedback seriously.
If you need help bringing more health and wellness benefits into your workplace, Aerobodies is always here to help, so contact us today!