As the country moves forward with its roadmap of easing COVID-19 restrictions, more office-based workers will be expecting a return to an office environment. Mental health concerns will be an issue for both employers and employees following the impact of COVID on personal lives. In this article, Melanie Knight from Blue Tree HR Solutions and HR Consultant to Horizon Construction identifies some of the concerns from both sides and how to prepare for the future.
The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating consequences for people across the world. Everyone has been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another; some have lost loved ones; everyone has missed special events and we have all had to give up seeing friends and family for prolonged periods. As we start to see the end of the pandemic and slowly return to the workplace, it will be natural to have feelings of hesitation, anxiety, and stress.
These feelings are across the board, and employers and employees both share concerns.
Workplace concerns for Employees
Some employees have been on furlough or working from home, and the thought of returning to the office can be extremely daunting. There can be a feeling of disconnection and worry that you won’t know how to converse with colleagues anymore. The prospect of being social can be a concern, especially when most of us have spent much of our time at home, and for some, in complete isolation.
Another common concern if you have been on furlough is forgetting how to do your job and having to start from scratch again or not being able to pick things up quickly. You may also be worried about catching COVID, as the virus has not been eliminated and with new variants being talked about. Many people are still concerned about becoming sick, even after vaccination. These are all perfectly natural and understandable feelings that we all share.
How to cope with returning to the office
If you are concerned about COVID in the workplace or returning to work, there are some ways you can deal with your feelings and ensure your mental health is not negatively affected. If you are concerned about your safety in the workplace, speak to your employer. If you are feeling that you don’t have the right PPE or concerned that others are not adhering to rules, communicate with your employer and share your concerns.
If you are returning to work and feeling anxious about getting back to the workplace, make sure your employer knows how you feel and if there is anything they can do to make things easier for you. You can also prepare for your return by re-engaging with your colleagues, as everyone will probably share similar concerns and feelings. You may also want to start getting back into a routine before your return, and perhaps, if your employer permits, visit your workplace in advance.
Workplace concerns for Employers
Employers are not immune from these feelings either. They have concerns about ensuring the wellbeing and safety of their employees and how they can support them in the best possible way. They also worry about having the necessary training in place in case employees are feeling overwhelmed about returning or following a return to their job. Of course, there are also concerns about the ongoing threat of COVID on business operations and protecting employees on an ongoing basis.
The important factor for both employees and employers is to communicate with each other. Sharing concerns and helping each other is imperative for a successful and safe return to office environments. Employers will need to be alert to any signs or indicators that employees are struggling. It may also be necessary to provide training to employees to improve confidence within their role and to provide knowledge in any new working practices. Understanding and trust between both sides will be vital. In these unchartered waters, everyone will likely feel the same way. Remember, we are all in this together. Our mental and physical health is paramount.
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