Of all the negative impacts of COVID-19, people's mental health has taken one of the most drastic hits. The periods of isolation throughout the pandemic left people feeling lonely and stuck, which undoubtedly had a negative effect on people's physical and mental health. Many individuals have also felt lost and anxious due to the major life changes the pandemic forced all of us to go through.
Now that the world is gradually going back to normal and offices are reopening, people's anxiety is not disappearing — in fact, the thought of returning to work is making some people's anxiety even worse. After staying at home for so long, it's normal to feel anxious about socializing with colleagues face-to-face again, but there's things that employees and employers can do to ease the transition back to work.
In this episode of our Back to Work podcast series, Yoh UK's Internal Recruitment Manager, Becky Harrowell, and our host, Joe McIntyre, discuss the fears and anxiety many people are experiencing as they return to the office. They also explore strategies to help minimize this workplace anxiety.
Listen to our Podcast below:
A Gradual Return to Normal
Returning to the office should be a gentle, gradual process. Since people are used to remote work now, it would be overwhelming to immediately go back into the office 5 days a week. It's best to start with a hybrid return and let employees have a voice in creating their own schedule so each individual feels as comfortable as possible. Another helpful tips for employers is to ensure they make the office a clean space so their workers' health anxiety isn't further heightened.
And once employees do return to the office, they shouldn't abandon some of the healthy routines they developed while working remote. It's still important to take small breaks throughout the workday to clear their head with deep breaths or go for a walk, thus decreasing stress and anxiety. Well-rounded employers prioritize their employee's mental health, so being a good employer means allowing your team to take this time for themselves.
Checking In with Employees
Employers need to implement strategies to foster a good social community in the office while still remaining safe. One way to do this is by ensuring that your employees know they can openly communicate their thoughts and feelings to their coworkers and managers. Colleagues who listen to one another, show empathy, and offer support will likely feel less anxious after talking about their struggles with their peers as they experience the same transitions.
Becky and Joe also discuss why it's critical that employers check in with each of their employees individually. They should be setting realistic expectations for each employee as they return to the office and make sure that their schedule is working for them. In order to be motivated and productive, employees need to know that they can freely speak up to their employer if they are not adjusting well as they come back to the office. So if employers make it clear that they want to help their workforce have a seamless return to the office, it will go much better for everyone. Regular employee check-ins will create an environment that encourages mutual, honest communication.
If you're feeling anxious about your return to work, take solace in the fact that you're not alone and there are people around to help you through it. For additional insights into the pandemic's effect on social anxiety in the workplace, listen to our podcast here.