As offices start to reopen and invite their team members back, it’s important to keep mental health front and centre. Many HR professionals and business leaders were already shifting their focus to mental health in the office, and many more discovered the importance of emphasizing it during recent lockdowns. Employees who were suddenly shifted to working from home, placed in isolation, or needing to provide additional caretaking for children or relatives had an elevated risk of developing a mental health issue.
As people make the shift back to the workplace, their mental health needs to stay a priority. Managing a return to work with the right supports in place will make the office a more pleasant and welcoming place to be.
Creating a Support Network
Many employees were jarred by the shift to remote work because it meant a loss of connection with their coworkers. As you shift back to operating in the workplace fulltime, employees may be stressed to find things aren’t as they once were.
Many workplaces will have changed in the blink of an eye. Layoffs and firings could mean an employee’s “work best friend” is no longer employed with you. Other employees may feel more isolated in the office than they were at home, surrounded by family. Still others might not be back at the office right away due to social distancing, or physical contact is limited. Some people may just find their relationship with other coworkers has changed.
It’s important to create a support network for your employees during this time. Encourage them to reach out to each other and discuss issues. While social distancing may still be in force, it can be helpful to encourage informal group meetings. You might create a system where employees will check in on each other. This could even be an extension of supports you created when the entire team was working from home.
Seeking Balance for Return to Work
It’s important to remember that just because they’re back in the office doesn’t necessarily mean an employee’s life has gone back to “normal.” Their partner or another in their household may still be laid off. They might not be able to find childcare for their kids, or they could be sharing the care of a relative with another.
Employees might also find coming back to the office every day stressful. Some employers may be able to offer shorter shifts or increased flexibility, allowing employees to work a few days from the office and a couple days remotely. This can help your team reintegrate in a way that feels more stepped and less overwhelming.
For some businesses, there may be a drive to just “get up and go,” which could encourage employees to work longer hours or more shifts. They might feel pressured to get every done at once, because there’s increasing demand or a backlog or because they feel guilty for “missing” so much time.
Be sure to help employees manage their workload and balance their schedule so they don’t feel overwhelmed or overloaded.
Encourage Mental Health Practices
Your employees can benefit a lot from online tools to help them manage their mental health. They may find it beneficial to meet once a week with a support group or even a counsellor.
Other employees might want to grab an app that helps them organize their schedule or increase their productivity. Still others might appreciate the ability to carve out some “me time,” to quietly reflect or even meditate.
All these practices go a long way to helping employees balance their mental health with their duties as they return to work.
Of course, employees should be encouraged to look after their mental health after they’ve successfully returned to work too. The habits they form now could help them bolster positive mental health in the future too, which is good news for the whole team.