The U.K is returning to work. 8th March saw the first stages of lockdown easing with the return to school for millions of children, the stay at home order is set to expire on 29th March and the crucial 12th April date when non-essential shops, businesses, holiday lets, hospitality and other businesses can open to the public once more.
It’s been almost 12 months since the first lockdown and it’s been a long tough year of constantly changing rules and challenging circumstances, the toll on mental health as a result of COVID19 is all too real, so what can businesses do for their employees to support mental health post lockdown and we return to working together?
Don’t underestimate the impact
Everyone has been impacted by the global pandemic, your staff and teams may have felt overwhelmed, isolated, been unwell as a result of the virus or bereaved. In many cases, individuals have been working at home for 12 months and we have all had very limited exposure to our colleagues and the outside world, as such it’s important to remember that however, your business chooses to get ‘back to normal’ post restrictions for many people it will not be as simple as returning to the 9-5 and picking up where they left off.
Start Talking Now
Whilst the 12th of April looms large for a range of businesses, for others, there is no need for a hard and fast date for a return to a physical location and this provides a chance to talk to your employees and identify any concerns or questions they may have about returning to the office or how things are going to work when restrictions are eased. Make contact with staff who have been out of the office and consider what can be done right now to alleviate concerns and make the transition a positive experience.
Have regular Check-Ins
If the past twelve months have taught us anything it’s that things can change, for many businesses the pandemic has revolutionised ways of working and will result in real long term change for employers and employees. As you set out your plans for your new model of working be sure to have regular check-ins with your teams, how do they feel about that? What do they need from you to manage the transition? Learn from their feedback and take the opportunity to do things differently.
Focus On Support
Staff who are returning to the workplace after weeks or months away are likely to feel nervous or apprehensive, whilst those who have been in the workplace may feel disturbed or anxious with the reintroduction of their colleagues to the physical environment. Consider what support different staff members might need, can you arrange visits to the office for those who have been away or a buddy system to ensure everyone feels they have some support through the transition.