Employers need to reshape workplace well-being support
The worldwide epidemic has caused enormous disruption and turmoil in all aspects of life. Lockdowns on a national and worldwide scale resulted in a global shift in working methods, with remote and flexible work patterns becoming the norm.
Now that organizations are prepared to welcome employees back to work, a whole new set of issues will emerge. To mention a few, there is likely to be new anxiety – and possible conflicts – surrounding immunizations (those who are vaccinated vs those who refuse), ongoing concerns about being ill, new exhaustion as individuals continue their daily commute, and difficulty adjusting to a return to work.
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Continue to communicate
There has been a significant shift in a very short period of time, from adjusting to lockdowns and tier systems to readjusting as things begin to reopen. Employers must recognize the concerns that their workers are likely to have – but they must not make assumptions. Some employees may find the transition back to the workplace challenges, but others may welcome the chance.
It is critical to understand the spectrum of emotions that employees may be experiencing and then convey important information, such as company updates, workplace regulations about social distance and infection control measures, and health information, particularly with immunizations.
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Employers may wish to consider creating replies to employee inquiries such as:
- How can my company keep me safe if one of my coworkers refuses to be vaccinated?
- Can my boss tell me how many of my coworkers are now immunized?
- What if I don’t want to be vaccinated?
- What if I don’t feel secure going back to work?
Employers must do everything they can to assuage any fears and anxiety while still providing flexibility.
Take the initiative.
Line managers and those responsible for employee well-being must be on the lookout for warning signals and symptoms. Seeing an emotional or behavioral shift in a colleague was easy in the old era if you were sat next to them, but it might be more difficult to recognize remotely or even in a mixed work location model.
Employers must take a proactive approach by recruiting not just line managers to watch out for their workers, but also everyone to look out for colleagues who may be struggling. Team education on mental health awareness, including possible symptoms of mental health concerns, may help everyone understand and normalize it. Even when everyone has returned to work, it’s all too easy to slip into the trap of believing that everything has returned to normal and everyone is OK. People will continue to suffer but in various ways. Mental health education should be at the top of the priority list.
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Normalize a work-life balance.
Since cell phones and computers went from ‘good to have to ‘vital,’ the always-on culture has shattered whatever work-life balance that existed previously. According to statistics from a business assistance company, people at home worked greater hours during the epidemic – an extra two hours per day on average than their office counterparts. Gaps and downtime that workers used to have, whether during their daily commute or when traveling between meetings, are now filled with back-to-back online meetings at home. Everyone appears to be expected to be available at all times.
However, the epidemic has brought all of this to a head, prompting unions, pressure organizations, and charities to advocate for a “right to disconnect” bill to be incorporated in employment law. In April, the Republic of Ireland approved legislation granting employees the ability to disconnect from work outside of normal working hours.
Whether or not it becomes legal, companies are well aware of the costs of failing to address work-life balance, including work-related stress, burnout, and high employee turnover, to mention a few.
To adequately handle this, businesses must ensure that work-life balance is addressed in corporate policy, which is then repeated to their workforce on a regular basis, that it’s good – and expected – for employees to turn off after their typical working hours.
Speak up for yourself
Employees can help improve general workplace wellness by actively participating in talks about mental health and wellbeing, as well as contributing to the creation, management, and performance measurement of their employer’s wellbeing initiatives and action plans. These acts could range from taking part in a mental health employee survey to volunteering as a workplace mental health champion or sharing personal tales to help others feel empowered in their own situations.