Making the shift from remote work back to a physical workplace may be a source of anxiety for employees and employers alike. What will the new work environment look like? And how will workers be kept safe from COVID-19? 

Part of Canada’s economic recovery involves returning to physical workspaces. Safely opening up will require a people-focused approach. Employees need to feel comfortable and confident that, as an employer, you’re following proper protocols and are actively prioritizing their best interests. 

Supporting Mental Health in the Workplace

It goes without saying that the pandemic has been stressful. 

It’s normal that your employees might be feeling uneasy about returning to work, or are feeling anxious about the entire situation. 

You might be feeling the same way, too.

According to CAMH, 70% of Ontarians expect a serious mental health crisis as the pandemic continues. Although COVID-19 cases have decreased relative to its peak, the effects of the virus should still be taken seriously. 

Although finally being able to return to a physical workplace is exciting for some, it can be worrying for others. The pandemic is not quite over just yet. 

As such, prioritizing mental wellness in your return to work plan reinforces to your employees that their health is your top concern. 

Watch Out For Burnout 

As people have been juggling both personal responsibilities and an often increased workload during a pandemic, employee burnout has been increasingly prevalent.

Taking time off is just as important as the time spent at work. Consider encouraging your employees to take time off, even beyond their normal vacation allowances if possible. Rest is vital to ensuring productivity and to maintain long-term employee satisfaction.

Everyone needs the time to recharge, regroup, and regenerate.

Help Manage Employee Anxiety

Good leadership means actively listening to your employees and helping them manage their negative experiences. 

Here are some ways you can help your team with managing anxiety:

  • Set up regular touchpoints where your employees can openly share their thoughts and concerns with you
  • Make any mental health resources available and accessible; this could include access to any mindfulness and meditation programs, or mental health resources from your insurance providers
  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day, and that working longer than normal hours should only be required when necessary

Transparency Goes a Long Way

Although the pandemic seems to be winding down (fingers crossed) with businesses beginning to open again, the workplace won’t function the way it did pre-pandemic – at least not yet.

Be prepared to reimagine the post-pandemic workplace. What safety measures will be put in place? What policies should be implemented in order to quell your employees’ anxieties and put them at ease?

When helping your employees transition back to the workplace, it’s important to consider what your new workplace environment will look like and what policies will be in place.

Be open and honest, and ensure that your employees are informed of your goals for returning to work. Make sure to include them in any updates as they occur.

Additionally, let your employees have a say in how the return to work might look like for you and your business. You may even consider creating a return-to-work task force that includes your employees. This will show your employees that you value their concerns, and that their voice will be heard in the process.

As you think about returning to the workplace, here are some ways to create a safe space for your employees: 

  • Create an environment that encourages open and honest communication with your employees, giving them the chance to express concerns
  • Collaborate with members of the staff to map out a plan on how returning to the physical workplace might look like. As well, inform them of the steps that you’ll take to address their concerns
  • Share a workplace policy that prioritizes their safety, making any adjustments as needed and updating accordingly

Helping Your Employees Thrive 

A return to work plan should champion your employees and put them first. 

You may even consider creating a customized benefits package that is suitable for your employees individual needs. 

Whether this entails additional vacation days, or having access to mental wellness resources, you can create a comprehensive benefits package that is suitable for your employees and your business. You can click here to learn more about the advantages of providing an attractive benefits package. 

Returning to the physical workplace can seem intimidating, and the last thing that you want is a discouraged employee. Hearing the needs of your employees and addressing those concerns will be paramount to the success of your business.

Ultimately, every individual is unique, and so is every business. As such, every plan for returning to physical workspaces will need to address those unique concerns. 


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