Return To Work Anxiety: 7 Ways Employers Can Support Employees

When businesses sent employees home at the start of lockdown, people fell into two distinct camps: Some were keen to work from home and thrived. Unfortunately for others, their mental health suffered as a result of having to work in isolation. Now employers are asking their staff to return to the workplace, and it seems to be triggering more mental health problems.

So how can businesses support employees with their return to work anxiety? We explore.

How we Feel About Returning to Work

  • Before the pandemic, only 24% of Brits worked from home
  • Since the start of the pandemic, homeworking has risen to 46%
  • 76% of British respondents said they work from home more now than they did before
  • 43% said they think we will be back in the office within a year
  • 33% said they didn’t think things would ever return to how they were before
  • 46% of us say we would prefer to work from home more than we did before
  • 60% agree that they are more productive when working from home
  • 31% of would rather quit our jobs than return to the office full time

When asked how many days they would like to work from home, this is how the people of Great Britain voted:

  • Five days a week — 27%
  • Four days a week — 11%
  • Three days a week — 21%
  • Two days a week — 11%
  • One day a week — 5%

However, we’re not all suffering from return-to-work anxiety. In fact, it would seem that some of us are, in fact, many see returning to the office as a good thing. Surprisingly, 24% of British workers say they don’t want to work from home once the pandemic is over. 48% of us also agree that we miss being around our work colleagues.

Employee with a big smile on her face as she returns to the office
Some of us have really missed being around our colleagues and can’t wait to get back to the office.

Why Employers Should Care What Employees Think

7 Ways Employers Can Support Employees Returning to Work

Offer a Hybrid Work Model

Make the Office Safe

Communicate With Employees

Encourage 1:1’s

Employee suffering from return to work anxiety, slouched and biting his nails
Return to work anxiety is very real and affecting many employees who have never previously shown signs of mental illness. There are many ways employers can make their transition back to the workplace an easier one.

Provide an Employee Assistance Programme

Promote Work-Life Balance

For example, let’s say your company introduce a policy to take a one-hour lunch break and finish on time. However, if managers continue to work late, or through their lunch, employees may feel under pressure to do the same.

Managers should lead by example and actively encourage their teams to adopt a healthy work-life balance.

Change Attitudes to Sickness

However, they often don’t consider the impact it has when they pass their illness onto other staff who don’t get paid for sick days. Not to mention, other members of their family who may be on a low income.

Even having to call in sick can be a stressful situation for employees. For example, they may feel judged by a member of HR when they make the call. Or put under pressure to attend by an unsympathetic manager.

Presenteeism is no longer fashionable: Covid has brought to light the need for a change in attitudes from the top down. Bring your company up to date by educating your HR team and encouraging senior managers to lead by example.

A Few Final Thoughts on How Businesses Can Support Employees with Return to Work Anxiety

Having a plan in place to assist employees with return to work anxiety can make them feel welcome in the short term. In the long term, this will improve your employer brand and encourage others to see you as an employer of choice.

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