As companies start thinking about the end of COVID-19 restrictions and going back to the office, the inevitable question is: how to go about it safely?
Lots of thought is being put into the physical side of things, with offices considering hygiene, occupancy, and distancing requirements. But equal thought needs to go into protecting employee mental well-being, by ensuring everyone feels protected and cared for throughout the transition.
You’ll have different considerations depending on what your company plans to do (SHRM has some good information about that here). But whatever route you choose to take, some things will change and some will stay the same.
…but no matter how you return to work, there will be a few universal factors to consider.
“It's more important than ever to listen to our bodies and minds. We've become accustomed to living at work—but that doesn't mean we need to work 24/7. You have to step away, turn off your computer, and take a deep breath. Right now it's important to give back to yourself, recharge, and focus on what gives you energy.”
—Scott Domann, Chief People Officer @ Calm
This can also help them to feel less overwhelmed by any additional responsibilities that they may have in their home life (for example, if they have kids who still haven’t returned to school). After all, it’s easier to stay mentally strong in the face of change if you know that your work life can flex around you to fit your needs.
“At Okta, we implemented a ‘Dynamic Work’ model, which gives our employees flexibility and choice around how they work. With Dynamic Work, employees can work from wherever makes most sense for them, choose whether or not they want to go into one of our global office hubs (and how often they go in, if they do), and can adapt their work schedule to fit their home life and other responsibilities. It’s working really well.”
—Natasha Vo, Global Employee Experience Program Manager @ Okta
“What our people needed the most was flexibility in their schedules—so that was the first thing we gave them. If someone needs to step away for an hour or two to do virtual schooling with their children, that’s fine. That's their focus, and we need to work around that. Employee well-being is the most important thing, even if it means sacrificing the traditional nine-to-five.”
—Jennifer Aylwin, Global Benefits Director @ Nuance Communications
“We’re training at least one HR professional to be a Mental Health First Aider at each of our international locations, and they offer support and are equipped to point struggling employees in the right direction to get the help they need. We’re also developing broader training for managers and employees around spotting the signs of stress and burnout, managing stress, and developing healthy coping strategies. We want to reduce the stigma around speaking up about mental health.”
—Colin Jansen, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Manager, International @ The Kraft Heinz Company
It’s going to be a long road back to any sense of normality, and the path ahead remains uncertain. But you can help your employees—whether remote, in a physical workplace, or somewhere in between—by building a culture of resilience in your organization and working mental fitness into your workplace strategy.
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