As many states are set to reopen, employers are developing new procedures to keep their teams and customers safe. While this includes a lot of logistical planning, the physical well-being of employees is not the only thing to consider. Employees will have different emotional and psychological responses to these changes. Regrettably, mental and emotional health is discussed less frequently.
Anxiety is a natural reaction to an uncertain future. Employees not only worry about their physical safety but their job security as well. If employers don’t help manage this anxiety in their employees, it will affect engagement and productivity.
Here are five things that employers can use as a framework to build re-entry plans and assess progress in their employees:
- Make employee’s well-being your top priority. Employees want reassurance that their companies will put people first. Companies are offering more support to frontline workers and more paid sick days. Addressing employee concerns and remaining committed to their health and safety, especially during difficult times, goes a long way.
- Be transparent. Employees want regular, timely updates with transparent information from their employers. Open two-way information is critical for employers to deal with the economic impact of the current pandemic. Organizations that are involved with their team and engage in ongoing dialogue will be better prepared for these difficult conversations.
- Take action to implement public health measures. According to the CDC recommendations, employers should: extensively clean and sanitize work areas, encourage sick employees to stay home and implement flexible sick-leave policies, promote personal hygiene, provide protective equipment, and screen employees before entering the workplace. Employees need to know what measures will be implemented and how they will be enforced. They need to be reassured that steps are being taken and measures will be updated as situations evolve.
- Train leaders and managers to support employees. Leaders and managers will shoulder much of the responsibility when returning to the workplace. Some companies are holding ‘re-entry training” to discuss topics such as dealing with ambiguity, building personal resilience, developing emotional intelligence, and leading hybrid teams. Managers will need to be familiar with signs of emotional distress and regularly check in with their staff.
- Offer flexibility. The large-scale work-from-home environment has demonstrated that work can be flexible and change with the environment. As workplaces reopen, leaders should expect pressure to maintain flexibility, particularly from employees with children and sick family members.
In efforts to keep employees physically safe, employers also need to consider the impact of the current pandemic on psychological health. Growing anxiety with re-entry will impact health and work performance. Taking interest and addressing this anxiety will help companies cope with this transition and perform better in the long run.
I would enjoy hearing what you are doing to help alleviate “re-entry” anxiety – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Repurposed from Harvard Business Review