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Britain faces an anxiety crisis as people return to work

Alaana Linney, Sales Director - Bupa UK Health Clinics
three women sitting beside table

While the physical impact of Covid-19 is becoming increasingly clear, Britain is also facing a mental health crisis with increased levels of anxiety as people start to think about their return to work.

As lockdown measures start to relax, people across the UK will be considering what the ‘new normal’ will look like. As a result, 65% of workers are now anxious about returning to the office, according to new research.

The most common concern was around social distancing while in office spaces – which was reported by 46% of those surveyed.

Elsewhere, the potential spread of infection while commuting and worries about the office not being clean enough, also ranked highly on the list of concerns. Plus workers are wary of colleagues, with two-fifths admitting that they’d now judge a colleague for coming into work with a cold.

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted us all, individually and as an employee. It has closed offices and workplaces across the country and forced companies to move their employees to full-time remote working.

As we move into the next phase and start to think about returning to the office, it’s important that businesses put procedures in place to support their staff to feel safe when returning to work and reducing the anxiety that comes with it.

No-one is sure what the ‘new normal’ will look like but it’s time to think about what we’ve learnt from the pandemic and implement new ways of working to support staff moving forward.

Here are my top tips to help businesses support employees return to work:

Introduce new policies – It is also a simple way to reduce anxiety. If employees need to commute using public transport, allow them work flexible hours so they are traveling at different times and avoiding busy periods. If you don’t have policies in place to support flexible working or allow employees to work from home, now is the time to introduce them. Our results show that employees want to continue some of their new working practices, and this is something businesses will need to consider moving out of the pandemic.

Educate yourself – Throughout the pandemic, we’ve created a number of different materials to aid employees working at home and to help them feel comfortable going back to their normal place of work. Make sure you and your teams are properly prepared for the return to work is really important to help reduce anxiety amongst staff. Managers’ guides need to be introduced for different scenarios the virus has caused. These should include supporting with bereavement and mental health issues. Listen to your employees and understand their different needs.

Provide access to services – Now more than ever people are aware of their physical and mental health and wellbeing and need provisions in place to accommodate that. Whether this is access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), virtual GP services or annual flu jabs, employees need to know that they have services in place to support them and their families.

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