After 12 long months working from kitchen tables and home offices, it’s nearly time to get back to the workplace. It’s all very exciting – but it’s natural to feel a little bit nervous about the big return to the real world.
We’ve been living and working in our safe, protective bubbles, and now face the daunting prospect of everyday life. Have no doubt, many people will find this adjustment as big as the initial shock we felt back in March 2020. It will certainly be noisier as we re-acquaint ourselves with things like traffic, public transport, meeting colleagues and strangers, and getting home safe after late-night work drinks and social events.
Many companies will have a ‘get on with it’ attitude, but the apprehension is real. We’ve all been watching the modern world evolve through our TVs and phone screens, and the rise in civil unrest and uncertainty doesn’t exactly make it an appealing place to want to re-integrate into. In fact, research from last summer carried out by Bupa Health Clinics found that 65% of British workers were anxious about their return to the workplace.
It is, of course, in employers’ interests to support the workforce through this process. Happier, more confident workers will be more motivated, more productive and more loyal. This is critical to a swift recovery post-pandemic. Here are some ways companies can bring workers back feeling safe, secure, informed and in control:
Give workers a roadmap
Over the past year, workers have had to deal with a level of change and uncertainty they have never experienced before. Remote working, furlough schemes and redundancies have left many feeling anxious about their future, and at least one in six are experiencing mental health challenges, according to research by Mind. Work is one of the biggest causes of stress in people’s lives, so employers have a responsibility to help people feel more confident and in control in their daily lives.
Clear communication over return-to-work timings and expectations is the minimum requirement. More forward-thinking employers will go the extra mile to minimise wider disruption and uncertainty. This could be a ban on company communications out of working hours, or it could be additional support for personal and family safety.
By having greater visibility into what’s happening around them, people will feel more in control – whatever the situation, either at home or whenever they leave their home – so they can live and work with confidence, passion, control and, most importantly, positivity.
Manage information overload
A big priority for employers will be keeping workers focused, productive and positive. Some may experience sensory overload, so help them better manage the avalanche of information they receive. This applies to their personal lives as well as at work. The feeling of being overwhelmed could, for example, be driven by the volume of apps and online data sources they are using to get through everyday life. Think beyond their day-to-day job to get to the root cause of the problem.
Technology is a part of the challenge, but it could also be a part of the solution. If applications were more relevant, streamlined and personalised, it would be easier for people to get the right information they needed, at the right time, without being overwhelmed. Integrated and associated data sources could help employees to live safer, happier and healthier lives.
Look outside of work
Good employers will go one step further and attend to more aspects of workers’ lives, including families and loved ones. Knowing everyone is safe and secure is important for employees to give their full attention to work. Accepting that people’s wellbeing does not exist in a vacuum and families are a core part of the picture is an important first step.
By considering all aspects of a person’s life, companies will be able to understand how to support them in the most meaningful way possible. This will help more people embrace life and bring a more positive and unencumbered mindset to work.
A lot of us feel like we lost some control and freedom over the past year. We were told what to do, how to behave, when we could see our families and how often we could visit the shops.
Now we have the opportunity to start making our own decisions again – across family, health, home, tech and travel. Supportive employers will ease the transition back to work by helping the workforce to access and interpret the information around them. This will help them to make good decisions which will, ultimately, benefit both the employer and the employee.
Companies with more engaged employees experience 21% higher profitability, according to Gallup, so companies cannot underestimate the power of workers being back in control of their own destiny. Employers need to help workers get a 360-degree view of what is happening around them – so they can feel secure and build confidence in an uncertain world.
Founder of Chief Executive Officer of Imabi, a personal safety and intelligence platform, providing everyday awareness for individuals and their loved ones.