1. Recognize the Changes in the Workforce
The last two years changed, well, everything. Just look at the pandemic’s emotional toll: isolation, uncertainty, illness, grief, loss, and more. A recent Gallup poll* revealed that U.S. and Canadian workers ranked highest for daily stress levels (57%) who report feeling stressed daily. Stress was even more acute for working women (62%) who are struggling with the lasting impact of being overworked caregivers, disrupted child-care during the pandemic, and lack of social support. Therefore, all employees, but women in particular, may need additional accommodation and support as employers consider reboarding and transitioning back into the office. Support may include: checking in regularly with employees, validating what you are hearing, being receptive to feedback, and encouraging employees to utilize well-being options, coaching, EAP, and therapy if needed.
2. Focus on results rather than hours at the office
Employers can develop new success metrics with employees with a clear timeframe. This communicates trust of your employees, respect for their work ethic, and the recognition that productivity is not always reflected in hours. Because of the changes for so many employees in childcare/schooling, elder care, and commuting during the pandemic and moving forward, it is important to survey employees to see what would help them achieve the results needed for the job. For some employees, this will be more time at home; others have a desire to be in the office and feel less productive in other settings.
3. Try a soft landing for return to work
Employers can ease up on attendance policies in the beginning if employees are returning to the office to help sort out childcare, commuting, and preparation. This may include staggering start times, starting gradually with a partial return to office schedule, and other hybrid approaches.
4. Expect and Plan for Uncertainty
As staff members entertain the prospect of returning to in-person meetings, conferences, and crowded office spaces, they may experience uncomfortable moments in terms of social interactions (e.g. should we shake hands or fist bump?), conflicts around masking, social distance, vaccine preferences, and anticipatory anxiety about living with the threat of the ongoing pandemic. The best way to navigate these potential landmines is to plan for them proactively. This includes both asking and listening to what employees express, and being willing to be flexible due to the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic.
5. Lead by Example
Employers can lead by example in terms of setting boundaries with work/home balance (e.g. not sending emails late at night or weekends, being clear about the urgency of items), taking care of themselves by participating in wellness opportunities with their employees, and letting their staff know that “we are all in this together.”
Looking for more Strategies for a Successful Return? Enjoy this webinar from studio BE's Tracey Meyers, Psy.D.
Guest post by Dr. Tracey Meyers.
Tracey Meyers is a Senior Facilitator at studio BE. In addition to her background in psychology, she is also an advanced yoga teacher, certified yoga therapist, and meditation teacher. Tracey has authored several publications, including articles and book chapters about integrative medicine, positive behavioral support treatment for different mental health conditions, and developing collaborative relationships in healthcare settings. Her new book coming out in June is called "Yin Yoga therapy and Mental Health" which is an extensive guide to utilizing yoga and meditation to support mental health and well-being.