Supporting employee wellbeing during remote work and the return to the workplace

Whether your workforce is preparing to return to the office, working remotely, or doing a combination of both, it’s more important than ever to manage any negative emotions and anxieties among your employees.

Mental health continues to be a primary concern for workers in 2021 with reports of mental stress increasing dramatically between December 2020 and January 2021 in Canada, the UK, the US and Australia.

At this point, it’s vital to ask yourself if you’re doing enough to support employee wellbeing, especially when it comes to feelings of isolation, stress and providing access to professional help.

Staying connected when working remotely

What has become clear during the COVID-19 pandemic is that extreme feelings of isolation can quickly arise when teams are working remotely. What we are seeing now is an epidemic of loneliness running parallel to the pandemic.

A 2020 study conducted by York University found that loneliness was directly related to feelings of ‘anti-mattering,’ defined as feeling insignificant or invisible to others. For many employees, it can be harder to feel valued when working remotely. Similarly, their sense of belonging may be tested when they are not going into a physical workplace every day.

Thankfully, there are a range of different proven methods that improve the sense of connectedness between colleagues. Research from the University of Derby showed that holding ‘virtual huddles’ among lecturers at the start of every working day, for instance, generated better feelings of wellbeing, enhanced team cohesion, and a more compassionate team culture.

Any aims for increasing connectedness and compassion in your workforce should also include providing employees with access to expert, professional support when they need it, ideally 24 hours a day. By putting systems in place for better communication now, you can improve employee wellbeing while also making it easier to manage an eventual return to the workplace.

Preparing to return to work

Of course, returning to work comes with its own set of challenges for employee mental health, especially when it comes to the anxieties and stressors associated with the transition period.

These anxieties can encompass everything from childcare and parenting challenges to financial worries, as well as concerns over safety. Even the daily commute will probably look different for much of your workforce.

Specialized employee assistance programs are one way to make the transition smoother. With informational resources, interactive programs and support from experienced counsellors available to everyone, you can help to ensure that no one falls through the cracks.

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to make sure you have a comprehensive support network in place to help minimize disruption and stress as much as possible.

Managing anxiety in the workplace

Both at home and in the workplace, your employees may experience increased feelings of isolation, anxiety and stress. Whatever your plans for your workforce going forward, it’s crucial that you are prepared to put their wellbeing first.

Having readily-available holistic wellness support fosters a more positive company culture with increased employee engagement and cohesion between teams. A healthy, happy team is better equipped to cope with challenges in their work-life while maintaining higher productivity levels, and that’s true wherever they’re based.

Published by: LifeWorks, 

Neil King, President – LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell

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