As lockdown restrictions begin to lift, a wave of new concerns has got UK workers feeling worried when it comes to returning to the office. According to recent research, 60% of Brits say they would only feel comfortable returning to the office once everyone has been vaccinated.
With people starting to head back to the office, the team at Instant Offices gives an insight into why it more important than ever for businesses to retain talent, reduce presenteeism and maintain employee morale.
According to a recent survey by HSE, the top concerns about returning to work in-office include:
- Social distancing: 60%
- Workplace safety: 56%
- Workplace cleanliness: 55%
- Spreading illness to family or friends: 45%
- Being away from family: 16%
The most-requested workplace changes among UK employees can provide a guideline for businesses looking to provide better support and ease post-lockdown concerns:
- Flexible hours: 59%
- A 4-day working week: 45%
- Fewer people in the office: 37%
- Fewer meetings: 33%
- Mental health days: 32%
How Businesses Can Support Employee Mental Health Right Now:
Break the Culture of Silence
There is still a stigma around mental illness that makes employees more likely to suffer in silence than share information with their managers or bosses.
Now is an ideal time for leaders within businesses to talk more openly about mental health and create a culture that encourages conversations around these issues. Taking a mental health day or asking for support should never impact an employee’s reputation or how they are perceived.
Keep Socialising With Your Teams
Remote working has its perks, but a lot of people are feeling isolated right now. British workers are missing the days of office banter and face-to-face meetings.
Environmental Psychologist & Wellbeing Trainer Lee Chambers says dealing with a lack of social connections during the outbreak has been a massive challenge for many people. “In these turbulent times, social connection is vital to our wellbeing. Without the ability to go out and socialise in the way we usually would, we have to be more creative and have more intention in our connection with others during this lockdown scenario. In some ways, the enforcement of rules around movement has caused us to slow down. This actually gives us the chance to connect on a deeper level.”
Lead By Example
With many employees working remotely, managers need to be more conscious of the challenges different households face. Encouraging flexibility, self-care and regular check-ins is key to reducing presenteeism and stress, and ensuring employees facing any issues can be identified and supported. Encourage transparent conversations and put action plans in place for team members who need help.
Introduce (or Keep Up) Team Activity and Training Sessions
With employees using tools like Zoom to connect with the office remotely, now is a great time for businesses to encourage morning catch-ups, remote Friday drinks, yoga sessions or even company training sessions. Encourage team members to take a class they’ve always wanted to try or to attend industry-related Webinars. This is a great way to support employees looking to upskill themselves and stay busy.
Four Things Employees Can Do to Manage Stress
- Get a Better Night’s Sleep: ‘Coronasomnia’ (corona insomnia) is causing a rise in sleepless nights across the UK. The number of Brits struggling with sleep problems has risen from one in six to one in four.
Some of the best ways to create a better sleep pattern include reducing caffeine intake, turning off screens, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, and ensuring our bedrooms are as dark as possible.
- Take a Digital Detox: With little control over the situation and our social feeds jam-packed with COVID-19 related news and uncertainty, now is a good time to limit the amount of media we consume. The goal is to ensure you are informed enough to make decisions but not so overloaded with news headlines that it induces anxiety. A good idea is to choose a few authoritative resources and check in with them daily while muting channels that disrupt your sense of wellbeing or using a tool to manage screen time.
- Be Strict Around Work-Life Balance: Lee says it’s important to schedule the day into bite-size chunks and work in waves. “Honour your ultradian rhythms, which run between 60 to 90 minutes, and then take 15 to disconnect and take a break. By working in waves, we become energised and find it easy to switch off from work when the end of the days comes.If we can’t disconnect from work, we face the real possibility of burnout and making mistakes. I have my clients have a digital sunset, where they tidy their workspace ready for the following day and put everything work-related in that space. They visualise shutting down from work, and then walk around the block again, this time leaving work, and returning home. It’s crucial also to schedule enjoyable things in the evening. Do a Zoom call with family and friends, or partake in hobbies and interests that are not work-related.”
- Create a Calm Workspace: It’s not always easy to find an ideal space to work from at home. When deciding which space to work from, look for an area with natural light and temperate, fresh air, and minimal distractions. The space must be free of clutter and have comfortable furniture.
With the whole world facing unprecedented challenges around COVID-19, now is an ideal time for businesses to place a sharper focus on talking about employee mental health, whether teams are working onsite or remotely.