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Are Your Workers Anxious About Returning to the Office?

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Advice by David Price, workplace wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured 

Are your workers anxious about returning to the office? Here’s how to support them – advice by David Price, workplace wellbeing expert and CEO of Health Assured

It's been a few months now since lockdown began—and slowly, things are starting to return to normal. While some pockets of strict lockdown measures remain in place—and are likely to pop up as small outbreaks of COVID-19 appear—for the most part, retail and offices are seeing far more people return. The Prime Minister announced last week that from 1 August, employers will be able to ask employees who have been able to work from home since the lockdown to return to their workplace, provided they have taken steps to ensure the workplace is COVID-19 secure and social distancing measures are in place.

Naturally, some people are going to be a bit anxious about this. After all, we were all told a few short months ago that it was necessary to remain indoors, shelter and shun contact with others. And that was a challenging world to adjust to. So, being told it's all okay now might not convince some employees.

There are lots of valid reasons for people to feel apprehensive about returning. Public transport is likely to get busier, meaning more and more people in an enclosed space. And while the infection rates are low, they're still far from zero.

There are some ways to help employees manage their concerns, though:

  • Encourage them to be open: if someone has anxieties about returning, they might not feel too comfortable talking about them. Foster an open culture, in which people are encouraged to speak openly and confidentially about their worries, and you'll be surprised at how many people find that reassurance makes them feel a lot better.
  • Encourage routine: some people may have slipped a little, and their discipline is lacking. Encourage people to set their alarms and go to bed at the same times every day, to get back into the habits they may have lost.
  • Allow flexibility: alternatively, you could allow different working hours and remote work. Some people will have found working from home liberating—leverage this.
  • Be kind to yourself and others: if you're having difficulty and facing anxiety about returning to the office, try to stay positive. Practicing mindfulness at home and work is a proven way to relax and fend of those anxious feelings. Exercising—even just a lunchtime wander around—will help you physically—which always helps mentally.
  • Use the resources available: if your organisation has an EAP, this is perfect for anxiety. Access to free, confidential counselling is the ideal solution to mental health issues at work—it's proven to reduce workplace stress by as much as 35%.