Adapting to the new normal: how to support employees returning to the workplace post-pandemic

As lockdowns across the UK begin to ease, we’re emerging into a new sense of normality. But it’s important to acknowledge that this process could be very challenging for some. The prospect of socialising or returning to the workplace can be daunting and met with feelings of overwhelm and worry, rather than joy and excitement for newfound freedoms.

Adapting to the new normal: how to support employees returning to the workplace post-pandemic

At this time, many employers will be considering how to best support employees in making that transition back to the workplace. We have put together a few points to consider:

Offer mental health support

It’s only natural for employees to have mixed feelings about returning to work. Not everyone will be eager to get back to a ‘normal’ way of working. Some may have concerns about the safety of being back in the workplace and the potential effects on them and their family’s health.

A study by mental health organisation TalkOut, which surveyed 1,500 UK workers in September 2020, found that more than a third of UK workers reported worse mental health now, compared to before the pandemic. Additionally, more than two-thirds felt anxious and apprehensive about returning to work.

The support you provide is key. Schedule regular check-ins with employees and share information on how to access relevant tools and resources to support their mental, financial and physical wellbeing. Offering external support in the form of an employee assistance programme, that provides easy access to advice and counselling services, can be beneficial to employees needing a safe space to turn to for help and advice.

Conduct a coronavirus risk assessment

If you’re looking to bring employees back to the workplace, then a risk assessment is crucial to ensuring their safe return. Employers will need to identify which circumstances may cause transmission of the virus, think about who could be most at risk, and how likely it is that employees could be exposed.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides some useful guidance on how to put together a Covid-19 risk assessment, and what it should include. You’ll need to keep your risk assessment under constant review and follow the latest government and Public Health England guidance to manage your workplace environment.

Update and communicate your health and safety policy

When you’re building out your risk assessment, it’s useful to update your health and safety policies at the same time, as there is likely to be crossover. Make sure you also keep staff up to date with any policy changes so that everyone can play their part in ensuring the workplace is a safe place. Having access to this information and a clear plan to follow, will be reassuring for many employees.

Taking into account government guidance, there are some key areas to focus on. Firstly hygiene, such as undertaking regular deep cleans, providing hand sanitiser throughout the workplace, reducing touch-points, and ensuring employees clean down their workspaces at the end of each day. Social distancing is another crucial component; think about reducing crowds by using booking systems for desks and meeting rooms, implementing one-way systems, and limiting access to shared facilities.

Keep employees informed

Just like you are expected to provide a safe place for your employees to work, your staff are responsible for their own health and safety. But this means you need to stay on top of regular communication and training for employees.

Start by putting in place a re-induction process for staff returning to work, whether they’re coming back from furlough or returning to the workplace after working from home. Hold return-to-work conversations with staff to discuss what the first day back will look like and any changes in procedures. Be sure to share your revised policy with your workforce directly via email communications and, if you have a staff intranet system, upload this version.

Want to know more?

We’re delighted to partner with REBA to bring you an insightful guide into supporting employees’ health and wellbeing in the new normal. You can download your free copy here.

This article is provided by Simplyhealth.

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