How we're treated at work has a huge impact on our productivity and morale. The pandemic forced many to shift their physical location of where they worked. This rise in working from home saw some feel isolated and craving face to face interaction. Others relished the time saved by not commuting.
Whether your organisation is planning to allow remote working indefinitely or is adopting a gradual return, here are some ideas of how to thrive.
"We're all in the same storm but on different boats" was a phrase often used to describe the height of the pandemic. As time moves on, it's just as important to continue being sensitive. Personal circumstance or experience could mean an employee's perception of risk may be very different to your own.
A good idea is for managers to ask individuals privately how they feel. Are they happy to return to the workplace? Would they prefer to work from home? Or would they consider a blend – the 'hybrid' approach? For clarity, record and shared any decisions made in writing.
This goes hand in hand with being compassionate. Offer reassurance by emphasising what has been changed since the start of the pandemic. Or the measures you are continuing to take to guard against the spread of Covid-19. Perhaps you're staggering start times? Rented extra car parking spaces for staff who don't yet want to return to public transport? Installed new ventilation systems? Actions speak louder than words. So let your colleagues know.
Make sure you're clear with staff as to what's happening. Regular communications, even if there is no major news, are less anxiety-inducing than out-of-the blue announcements.
Any natural inclination towards FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is amplified when it comes to the workplace. This is especially true if you have a hybrid workforce of home and office workers. If you can't have everyone physically in the same space, maybe consider continuing your regular video conferences and presentations?
Returning to the office may bring up 'first day at school' nerves for some of your workforce. This is particularly true of those who were on furlough or joined you during lockdown.
Encouraging 'Getting to know you' sessions across the working week, in the guise of Bake-off challenges or sweepstakes for charity, could make all the difference. 'Water cooler moments', birthday celebrations… The close bonds forged during these low-key, unofficial forms of networking help foster a positive working environment.
It's already a legal obligation for employers to provide First Aid training. There is also a growing trend to recruit Mental Health First Aiders, also known as MHFAiders. These are colleagues trained by accredited organisations such as St John's Ambulance to recognise the early signs of mental ill health. A new Bill to make mental health first aid in the workplace a legal requirement had its first reading in Parliament in March 2021.
We are here to support you and all your staff, including any MHFAiders. Unlike some other private health providers, the Doctor Care Anywhere ethos is to treat both physical and mental health as one. From experience, we know they go hand in hand.