Here’s a Guide to Help Beat the Anxiety
Months of remote work and the unknown of what returning to the office looks like undoubtedly causes stress and anxiety. To help tackle these concerns and avoid employee burnout, there are five common factors that employers need to consider.
- Establish a culture that prioritizes mental health
- Embrace emotions
- Take care of your employees
- Offer flexible working hours
- Document and communicate return-to-work policy
But taking care of your employees goes beyond benefits, workload support, and coaching and development programs. It also means having systems and measures in place to deal with anxiety surrounding return-to-work. It means promoting a balance between home life and work-life throughout remote work, and it means understanding what employees need or want from their employers.
A recent study conducted by Envoy finds that 66% of employees are worried about their health and safety when it comes to returning to work.
“Concerns are even more pronounced among people of colour (78%) and Gen Z (under age 25) employees (75%) who fear a return to the workplace could compromise their health and safety.”
As we approach a “new normal” that we’ve universally come to know as return-to-work, we all share a unique commonality since the big event. Around the globe, we’ve had to adapt to change and uncertainty surrounding our jobs, careers, and future. So, as excited and nervous as we all are when we approach the transition back to the office, the question is, “what does it look like?”
The unknown poses concerns and challenges that cast a shadow over the prospect of going back to the office. Just know you’re not alone, and whether you’re a manager, executive, employee, intern, or other contributors to the workforce, there are ways to combat return-to-work anxiety.
Tips to Help Relieve Return-to-Work Stress
Take a breath
Nothing good comes from the vicious circle of anxiety, self-doubt, and rhetoric. When anxiety hits and the unknown is looming above you, take a pause and breathe deeply. Regulating your vitals is the first step toward calming down – and controlled breathing is the place to start.
Not sure how to start? There are plenty of apps, articles, videos, and other resources to help with breathing. Here’s one to get you started.
Whether it’s with your leaders, coworkers, or employer, find support by sparking a dialogue about your concerns and our present realities – your questions and experiences may even be shared among your organization.
Anxiety associated with change and uncertainties can manifest itself in many different ways. Get ahead of stress by taking a moment to connect with yourself, understand your needs, limits, and reactions to certain feelings.
As our unique predicament evolves, you can feel good about knowing that while you can’t control your situation, you can control how you take care of yourself.
Be kind (to others and yourself)
Patience and kindness go a long way, particularly during a challenging time. The situation we are all facing together is uncharted territory; mistakes will be made, and things may certainly not go according to plan.
As we all navigate these changing times, be mindful by practicing patience, understanding, and grace with others and yourself.
Reach out to someone in your network or seek support from a professional who has the tools and resources to help you navigate through this tumultuous time.
Remember, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to go through this solo.
Heads Up, Leadership
If you’re responsible for a team – be it a team of two or 100 people – refine your leadership skills and help your employees transition to return to work by following these extra steps.
Silence leads to speculation, and speculation leads to distrust, unfounded “facts,” and lack of confidence. Making an effort to ensure your employees have all the appropriate information in advance enables them to ask questions and get answers.
Get their input, inquire, strategize together and have open dialogue every step of the way. It may feel a little “extra,” but there is no such thing as overcommunication regarding these high-risk, unprecedented, and complicated scenarios.
Be clear, thorough, and empathetic in your communication. When your team is in the know, they will feel valued and supported.
Despite having a plan, change is bound to happen as we progress to return to work. Including your employees in the conversation and getting their input will help smooth out the kinks and allow for efficient response to unforeseen or newly developed issues. Throughout everything, though, remember to be honest about realities and expectations. By doing so, you’re empowering your team and establishing a sense of control over the situation despite a level of expected uncertainty.
Kindness, patience, and empathy are fundamental to a healthy workplace, and we’re not just talking about return-to-work. Of course, these are great traits to live by regularly, but as your employees face the uncertainty of transitioning back to the office, it’s more important now than ever to practice patience and understanding.
We’ve all been on a video call where we can hear children in the background pleading for their parents to play with them, or someone’s dog is losing their marbles at a squirrel passing by, or the internet drops at an inopportune moment. The list of interruptions is endless.
Additional patience is required considering the reality that our employees are going through a lot at home, whether that’s expressed in their performance, productivity, or behaviour.
Employers that show flexibility and support regarding workloads, schedules, and other measures can help employees find balance.
When it comes to corporate culture, ask yourself, “Do my employees feel like they can speak up?”
Creating a culture that demonstrates safety and compassion is crucial. Employees – and leadership – are looking for a safe outlet to voice their concerns and need to know it’s okay to be honest about how return-to-work poses complex challenges in their day-to-day.
Watch for Signs
Signs of distress manifest in many different ways. Whether you’re a leader or not, keep an eye out for verbal and non-verbal queues that indicate employees are having a hard time or experiencing anxiety navigating return-to-work.
Take action by investing in employee assistance programs and communicate these resources clearly to staff. Furthermore, take the time to plan virtual team-building events, town-halls, and other informal all-staff gatherings. These events and activities will help build morale, making the transition back to the office a bit more manageable. Don’t forget to include remote workers!
There’s no right or wrong way to handle anxiety, but there are methods to help navigate through the stress of what’s next. As the workforce broaches the topic of physically going back to the office, we crave the fundamentals, the details, and a solid plan we can get behind. With time and the right leadership, these questions can be answered and effect a safe and smooth transition.