How To Help Staff With ‘Return To Work Anxiety’

After over a year of dealing with seemingly relentless lockdowns, the end is in sight.

The worries that we have had over the past 12 months have included anxiety, fatigue, and work stress, all of which have soared as a result of the incredible changes to people’s lives in all domains because of Covid-19.

And yet it’s with trepidation, not excitement, that the workforce emerges from lockdown – something that businesses must understand for the wellbeing of staff.

We fear change – we feel loss and confusion as a result of it – and despite the general feeling that all will be well again as pandemic restrictions are lifted, an overwhelming sense of anxiety is sweeping the workforce as the prospect looms of returning to work.

Data from users of mental fitness platforms 87% highlights significant anxiety about being in social situations again and concerns that work-life will get harder once restrictions are lifted. For example, almost half of workers (47%) believe their work-life will get harder in the coming months. Women are more likely to believe this, by approx. 9%.

For organisations that wish to help their staff through the process of returning to work, Caroline Outterside, a psychological therapist at 87%, has the following advice:

  • Be sympathetic to the individual:

Understand that the transition process is personal and people’s ability to respond to change is different and unique. Individually, people should be encouraged to trust in their own abilities and adaptability. This will help staff build trust in the competence, credibility, and motives of the employer.

  • Create an open environment:

Individuals must feel like they are working in an environment that encourages open communication and empathetic listening. Doors and ears should always be open and this includes providing opportunities for staff to give feedback, which will, in turn, encourage people to come forward to share their feelings and ask for help.

  • Outline short-term goals:

A sense of direction from the top is essential for those feeling a little lost and any initiatives that can boost morale to encourage people to pull together will help. Shorter-term goals that allow staff to experience some quick wins will be very powerful in helping improve motivation.

  • Find success in the change:

Guide staff through the change process by helping them identify areas that are different, yet better. This will promote resilience amongst staff and encourage patience in this process, in turn improving overall confidence.

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