Returning to the Workplace after Lockdown; How to support your team’s mental health

Returning to the traditional office after a year of remote working can present unique challenges.

As restrictions begin to loosen, more and more of us will soon be returning to the traditional office. For some members of your team, this will be a welcome and exciting change. For others, it can increase their anxiety, particularly if they have health anxiety around COVID-19. With that in mind, here are a few tips for supporting your team’s mental health and addressing any concerns they may have about returning to the office.

Engage Early

You may not be returning to the office tomorrow but that doesn’t mean you should put off planning. Engaging with your team now shows that you value their input and helps build trust. It can also help you identify issues that may take time to resolve such as team members who’d like to continue working from home. Surveying your team to figure out their biggest concerns can be a great way to reassure them.

Be Flexible

Some of your team may need an individualized plan for returning to the office. Engage with your team to assess their individual needs and address their concerns. Some team members may wish to continue to work from home or would prefer a blended work schedule. If you can continue to offer that flexibility, then do so as this will increase buy-in to your plan.

Support Your Team

The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. Some have thrived working from home while others have struggled. Some of your team may have had COVID-19 or lost loved ones as a result. Link in with your HR department and ensure that you have a good support system in place for your team.

Don’t Rush

Adapting to working in the office again is going to take time. Asking your team to go from remote working to office working 5 days a week will be a massive upheaval and can create anxiety, stress and tension. A phased approach can be the best way to avoid this as it allows everyone time to adjust.

As a leader, you will have to set an example for the rest of your team. It’s important to empower your team by allowing them the flexibility to decide when and where they work where possible. It’s also crucial to be clear and consistent in your communications with them.

Most importantly though, be empathetic. The past year has been difficult for everyone and empathy can go a long way to building trust and enthusiasm for returning to the office.