As England continues to move through the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’, and as more restrictions start to lift, employers and leaders should be thinking about best practice when it comes to helping staff ease back into the workplace. This is particularly crucial given that many have spent long periods of time on furlough or working from home. As such, leaders must create plans that help support workers with this transition and safeguard this health and wellbeing.

It is important to remember that things will not just return to how it was pre-pandemic. Everything, including people, have changed as a result. Some employees will have had a bad experience, whilst others will have enjoyed the slower pace of life and increased family time. As an employer, it is important not to lose sight of these changes and take appropriate action to engage the team, as you are relying on them to get everything back up and running.

As such, it is crucial that employers consider this when drawing up return-to-work plans. But how can leaders help ease employees back into the workplace? Check that staff are comfortable when returning. It may sound simple, but ensuring that staff are happy and comfortable with returning to a central place of work is key.

Mental health support

The coronavirus crisis has had a huge impact on employee mental health as data has pointed towards. Research from found that almost one-third of employees said that their mental health had declined as a result of the pandemic. Other data has also pointed towards the prevalence of burnout during this time. For example, 2020 data from LinkedIn’s found that burnout had doubled from March (2.7%) to April (5.4%). As such, when returning staff to work, employers should have appropriate mental health support in place. This could be in the form of Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), structured wellbeing programmes, or greater flexibility over when and where staff work (hybrid work model).

COVID-19 safety

Business leaders and employers should be following COVID-19 safety guidelines set out by the Government, though it is possible that some will still be nervous about returning. In fact, 2020 data found that more than a third of workers are concerned about catching COVID-19 on the job. While this study was conducted last year, it is possible that some staff will still hold these concerns. As such, communication regarding the measures in place and health and safety procedures could help staff feel less anxious about returning.