Prior to the pandemic, office life consisted of light chats about the weather and the weekend. But as employees return to the workplace after months of lockdown, watercooler conversations are likely to be very different.
According to ONS data, almost half of employed people were working at home during lockdown (46.6%). This is likely to have affected employees in different ways and returning to the office after such a long time will be a big adjustment for many.
Employers and managers will need to focus more on employee wellbeing to help support people returning, but there’s lots of ways everyone can help support their fellow colleagues. Showing more awareness and understanding, and having open conversations about how you’re feeling will help people who may have struggled during lockdown adjust to the office, as well as make everyone feel more connected as a workplace again.
Suzanne Steed, Nurse Specialist at healthcare technology company Reframe, which works with employers to support employee health and wellbeing, shares five top tips to keep an eye out for employees and colleagues once you’re back in the office.
- Pay attention to your colleagues’ body language. Have they become more nervous or anxious since being back in the office? If someone has a noticeable change in temperament since returning to the office – particularly if you know they’ve had an especially rough lockdown, such as increased carer responsibilities or even lost a family member – ask them if they need a walk or cup of tea and give them the chance to talk.
- Just because you are back in the office, doesn’t mean that the learnings from lockdown should stop. Keeping up communication through different channels that people have used through lockdown such a WhatsApp, video calls, or instant messaging platforms can be useful to continue check-ins and keep up team morale outside of the office.
- Make time to talk about topics other than coronavirus in the office – introducing some of the more common conversations back in like good television and weekend plans, will help people feel more at ease and distract them from thinking constantly about coronavirus.
- Ensure social events and your colleagues’ milestones are still celebrated, something that may have slipped during lockdown. Or perhaps consider holding a joint celebration one day for people who had birthdays during lockdown, to make sure they know they’re still valued and cared for.
- Most importantly, ensure that all employees have the opportunity to talk to someone if they are struggling, whether this is a manager or someone else in a senior position, in case the new normal is getting too much.
Suzanne adds: “In a survey we conducted earlier this year, a fifth of people said they don’t feel close enough to their managers, or have the rapport to discuss health and wellbeing concerns over phone or email.
“This is something that needs to change rapidly in the new way of working and we all need to play our part in supporting each other. With the pandemic showing just how quickly everything can change, it is crucial that companies have steps in place to offer the maximum support for their employees whether that is done through managers or peer to peer support.
“We’ve carefully designed a new service that that will be able to take the stress off of employers, and ensure that employees have the benefits that they need to feel secure with their health and wellbeing in their job.”
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