Returning to the office can be a very nerve wracking experience. Wether its fear of a disrupted routine, commuting long distances, or socializing with coworkers again.
Workers Are Hurting
All across the country, employers are creating and finalizing return-to-office plans. But for many who have been used to working from home the past two years, returning to in-person work isn’t easy. Stress from an ongoing pandemic should also not be treated as returning to “business as usual”.
According to a recent report from The Conference Board, employees are largely confident about returning back to the office. 82% of them feel safe enough to work in person now, which is 11% more than 3 months ago. Although this gives employers some relief, they should also be weary about their workers’ mental health. Concerns surrounding that topic are still present.
Additionally, of the 1,300 surveyed, more than 40% of workers said their mental health declined during the epidemic with 38% saying they were less engaged at work. This suggests that many people are struggling with burnout and are finding some difficulty engaging in their jobs.
Employers Need To Find Solutions for RTO
Ellen Kelsay, president and CEO of the Business Group on Health, agrees that employee well-being has been emphasized during the epidemic. She thinks more businesses will continue to recognize the need for their assistance as we enter a new phase of the epidemic.
As more companies plan for RTO/hybrid work environments, it is clear that employee mental health is rightfully being taken into account. So what can companies do to help support this transition back to the office?
- Remain flexible with your employees
- Communicate the transition effectively
- Ensure your employees understand, vaccination, mask wearing, and proper social distancing procedures
- Meet with your employees regularly to check in on their well being and mental state
What Can You Do To Prepare for RTO?
There are plenty of things you can do as an employee as well to prepare for returning to the office. Its easiest to first identify what it is exactly about returning to the office.
Health and COVID Concerns?
Spending too much time worrying about what you cant control about a pandemic ways heavily on us mentally. Instead of focusing on the doom of the situation its important to focus on what you can do. Masking up, getting vaccinated, and socially distancing are excellent ways to “do your part” to help stem the spread. Knowing that you are also doing everything you can to keep yourself safe, as well as others is also rewarding in its own way. Being vigilant can help ease the uncontrollability you may feel regarding these topics.
Structured Work Environment?
It is absolutely possible to be efficient at one’s work in a less structured way. We all have a unique and personal environment that we love to replicate in order to work comfortably. Returning to the structure of an office can make those of us who thrive in a fluid environment nervous or feel unaccounted for in an RTO plan. Try asking yourself what about returning to work might affect your productivity. Prepare to speak to management and explain to them how working from home is a better fit for your work. Discuss with them ways to create more fluidity for you while working. There is always the option they decline any solutions that work for you and even advocating for yourself is a challenge. Even with these fears, its always worth it to speak up for yourself.
Worry of Toxic Coworkers and the Stress of Office Culture?
Its a valid reason to worry about returning to the office when your previous experience in one wasn’t positive. Wether its a coworker you dont get along with or the social aspect of the office, you deserve to work in a space you are comfortable and productive in. When returning, speaking to someone about these worries and preparing a separate workspace can be a great solution if the space allows for it. Situated in a different part of the office surrounded by colleagues and coworkers that make you comfortable is a very feasible solution and can hopefully ease the worry of dealing with the aspects of office culture that you aren’t found of.
Learn From The Past
The number one thing employers can do to help with employee anxiety when returning to the office is to keep an open mind to solutions. Work with them to craft a plan that works. Some employees are worried about their health and safety when returning. Others may be worried about having their routine disrupted or may be are hesitant to return to a more structured work environment. Employers need to effectively be able to handle these questions and concerns because the standard for employees to return to the office has drastically increased. The workforce has learned it doesn’t need to return to the office, so it is up to businesses to provide a working environment that makes employees want to return.
Work/Life Balance After RTO
Just as important as crafting an RTO plan is making sure your teams have a better work/life balance than was previously commonplace in the office before. The pandemic allowed workers a lot of time to reflect on their previous work environment. A large number declared that office culture was a huge reason for resigning and looking for work elsewhere. Offices cannot function like the heartless labor factories of the pre-pandemic. A much larger onus falls on employers to create an environment that takes into account a better work/life balance as well as better and healthier office culture.