Managing employee anxiety when returning to the workplace

May 15, 2020
5 minutes read

After months of responding to the threat of COVID-19 by staying home, restrictions have started to slowly lift. For many, the thought of returning to work will cause their anxiety to spike again. Many people will be concerned about putting themselves and their families at risk by potentially being exposed to the virus.

Simple outings like going grocery shopping or taking public transit have been considered to be frightening activities, therefore, understandably returning to a regular routine will feel overwhelming, especially at first. Regardless of where it stems from, it’s important to have effective tools and resources to keep anxiety at bay. Working together with employees is the best way to support their mental health and wellbeing throughout this process.

Communicate your plan

The most important step as an employer is to ensure you have a plan and are able to communicate it to employees in a simple and straightforward manner. Now, more than ever, they will be looking to their leadership team for guidance and an effective and safe plan for returning back to the workplace. If you have managers, make sure to prepare them on what their role will be throughout this process and how best to support their teams throughout the transition.

Put safeguards in place

Although restrictions will inevitably lighten, this does not mean things will go back to how we once organized our workplaces. Work on coming up with a plan on how to deal with capacity in an organized and controlled environment. This may mean creating a schedule of when certain employees will come into the office. This will help ensure that you’re keeping numbers down by only allowing 50% capacity to give more space between employees.

You will need to account for everyone who is in the office, in the event that you are required to do contact tracing if one of your employees contracts COVID-19. By having a schedule of who comes into the office, this will help keep track of the whereabouts of your employees - meaning no popping in and out of the office for the foreseeable future.

If you're re-opening your retail store, it's your job to ensure your employees feel safe once customers begin entering your space. Here are a few tips to increase the safety of your customers and employees:

  • Redesign your store so that there is an appropriate distance between your employees and the customers.
  • Keep your store clean with heavy-duty cleanings several times a day by wiping down often touched surfaces.
  • Enact a "no mask, no service" policy for both your customers and employees.

We recommend listening to your local government officials on best practices for re-opening your offices and stores to ensure safety for all.

Remain flexible

It’s important to remember that not everyone will feel comfortable returning to work. By offering employees the choice to continue to work from home or to return to the workplace is critical to helping them manage their anxiety.

We are still learning about this virus, and until there is a vaccine it will be crucial to remain flexible on when to tighten security measures and loosen them again. Luckily, if security measures do roll back and tighten up, your workforce will likely need a shorter window to adjust to working from home.

Combat misinformation

There is a lot of unfiltered news circulating on social feeds which are not always fact-based. It’s your role to help provide helpful and reliable information as it can help ease the fear of returning back to work. Have clear instructions on what to do if the employee or someone in their family show symptoms or become ill. Make sure your procedures have been thought out before allowing employees to return to the workplace, knowing that you may need to adapt as you go.

Encourage self-care

This is a stressful time for everyone and so providing different resources to your employees can help them cope. Encourage employees to practice self-care on the job in whatever method works for them; yoga or meditation, going for walks, connecting with teammates, or at-home hobbies. If your employees are experiencing issues with mental health, you can provide them with resources, or time off to recharge and re-energize. Showing empathy for your team and appreciation for their work will go a long way.

The bottom line is that your employees need you, and you need them, and together you will work through this and come out on the other side stronger than ever.

By Ashira Gobrin - Chief People Officer

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

Create your truly free Wave account today.

Let's do this