HOW TO COPE WITH THE RESTRICTIONS THIS WINTER By Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist…
The pandemic has taken its toll on employees’ mental health. COVID-19 fears have driven heightened emotional states among professionals. A lot of employees are still reluctant about going back to the office. Many would prefer to maintain their virtual office until all the lockdown restrictions are permanently lifted. Unfortunately, it isn’t always a feasible option for a lot of companies.
As employees are coming back to the office, businesses need to tackle the emotional turmoil that lingers in a post-pandemic environment. Pandemic stress can translate into a variety of distressed responses, ranging from high anxiety levels to elevated social fear. Therefore, the post-covid workplace needs to address mental health as a priority before it affects the team and the overall company’s survival.
Make your workplace welcoming
After almost a year spent working from home, the return to the office will be a shock for many professionals. As people are creatures of habit, it is fair to assume that the workplace layout will clash with the routine people have established while working from home. While companies can’t build a home away from home for their team, they can help make the move smoother with a welcoming and people-focused design. Simple changes, such as using colour as a psychological tool to influence the mood, can go a long way. Typical white-wash office walls and decor would have a detrimental impact on the team’s morale. Motivating reds, soothing green, and stimulating yellows can help elevate the office emotional score.
Share your COVID-19 plan
Unfortunately, the office layout needs to adjust to introduce new health regulations. Desks, for instance, have to follow social distancing rules when there isn’t an option for additional safety installation. It’s a good idea to reach out to health and safety professionals, such as Carlos Ramirez safety expert, who can help identify potential risks in the workplace. The typical desk office now needs to consider additional health and safety requirements:
- Sanitising surfaces
- Providing sufficient hand-washing stations, including soap and hand gel
- Ensuring constant ventilation
- Reducing physical contacts and unprotected face-to-face interactions
- Adding desk COVID screens where necessary
Make mental health a part of your strategy
In a pre-covid world, company perks would typically include social events, leisure activity vouchers or discounts, restaurant schemes, holiday discounts, etc. However, in a post-pandemic environment, it’s important to promote health and safety as a priority. With regards to stress, it would be meaningful to introduce mental health support for employees among your company perks. Providing free on-call counsellors or EAP programmes can take the emotional burden off the team.
Review working hours on site
Are 40 hours a week still the way to go for office workers? Recent international studies showed that employees could achieve the same level of performance when working only 4 days a week instead of 5. Therefore, considering the introduction of a 4-day week could tackle the fears of working in a crowded office. It would also guarantee that teams can get plenty of spare time to relax and manage stress levels.
Going back to the office doesn’t come without consequences. Fear, stress, and anxiety are likely going to be part of employees’ routine in a post-COVID environment. It’s in the interest of the business to take actions and reduce the emotional toll on their staff if they are going to avoid high turnover and absence rates.