As workplaces reopen to in-person work and employers begin welcoming employees back to the office, workplace mental health may be an additional challenge to add to already full plates. Employees may be struggling with anxieties over their safety, balancing work and responsibilities that remain at home, and generally doing the mental work of returning to a sense of normalcy after a global pandemic.
Some may have experienced COVID-19 themselves or have lost loved ones to the virus. Others may want to return to work but struggle to do so because they feel unprepared or uncomfortable with the change. There are ways to support workplace mental health and create pathways toward a better workplace environment overall in the process.
Open Lines of Communication
Create an environment of transparency where employees are aware of safety protocols to keep them safe. Address any lingering concerns related to both the pandemic and virus transmission and the strain of returning to work in challenging times. Hold welcome back meetings to reintroduce employees to the workplace and any new policies to keep everyone safe.
An employer may not have information available to them about an employee’s mental health. After all, plenty of personal information background checks leave out in both the hiring process and possible rescreening.
Additional empathy and understanding will go a long way toward building trust and addressing workplace mental health.
Some employees may have found that they’re just as productive working from home as they are in the office. Others are happy to get back into the swing of things in an in-person environment, ready to share skills they’ve learned while working remotely.
There likely won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to how employees handle post-pandemic work and their workplace mental health. Consider creating avenues for individualized responses to employees’ unique situations and putting accommodations in place to give everyone what they need to be productive and feel safe.
Perhaps some employees can continue working remotely if that is more efficient and works for the company. Are there opportunities for flexible schedules for those balancing work and home responsibilities, such as childcare? Is there capacity for mental health days built into an employee’s benefits or handled informally?
You may even find employees asking for additional accommodations for in-person work, such as physical barriers or protective gear, mainly if they are in an at-risk group.
Access to Services
The pandemic has been an upending, unprecedented event. It can be challenging to know about the services employees will need until those services are sought out. If your organization already has a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP), make sure your employees know any additional follow-up services available to them.
If services aren’t formalized in an EAP, employees should still know where they can go if they experience workplace mental health issues. Supervisors should know where to send employees and handle mental health concerns as they come up, which may mean additional training is necessary ahead of the transition and return to work.
A Sense of Community
Companies where employees feel a sense of community and where their concerns are not only listened to but addressed are more likely to be all-in on any organizational changes. Transitional periods like this can become more manageable when everyone feels like they are part of a team.
That sense of community can allow supervisors to feel more comfortable checking in with their employees and kicking off a dialogue about how they’re doing since returning.
Maintain any positive cultural changes that grew over the last year. You may have learned more about your employees just by being more observant during those Zoom calls and the pets and children that may have entered the frame. Continue learning about employees as people and connecting in a way that makes the workplace a safe place for them to share how they’re doing.
Attending to workplace mental health concerns and fostering that sense of community has the added benefits of happier employees. That can translate to a better work output, reduced absenteeism, and a healthier workforce overall.
Seek Help When You Need It
The last year has been challenging for everyone, employees and employers alike. Here at DataCheck, we can help take some of the pressure off with our comprehensive employee screening services. In addition to standard background checks, we can even conduct social media searches compliant with privacy laws. We’re here to help you make this transition period as safe and efficient as possible.