Supporting employee mental health as they return to work

Four tips to ensure a smooth transition for staff

Adam Saville
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Providing emotional support and assessing workspaces are among the best measures recommended
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Providing emotional support and assessing workspaces are among the best measures recommended

Since last Wednesday (13 May), following confirmation from the UK Prime Minister, the national population has been allowed to take unlimited exercise outside and people who cannot work from home should return to the workplace, avoiding public transport.

Assess your old workspace

He said, those businesses reopening this coming week will have to maintain some elements of social distancing post-lockdown.

"Before employees return, review your previous work environment, and think about how you can enforce these measures effectively," explained Street.

"Think about whether staff will be able to keep a two-metre distance between each other. If not, you will need to adjust the layout of your workspace and consider other practicalities like how you will hold team meetings and maintain good relationships with existing customers or clients.

"If your workplace has been closed for a while, consider a deep clean, paying close attention to things like phones and keyboards, so employees feel safer when they arrive."

Street said employers need to make sure they have the right supplies in place. Health guidelines state the importance of basic hygiene measures like washing hands regularly, using hand sanitiser and disposable hand towels.

"Checking there are plenty of supplies for employees to use is the simplest way of helping relieve some of the worry, supporting staff in staying hygienic in a busy office," he added.

Meanwhile, some industries may need to wear PPE, like face masks when they return to work. "If this is the case, you should be prepared and ensure you have a supply staff can use, as well as asking them to bring in their own masks if they have them already," Street added.

Think about vulnerable staff

Even though the government has begun its phased return to work for UK businesses, it will still not be possible for many vulnerable staff to return, Street explained.

"It is important for wellbeing and resilience to ensure connectivity for members of staff who are still self-isolating."

He added those forced to continue working remotely may face psychological hazards linked to increased loneliness and isolation.

"Risk assess for these and consider increased connectivity through for example the use of virtual water coolers, so teams can stay connected," he said.

For employees that may have suffered the bereavement of a friend or family member, there is no statutory right to bereavement leave, however Street said responsible businesses should be sympathetic to requests for additional time off if required.

He said: "There are plenty of wellness options which can be offered to staff remotely too including cognitive behaviour therapy, which can be delivered safely and effectively by phone, video or email for flexibility and privacy."

He said other types of therapy, which are also accessible remotely, include counselling (such as relationship and bereavement), interpersonal therapy, and access to psychiatric assessments.

This article first appeared on our sister title COVER

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