Cultivating Wellness as You Reopen Your Business
Though there’s still some uncertainty around when non-essential workplaces can reopen, it’s likely that staff will have the option of returning to the office in the next few weeks and months. For those in HR or managerial roles, it'll be challenging to maintain a positive sense of office culture, with some staff still working remotely. Here, psychotherapist Jason Brennan shares advice on how to ensure employee wellness remains a top priority.
Before the pandemic hit, Jason notes that most companies had already made huge strides in this area. “We were definitely getting there”, he begins. “Wellness was becoming an important topic. But because of Covid, it’s now firmly on the agenda, which is great. We’ve seen fantastic uplift in organisations being conscious of and investing in wellness.” However, as we find ourselves possibly moving back a stage in terms of restrictions, it’s more important than ever for management to continue to support staff.
Lead by Example
Workplace culture starts from the top down, says Jason. If senior management is open and honest about the difficulties being faced, employees will feel more comfortable expressing their own fears and concerns. “It’s so important for leadership to model positive wellness behaviours”, he says. “They should talk about how they’re finding it difficult and what helps them. If they lead in that way, it sets the tone for staff and colleagues.” Senior staff could host regular virtual Q&A sessions, post a blog, or simply send a regular all-mail to check in on staff or share wellness insights. Showing that they’re also experiencing anxiety or worry around Covid isn’t a sign of weakness, it lets employees know that we really are all in this together.
Though it’s great that some staff have been able to work from home during Covid, it brings its own challenges too. Feelings of isolation have led to anxiety and depression for many people, yet their colleagues may be completely unaware. Jason recommends regularly checking in with teams to see how they’re doing. “Frontline leaders’ agenda should include talking about wellness”, he says. “If possible, they should organise a 20 minute non operations catch-up every fortnight.” He also notes that team members might feel awkward having that conversation on Teams or Zoom. “Sometimes it’s better to give people a break from the screen and pick up the phone for a chat instead.”
Finally, it’s important to recognise that many employees will be nervous at the prospect of returning to the office. Rather than enforcing it, managers should be patient and continue to offer support as staff rebuild their sense of resilience. “We’re creatures of habit”, says Jason. “Many of us didn’t used to work from home, but we adapted.” Equally, we’ll get back into the habit of going into work, but it will take time. “It’s totally natural to be nervous, but this is where resilience comes in. It’s about taking on the challenge, and not shying away from it. Avoiding certain situations can actually make things feel worse. The more we step up, the more resilient we become.”