How to emotionally support your employees as they return to work
The Health and Safety Executive published it’s guide on 20th May in which it was made clear that employers must take reasonable steps to protect their workers and others from coronavirus. Whilst employers are conducting risk assessments and implementing action plans, it is only natural that employees may still be feeling quite mixed emotions about returning to work. Along with concerns about their work environment, employees may also be feeling anxious for many reasons including financial pressures due to a partner being furloughed, child care responsibilities and/or the safety of elderly family members.
Regarding concerns about the work environment, it is a legal requirement for employers to consult with all of their workers on health and safety matters. This two-way process allows workers to raise their anxieties, explain their thoughts, and provide ideas to influence decisions on managing health and safety. It also provides the employer the opportunity to explain the changes that are being made.
Regarding the wider elements, it would be advisable for employers to hold return to work meetings. These meetings can be used to actively encourage employees to discuss any situations that they are currently facing, and how they are feeling, so that their team leaders are aware and can provide support. This may go some way to easing employees’ anxieties and also reduce the likelihood of any surprises being raised at a later date. These meetings could be in the format of a normal return to work meeting following any episode of sickness, whilst being tweaked to reflect the current situation.
Employers may also want to conduct a mini re-induction meeting with employees due to the length of time that they have been away from the workplace. This will provide employers with the opportunity to update employees on changes to the business as not all employees may have been furloughed and to re-issue any relevant policies and procedures. It is advisable that senior managers attend group meetings to show their support.
Finally, employers may wish to train volunteers from within their workforce to become Mental Health First Aid Trainers. Experts are issuing dire warnings about an impending psychological tsunami. Earlier this month the charity Mind spoke to more than 8,200 people and found that almost a quarter of people who had tried to access mental health support in the past fortnight had failed to get any help. Organisations such as Mind and St John’s Ambulance can train volunteers to spot the signs of mental illness and provide them with the confidence to step in and support a person who needs assistance.
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