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How to Support Staff Wellbeing During Covid-19 and the Return to Work

how to support staff during covid 19 and return to work

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    Staff health and wellbeing is always a hot topic for responsible employers, but it has never been more crucial as during the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees have had to cope with an enormous amount of upheaval in their working and personal lives, which has undoubtedly taken its toll on mental health.

    So how can you support your employees during the latest phase of the pandemic and help them make the transition back to the workplace while safeguarding their wellbeing?

    Supporting staff wellbeing during Covid-19 relies on an awareness of mental health, regular contact with employees, and access to wellbeing resources. As restrictions ease, transition back to the workplace requires thoughtful management, with consideration given to long-term flexible working.

    The OutThere experts have compiled some useful tips on how to support staff mental wellbeing during Covid, as the vaccination programme gathers pace and we move towards the planned easing of restrictions in June 2021.

    The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Employee Mental Health and Wellbeing

    Loneliness, anxiety, fear, anger, grief, stress, sadness, boredom – the Covid-19 outbreak has triggered so many negative emotions linked with poor psychological health. The charity Mind has reported that 60% of adults consider their mental health to have declined during lockdown. So, it is likely that the majority of your workers will have felt the effects to some degree.

    Perhaps the most obvious impact on employee wellbeing is as a result of social distancing and the isolation of homeworking. Conversely, there will be those individuals who are anxious about returning back to the office after so much time in isolation, especially those who have been shielding.

    The virus has created sources of unprecedented stress during lockdown including fear over job security, managing workloads while homeschooling, supporting vulnerable relatives, losing loved ones to the Covid-19, fear of contracting or actually contracting Coronavirus.

    Those on furlough have reported feeling a lack of purpose and self-worth, which can lead down the worrying path to depression. Even the most resilient of workers may be suffering from burnout, after 14 long months of upheaval, uncertainty, and sheer emotional exhaustion.

    Needless to say, the fallout from Covid-19 continues to have a devastating effect on mental health, in turn affecting employee productivity, motivation and engagement. So how can you continue to support your employees during Covid, as we (hopefully) head back towards the “old” normal?

    5 tips on how to support staff wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic

    At the time of writing, a large majority of employees are still working from home, or furloughed, with the prospect of returning to the workplace edging ever closer. The return to normal is likely to be met with as much trepidation as it is relief, so supporting your staff’s mental health and wellbeing is crucial in the coming months.

    Here are some ideas from the OutThere team to support your colleagues’ wellbeing during the final stages of compulsory homeworking and the transition back to the workplace.

    1. Promote a positive work/life balance

    The OutThere team are strong advocates of the elusive work/life balance. With so much time spent at home during the last year, this has become an increasingly difficult thing to achieve.

    While staff remain at home, encourage them to take regular breaks and partake in activities that promote wellbeing, such as exercise and getting outside. Prompt them to structure their working day to avoid burnout and maximise quality time with their family.

    As we all head back to the office, it will take a period of adjustment to get back into normal working routines. Once again, encourage regular breaks, fresh air, and manageable working hours. Schedule frequent 1 to 1’s and wellbeing check-ins that focus on personal development as well as work goals. Don’t have unrealistic expectations about things returning back to normal overnight.

    Many staff have cancelled annual leave in the past year, but a return to work shouldn’t be a barrier to taking time off. Where appropriate, encourage staff to use their leave and eliminate any guilt around taking holiday.

    Crucially, as a leader, remember to take care of your own wellbeing – if you’re working yourself into the ground, then you can’t fully support your colleagues.

    2. Stay in contact and keep staff informed

    Now is the time to ensure regular contact with your employees, via phone or video calls. Covid restrictions allowing, you may even consider meeting face-to-face. Keep staff informed as to how your organisation is managing safety at work to allay any fears, and ask them if they have any concerns about returning. Be sure to keep them up-to-date about your plans beyond furlough to alleviate any anxiety they may have.

    Make time for general chat and let them know that their wellbeing is a priority to you and the company. This caring, supportive approach will help to build your staffs’ confidence and emotional resilience in preparation for returning to work.

    3. Consider flexible working long-term

    Many workers have struggled in adapting to work from home, but equally, some have thrived. There will be those that have enjoyed managing their time more freely and found their quality of life improved by ditching the commute. There will also be those that are anxious about returning to a social environment, even once social distancing is lifted.

    Where it is appropriate to your business, aim to be flexible in your approach to working, even when a return to the office is possible. You could find that a more creative and agile way of working improves staff wellbeing, motivation and productivity. It may well be the one positive change to come out of the Coronavirus crisis for leaders and employees alike.

    4. Make use of mental health and wellbeing resources

    Your organisation may already have wellbeing resources in place, but be sure to point staff in the direction of the many existing online resources and support out there. For example, the NHS have published a hugely helpful guide full of wellbeing ideas for working from home.

    Perhaps you could encourage staff to keep a personal wellbeing action plan, a template for which you can find on the Mind website. Mind has also produced some brilliant resources for employers, offering valuable guidance on supporting staff health and wellbeing while tackling new ways of working.

    5. Be vigilant

    Whether staff are home working or office based, be attentive to the signs of poor mental health and take action. Signs include tiredness, being withdrawn, increased absence, regular lateness, changes in work standard, and changes in mood/behaviour. Early intervention could make a big difference.

    You can find useful tools and information on mental health awareness and managing stress on the government’s HSE website.

    Do you need advice on creating an Employee Health and Wellbeing Strategy?

    If you require support to develop your Employee Health and Wellbeing Strategy, then do not hesitate to get in touch with the OutThere team.

    We are specialists in all areas of staff wellbeing and can help your business to reduce absence, boost motivation and increase productivity.

    Sarah Close
    Sarah Close

    Sarah is the Founder and Managing Director at OutThere. She has a demonstrated history of working in the Executive Search, People Strategy and Human Resources space. To talk to Sarah, please call or complete our website contact form.

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    OutThere is an HR and Recruitment Process Outsourcing Company. We provide access to great HR, Recruitment and Training Talent that is not necessarily required or affordable to businesses on a full time basis.

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