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Addressing Employee Return to Work Stresses

Addressing Employee Return to Work Stresses

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Canadian’s heightened stress levels as they think about, or are going back to work. A recent poll by Leger notes that 53% of people are anxious about returning to work, citing concerns including anxiety around workplace social etiquette, catching Covid-19 themselves and striking a new work-life balance to name just a few.

While some workplaces have flexibility as to when or how a return to the physical workplace can happen, others may not have a choice and need to act quickly to prepare their workspace and employees for a safe and comfortable return.

According to CMHA’s Return to the workplace toolkit, Management carries a responsibility in creating and fostering a working environment that is healthy and safe - physically and psychologically. So what can employers do to make employees more comfortable in their return to the workplace?

Yakira Mukendi, HR Lead here at shared some insight into how we’ve been addressing our employees’ overall wellbeing as more and more businesses are reopening their doors.

“Many members of our team are juggling family life and we are very much a family first organization. Our team works amazingly well together, despite having conducted most meetings over Zoom this year. Whether in the office, at home, or at a park picnic table, we believe our team does their best work where they are most comfortable and what works best for them on any given day.”

With the lockdown here in Ontario being lifted, office staff have been given the option to continue to work off site or to come into the office whenever it works for them. The only request has been to host meetings within the office space to ensure employees aren’t feeling isolated and to reignite opportunities for in-person brainstorming and collaboration.

When in office, all employees are asked to complete a Covid questionnaire, staff still wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible & there are a variety of wipes and sanitizers available at each workstation to ensure everyone can keep work and collaboration areas clean.

For our warehouse team, it was a different story, as they were needed onsite each day to ensure our customers continued to receive what they needed, when they needed it. Yakira notes “Where working from home wasn’t possible, we took strict precautions to ensure safety. Our warehouse team is extremely positive and seeing each other each day had a constructive effect on our warehouse team members”.

In speaking with Frank Rupcic from Venture Niagara Community Futures Development Corporationhe shared that his team incorporated a daily virtual meeting to ensure ongoing communication and a mental pulse check with each staff member during the lockdown. 

He note's that they'll also continue with this process as they transition back into in-office life. 

Through the daily meetings, Frank found that staff "want to come back to the face to face interaction with each other" and, now that all team members are double vaccinated, are eager to return to the workplace.

To further ensure his employee's safety, Frank shared that "...appointments with clients are via Zoom or by appointment only if they are coming to the office" so the environment can be better controlled.

L&E Global, an alliance of employers’ counsel worldwide, note that  “... mental health is an important consideration for employers. When creating reopening plans, employers should maintain open lines of communication with employees to reduce the fear of returning to work, and contemplate whether they have accommodation obligations for employees with mental health disabilities that may have been triggered or exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Aside from employers providing information to all employees regarding the actions they have taken and/or will take to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, it is also recommended that they highlight the mental health resources that are available to their employees including:

As it relates to the mental health of our team, Yakira shared “ One system that worked and is still working well for us, is our Team Lead check ins. Each team has a team lead that checks in with their team members once a month (more if necessary). It's a time for each team member to share from their perspective any concerns Covid-related or otherwise. ”The concerns and challenges staff shared within these meetings, guided the decision to continue with a work at home option for everyone.

While every business team is different, Yakira closes with some additional thoughts on why putting employees first is always better for your bottom line: “Building a team can be difficult. Running a startup can be grueling. Managing emotions during a pandemic can be tiring. But recognizing and appreciating each member of our team and trusting them to put forth their best effort is rewarding. We have been able to surround ourselves with incredible people and at the end of the day, that is what matters most. In a time where connection has been limited, our team has brought that human connection to everything they do despite the need for distancing and safety protocols. We are a small company with a lot of heart. We have run countless interviews, and reviewed thousands or resumes, but finding the right people is worth every moment of the search.”

Let us know what your business has/is doing to address any potential employee concerns related to business reopening in the comment section and we could include your thoughts in a future story around employee sentiment!

Additional Resources:

Provincial Governments have differing rules and guidelines they’ve set out when considering a workplace reopening. We’ve compiled a list of Covid-Related sites for easy access to the most up to date information as it relates to businesses in your province:

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