Wellbeing in the workplace as you return to the office

Your mind is reeling with issues around health and safety, and reactions are running on overdrive. You should consider that a warning your emotional well-being is out of whack. Simply stated, well-being is an overall positive state to process emotions, life satisfaction, sense of meaning and purpose; the ability to pursue self-defined goals; a sense of balance in relationships; and internal happiness. 

In today’s world, we are on fire with feelings. It is easier to focus on the negative rather than consider the positive of a situation. Happiness and well-being work simultaneously, so when emotional health is in check, physical well-being is unaffected. If employers are to be champions of well-being, they must allow for freedoms and flexibility to reduce stress inhibitors.

Ongoing affects from the pandemic are producing a range of feelings, and the nature of work has shifted from what it was. In the past, in-house groups facilitated productivity and creativity. Being in the office meant easy access to colleagues and equipment. Making positive impressions on management by being seen and heard, you were able to develop strong relationships that advance or enhance careers.

In early 2020, before office workforce majorities became virtual, employees gained an improved work/life balance that increased productivity. That knowledge garnered from studies reflective of in-house vs virtual staff productivity should be considered when re-writing the ideals of our future workplace. Viewing the office as a destination for collaboration, meetings and team interaction will replace the everyday workspace.

After extended time at home, the safety bubble is being challenged. Feelings of trepidation abound, with teams feeling anxious. Returning to the office will require a psychological shift. Management must support this by minimizing stress triggers, implementing efforts that ensure safe space, remaining considerate of developing anxiety, and remain pro-active during the early stages of return.

“…lives have been…impacted…with crisis situations affecting people differently…returning to work after a pandemic is new territory for all of us…we must have patience with ourselves and others while we navigate the process.”   AgriLife Today

Continual remote working can create feelings of isolation and confinement. Therefore, encourage flexible work options for a renewed sense of work/life balance, easing anxiety around home care needs, commute, and personal appointments for greater control over scheduling. Consider developing well-being policies if they don’t already exist. Prevent stigma around depression, treating all mental and physical issues with equal concern. Create a climate of diversity and inclusion where teams can discuss their anxiety in a safe space.

The way that your teams think and behave will impact their work experience, from communication to productivity.  Employers can make great strides in building ones’ mental strength by creating a positive well-being environment. Offer management training to increase awareness on what emotional distress looks like to better understanding that everyone manages anxiety differently.  

Management must encourage self-care, both mentally and physically by providing frequent updates on safety initiatives and resources; establishing protocols for PPE; increased cleaning efforts; rearranged workspace; health screenings; and flexibility of work hours and scheduling.

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Leigh Murray