As businesses of all sizes begin planning a return to the workplace, employers have unique opportunities to continue building trust and culture, expanding on the substantial leaps forward made in early 2020. In addition to these considerations before returning to the workplace, here are two priorities many will want to consider continuing now and long after the return.
Continue prioritising well-being and mental health.
Both were pushed front and center nearly overnight in March 2020 and have stayed there ever since. While it is often said we won’t return to the normal we once knew, it's a prime opportunity for leaders to embrace and act on how they prioritise employee wellness. Recently, Ceridian designated April 16 as Wellness Day, a day off for employees with no emails, no video calls, and no meetings. But Wellness Day is part of our much wider commitment to well-being in addition to many resources we have available to employees.
The reality is few of us are returning to work the same people we were over a year ago. According to Ceridian’s latest online poll of virtual and hybrid workers, 36% of respondents have felt working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health, one-third believe working from home has negatively impacted career growth (36%) and more than half feel isolated from colleagues.
The momentum coming out of 2020 can fuel continued examination of guidelines, resources, and support available to employees. Leaders should be asking questions like: How diverse are our policies? Are they meeting the needs of our employees across geographies and demographics? Consider what support and resources are available for single parents, employees caring for aging parents, people early in their careers. Do resources support multiple aspects of their lives? Does the pre-pandemic thinking still work in a post-pandemic world? Does it continue to support employees in the way the world is changing?
Continue listening to your employees.
Keep listening to your people, especially now and in real-time. A 2020 McKinsey & Company report found that, in the early months of the pandemic, organisations stepped up in tangible ways: 78% of those interviewed indicated their organisation responded appropriately to the crisis. Returning to workplaces, employee needs have evolved. The transition will mean different things for different people and include varying levels of complexity. For instance, while many may have struggled with working from home, others may have thrived – precisely why the transition should mean freedom to choose where to work, making flexibility and fluidity part of the employee experience.
Individuals are acutely aware of what they and their families need, so ask them. This means return to work surveys, absolutely. It also means asking questions in one-on-one conversations – where managers will be essential due to the closer working relationship they’ll have with employees – or in small group discussions or soliciting feedback in town halls through polling. This kind of direct, real-time insight will uncover what people need and anticipate being most challenged by in the transition. Leaders must then be prepared to meaningfully act on what they hear.
In the return to the workplace, organisations have a wonderful and unique opportunity to continue building trust and culture, while sending a meaningful message: Your well-being, and that of your family, matters.