In this article we will be discussing “How to Support Employees with the Transition Back to Work/Into the Workplace” as for many of us, the gradual easing of lockdown has been positive, involving gradual steps
back to a more normal way of life.
However lockdown has affected us all in different ways, and as there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what will happen as we head into autumn and winter, individuals may be dealing with complex emotions and feelings about what the future holds. Many employees feel confident about returning to work, however, others feel worried and apprehensive. In addition to managing their feelings about returning to work, employees are also having to work in a changing environment which may also impact on their feelings.
The transition out of lockdown may be as difficult as the start of lockdown for some, and it
may take some time for people to feel properly connected to work.
For the Government advice for returning to work please visit How To Return To Work Safely.
Supporting and Managing emotions
Fear and anxiety are possibly the most common emotional responses people may
experience as lockdown eases. Many people may also feel that they used their emotional
reserves during the lockdown period and so are not feeling as resilient as usual.
People may also be afraid of catching the virus themselves and/or catching it and passing it
onto vulnerable family members.
Feeling nervous and anxious as lockdown eases is completely normal, however, the only
way to overcome these feelings is to gently build up our tolerance so things feel more normal
and less scary.
On the other hand, some people may feel a keen desire to get back to normal life as soon as
possible, and they may experience feelings of frustration towards those that are fearful or
nervous. If people do feel frustrated, allow them to express this in a safe place.
Everyone will feel different about the current situation, and it is important that we don’t judge
others at this time. If we are kind, supportive and understanding of each other we will
navigate these uncertain times successfully. We can help with Coaching in these situations.
Coping with uncertainty
There has been a huge amount of talk about the ‘new normal’, but there remains uncertainty
about what the future holds, with the prospect of local lockdowns as required. Uncertainty is
the reality for all of us for the foreseeable future. The ‘new normal’ means living with an
unprecedented level of uncertainty.
It can be helpful to focus on the present and not get caught up in too many ‘what-ifs’. Plan
for likely scenarios so employees are prepared for what may happen, and then focus on the
For help on uncertainty please visit our website for Change Management.
Some employees may have been bereaved during the lockdown period. Grieving during this
period may have been even more difficult for some with funeral restrictions, and limited
support available from family and friends. Employees who have been bereaved may
require additional support and understanding.
How can I support employees to return to work?
- Good management: now, more than ever, it is more important that managers keep in
regular contact with their direct reports, checking in regularly and conducting regular one
to ones; giving employees the opportunity to talk and express any concerns they may
- Good communication: ensure that all employees are aware of any changes that have
been implemented in their workplace and they are aware of what to expect on their
return to work, from entering the building and the physical environment through to how
their individual role may have been impacted.
- Settling in period: facilitate a settling in period for employees that have been away from
the workplace for some time. Re-establish goals and priorities and how these will be
achieved. Some employees will need longer than others to adjust.
- Plan for uncertainty: develop plans for any further local or national lockdowns, and
share these with employees so they understand what will happen in a variety of
circumstances. Where possible, involve employees in the planning process.
- Be kind: ensure that there is a culture and kindness so employees support each other
through challenging times.
- Be patient: there is a natural period of adjustment as employees get used to a return to
work/the workplace, and most will quickly adjust.
- Be aware of differences/individual support required: some employees will have
found the COVID-19 pandemic more difficult to cope with than others, for various reasons,
and some employees could have been bereaved as a result of COVID-19. Put individual
support mechanisms in place as necessary and practical.
- Encourage employees to look after their own mental and physical health: eat well,
sleep well, exercise regularly.
- Implement additional protective measures for vulnerable employees
We strongly recommend that employers:
- Communicate effectively with employees
- Allow a settling in period
- Plan and prepare for the coming months
- Encourage employees to look after their own mental and physical health
- Foster a culture of kindness and patience
- Offer individual support where required and possible
For further information or advice in supporting Employees with the Transition Back to Work/Into the Workplace, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.