As COVID-19 vaccines continue to prove to be effective in minimizing the spread of the coronavirus, employers—both big and small—across the United States are making plans to start bringing their people back into the office.
At the onset of the pandemic, moving to work at home was an adjustment for most people. And make no mistake: Coming back to the office over a year later, will also take some getting used to. A recent study by Humantel [PDF], which surveyed almost 2,000 people in the United States ages 18 to 74, found that 20% of employees are hesitant to return to the office, while 40% are enthusiastic and craving in-person collaboration.
The impetus will be on employers to ensure that their people experience a smooth transition to going back to the office, and at Cigna, we believe there are five actions that companies can take to do just that.
Lack of enthusiasm for coming back to a workplace doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of commitment. Some people may have concerns and suggestions that simply need to be heard. Employees need to feel it is okay to speak out, and simply listening with empathy and compassion can go a long way to strengthening workforce camaraderie.
Ongoing communication will help employees better understand the plans and policies for returning to the workplace, as well as offer opportunities to address concerns and increase employee alignment. Managers need to maintain regular team interactions whether in-person or remotely. Further, regular check-ins with team members help leaders gauge individual comfort levels and better understand how they can best support their employees.
Changing or contradictory policies can undermine employee trust. If plans do need to change, be sure to communicate these changes, and the reasons for them, well in advance.
Yet, Be Flexible When Possible
Some workers will need time to readjust. Managers who can modify work arrangements to meet individual needs (by offering flexible schedules and remote work options, for example) can help ease the transition back to the workplace.
Stress and burnout have been a growing concern, and a move back to the workplace is likely to create some turbulence. Caregiving is also a key challenge for a number of workers. Make sure employees know they have resources available to them for getting any additional support they may need, such as counseling via an employee assistance program and more comprehensive behavioral health care through the company’s health plan, including options to connect with a mental health professional virtually.
And remember, companies and business leaders who make an effort to understand how their people feel about returning to the workplace, and what motivates them to maintain and enhance their professional well-being, will have greater success in getting the most from their workforce. Click here [PDF] to view more insights from the Humantel study, which dives into how people feel about returning to work and the expectations they have of their employers.