Just over 6 months ago, we launched a report to understand the impact of COVID on employees across the UK workforce. We surveyed 2,000 of those who had been working from home during the pandemic to explore how they were feeling. We captured insight into what workers were experiencing in general terms, as well as how they were specifically feeling ahead of the nationwide return to more normal work patterns.
We found that almost half of the UK’s workforce were not ready to return to work, with many being anxious or deeply concerned. Our survey revealed that 45% described their feelings about the return to work negatively. Deepening the crisis, only 5% of employers had put in extra employee support services for those returning to a more normal work pattern that Summer and into Autumn 2021.
And here we are today, weary with the back to the office…WFH ping-pong.
- What lessons can we learn from the significant changes that the working world has faced over the last 2 years?
- What practical steps businesses can take, without adding pressure onto line managers and leadership teams who may also be struggling?
Our report highlighted that not all staff were comfortable raising health concerns with their line managers. Almost one-third (30%) confirmed they would not feel comfortable discussing any mental health, physical health, grief or financial concerns.
When looking at concerns where workers are comfortable disclosing with their line managers, the reading was equally alarming. Only 41% said they would discuss mental health concerns with their manager, while even fewer would discuss physical health issues (36%), financial concerns (28%) and grief experiences (22%).
Shelley Rowley, Chief Commercial Officer at BHSF, shares her thoughts on the current workplace climate: “While flexible and hybrid working policies have become more normalised, the extended uncertainty around work patterns and extremely challenging festive period, clearly continues to impact on employee wellbeing.
It is a legal requirement for employers to look after the health and safety of their staff, and this includes mental health. Our Big Return results showed that not all staff are confident in opening up to their line managers, which begs the question, who are they turning to? It is difficult for employers, as home-working and bubble-working makes it more difficult to spot the signs. Creating an inclusive environment, where multiple avenues of support are made available, is the most effective way to support staff.
“While flexible and hybrid working policies have become more normalised, the extended uncertainty around work patterns and extremely challenging festive period, clearly continues to impact on employee wellbeing.”
Here are four ways to create an environment inclusive of wellbeing:
- Lead from the top
If senior managers can be open about their own experience and vulnerability during the pandemic, it will send out a strong message to their workers that the company recognises this is a widespread issue and will be supportive.
- Consult with employees
Talk to employees before announcing return-to-work plans. Some people may have been working from home on and off for nearly two years and feel anxious about returning to the workplace, including their travel to work.
- Adopt enhanced consultation
Opening up a dialogue with your employees will enable you to take a proactive approach to identified concerns rather than a reactive approach to problems at a later date. Feeling fully informed can be very reassuring to employees who are not quite sure what to expect of their post-pandemic workplace.
- Establish a strong support mechanism
We shouldn’t assume that providing colleagues with the compassion required is something that comes naturally to all line managers. Establishing a strong support mechanism is key so that they can coordinate action early and turn to those with HR and clinical expertise.