Supporting remote workers transitioning back to the office

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the mental health of the U.S workforce – including increased rates of burn out, symptoms of depression, and difficulty concentrating. Even the term remote worker provides insight into its challenges. Compared to terms like telecommuting, distance learning, or working from home, the word “remote” can evoke a starker image of distance and detachment. With employees return to the office, there are tips and strategies for companies of all sizes to help employees make the transition.

When incorporating the aspects of a work culture benefiting both in-person and virtual work, a good place to start is at the end: with results. Working in the office or out, companies shifting to a results-based system instead of a time spent (or being seen) working system will allow employees to create a work routine fitting their strengths and situation. While some countries went so far as to grant workers the legal right to disconnect when working remotely, a shift to results-oriented work will increase freedom and flexibility for workers in any setting to be both productive and able to address their health and well-being.

Part of planning and supporting a transition back to the office is to prepare safety plans for both the physical and mental health of employees. Communicating workplace safety measures and the reasoning behind the measures will serve to not only reassure the hesitant, but also continue giving those in-office a framework on how to re-engage with people and places. Another variation of a safety net is anticipating and preparing for mental health stresses that may come with a return to social settings. We’ve previously covered resources such as Wellvolution behavioral health platform and Telehealth services for addressing employee mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Now, with the benefit of long-term planning, companies can be proactive in their wellbeing strategies as they return to in-person operations.

One helpful model for mental health planning is the ‘sieve model’ published by MIT Sloan. The sieve model requires preempting work stressors by addressing the conditions that generate mental health issues in the first place, detecting emerging issues, and remedying identified issues. We recommend company leaders at any level read the full article here, which explores the sieve model in depth.

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