The role of the manager in supporting colleagues’ wellbeing during a return to the workplace

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Pat Ashworth, Director of Learning Solutions

7th June 2021

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So far, many managers have done a great job of figuring out how to manage their teams remotely, but decisions and behaviours made in the face of the COVID crisis may not be sustainable in the long term.

As businesses work towards further reopening, employers and business leaders must plan and implement a return to the workplace that cares for their people and safeguards their health and wellbeing.

The way in which you manage these will have a huge impact on the wellbeing, morale and productivity of your teams.

‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’

Maya Angelou

Our 5 practical tips for supporting colleagues’ wellbeing during a return to the workplace:

  1. Understand the effect that this change has had on your team and that everyone’s experience of COVID-19 will be different. Getting back into work may feel like a new life challenge for some, and colleagues will want their voices heard to help them re-engage. Give as much detail as you can in advance about timescales, seating arrangements and safety measures.
  2. Be comfortable to share your experiences and show vulnerability in what is and continues to be a period of immense change. Minimise the fear and any concerns by frequent and empathetic communication across multiple channels, either virtually or face to face, in teams and in one-to-ones.
  3. Re-emphasise that safe working practices are in place to address physical safety, mental health and wellbeing. Reassure colleagues that the organisation will continue to encourage social distancing and mask wearing in communal areas. Deep cleaning will continue and any staggered return to work is all designed to keep colleagues safe and ease their return to the office in a measured way.
  4. Ensure you have all available colleague support avenues to hand, including signposts to Employee Assistance Programmes, Mental Health First Aiders within the business and an FAQ document to help you and your team manage in times of uncertainty or stress, so that employees know who and where to go for help they might need before, and after they get back into work.
  5. Encourage one-to-one return meetings with every employee, where a key focus is on health, safety and well-being. Managers need to have a sensitive and open discussion with every individual and discuss any adjustments and/or ongoing support to facilitate an effective return to the workplace. This is especially important for those who have been furloughed. These discussions should cover topics such as changes in company services or procedures, how specific customer queries or issues are being addressed, or changes in supply arrangements, as well as any agreed changes to their work duties or tasks.

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