Returning to work from a significant period of time-off can pose challenges to both employers and employees. Catching-up with changes, learning new processes, re-familiarisation with once well-known tasks and adapting to a new routine- reconnecting with work can take time.

Businesses and employees across the UK are beginning to adjust to returning to work as the government’s furlough scheme draws to a close at the end of this month. It’s been a time of great change for many; some will be returning to their roles after being furloughed for up to seven months, some have found new jobs after a period of redundancy and some are venturing into entirely new careers. Any instance of returning to work can be exciting, daunting or a combination of both.

2020 has been a staggering year for difficult news at home and across the globe, combined with on-going lockdown measures and economic uncertainty taking a toll on our mental health and emotional wellbeing. A study, conducted in July by the Mental Health Foundation, found almost one in five (19 per cent) of UK adults surveyed reported feeling hopeless due to the effects of the pandemic.

It’s important for businesses to take a consultative approach with their employees and follow steps to ensure a smooth transition for those returning to work after time away, factoring in individual circumstances and experiences had this year.

The mental health charity, Mind, has some tips for preparing for an easy return to work, whether in an office environment or working remotely:

  • Keep in touch with colleagues. Using social media can be a good way of communicating if you don’t feel ready to see them face-to-face, or if you’re unable to due to social distancing restrictions.
  • If your workplace has a staff bulletin, ask to be put on the mailing list.
  • Arrange with your manager to drop in to work before you return, to say hello to colleagues and get re-familiarised.
  • In the time leading up to your return, try to go to sleep and rise the same hours as if you were going to work. This can help you to readjust to your working hours.
  • Use peer support. Sharing your experiences with others going through the same thing can help you feel less alone. You could join an online community, such as Elefriends, where you can talk openly about your mental health.

Here’s how employees and employers can work together to support each other:

  • A gradual return to work may be beneficial to you – for example, by starting part-time as part of a phased return to work.
  • Make a schedule with your manager for your first week back. Plan what you will be doing where and when, so you know what to expect. Arrange to catch up on any training you have missed.
  • Communicate regularly to talk about how you are getting on. Let each other know what you’re finding helpful or difficult, vulnerability is a strength.
  • Use technology to keep connected when working remotely. Request a webcam and a microphone and schedule video meetings when you can’t meet face to face.
  • When re-introducing employees to the workplace, ease worry by ensuring everything is COVID-secure, enforce social distancing practices and listen to each other’s concerns about returning to a familiar, but new environment.
  • Request changes, and listen to requests, to allow you to be better able to do your job, such as flexible working hours.
  • Find out if your employer has any specialist support services on offer, for example, occupational health services or an employee assistance programme (EAP).

Whilst change and uncertainty may be dominant right now, rest assured that Zen has many solutions to support your business through these times. COVID-secure measures such as PPE, sneeze screens, floor stickers, thermographic cameras, screening stations and so much more can give comfort to your employees that creating a safe working environemnt is a top priority. Support doesn’t end with your workplace either- we have a complete suite of software, hardware and innovative technology to enable your business to operate wherever your workforce is located- remote working becomes just working.

If you need advice as an employer regarding supporting your colleagues, in and out of the workplace, contact one of our friendly Account Managers today to discuss our wealth of COVID-secure solutions and remote-working technology for every business.

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