As companies navigate this week’s government update delaying the lifting of all restrictions on social distancing, many HR leaders are already deep in the throes of planning a phased or hybrid return to the office.
Flexible working hours, introducing desk rotas and ensuring an adequate supply of hand sanitiser are just some of the practical ways that employers are preparing for a return to the office. But throughout this time, employee concerns about their health and wellbeing will be at an all-time high.
After 15+ months working from home and distancing from colleagues, family and friends, employees are anxious about returning to the office and face-to-face interaction. While, undoubtedly, we have all pined for the time when we could meet colleagues, visit customers and see peers; a poll by People Management found that 2 in 5 are anxious about returning to work.
While some staff will be chomping at the bit to get back to the office, others are feeling increasingly apprehensive and as such, supporting employee health and wellbeing out of the pandemic and beyond is key. In the article, you’ll find four steps to successfully ensuring employee health and wellbeing as we return to some form of normality.
Ask your employees
The best way to understand what your employees need in terms of their health and wellbeing during this time is to ask them. Carry out a survey, hold virtual discussion groups to understand sentiment and changing needs, or poll employees on a selection of health and wellbeing initiatives available.
In developing your health and wellbeing provision in tandem with your employees, you can ensure that the provision of initiatives is in line with their needs during this time. For example, subsidised gym memberships or team yoga classes may not be as well received today as they were before the pandemic struck. Employees may now value provisions such as flexible working, online gym classes and wellbeing days more than before. The rise in remote working has led many employees to reassess their work/life balance and working from home has given us more flexibility than ever before.
Prepare and plan ahead
As with any new or change in strategy, be sure to plan well ahead. Modifying or enhancing your employee health and wellbeing initiatives shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to a potential return to the office, but carefully thought out and developed in conjunction with your people.
Brief your people so they know what is changing, when and for what reason. Share the impact that past initiatives might have had and why there is a need for change. If you have data to back this up, even better. This might come from employee surveys, satisfaction levels or even trends in your people data. For example, the provision of private healthcare and check-ups may have contributed to a reduction in absenteeism. Use this data to inform your decision-making when developing your health and wellbeing initiatives.
Open, frequent communication
This is crucial to the success of any new initiative, but especially so for health and wellbeing as it is one that is so personal.
Before you’re at the point of rolling out any new health and wellbeing initiative, start to generate buzz among amongst your people. Send a ‘sneak peek’ email that highlights what’s coming and the benefits of these tools.
Similarly, once your health and wellbeing initiative has been rolled out, continue open lines of communication to ensure employees know where and how to access the tools, platforms and benefits on offer. And follow up to see how employees are finding any new health and wellbeing initiatives.
Ensure routine evaluation
Often the most overlooked aspect of any policy or strategy changes to evaluation. What works today might not be relevant in 6- or 12-months’ time. Be sure to routinely check in with your people to understand how they’re getting on and whether you could be doing anything more.
What is working? What isn’t? What could you do differently? What do they need?
This may be a matter of running the aforementioned survey at routine intervals to understand the impact and the change in employee sentiment or simply asking for feedback on each initiative provided.
Take a wider view and analyse success in terms of changing people metrics. Have sick days reduced? Has employee satisfaction improved? Is absenteeism affected?
However, you choose to evaluate success, ensure that it is used for good. Whether modifying the health and wellbeing initiatives provided or introducing entirely new ones; be sure to take decisive action off the back of your evaluation process.