Best Practices

Help Your Employees Manage Their Reentry Anxiety

Employees’ top five safety requests closely match CDC and others’ recommendations

As many states are giving the green light to reopen, employers are developing plans to bring employees back to work safely, giving careful thought to schedules, seating configurations, visitor policies, elevator usage, food delivery, and much more.

While workforce reentry certainly includes logistical and operational planning, it is not just physical well-being that employers must take into account. Equally important is how organizations will respond to employees’ emotional and psychological health —a topic that, regrettably, is discussed far less frequently.

Anxiety is near-universal right now — a natural reaction to unnatural circumstances and an uncertain future. Nearly half of employees are concerned that their employers will bring them back to work before it’s safe, according to a national survey by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research. More than half worry about the future of the company they work for — and their job specifically.

If employers don’t address these sources of anxiety and assist employees in managing their mental health, bringing people back to work will do little to help companies return to pre-Covid productivity and engagement levels.

Many companies will need to enhance current practices, supplementing external or third-party mental health programs with a greater capacity to deal with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty “in house.” This does not mean attempting to take the place of trained mental health practitioners but rather building greater internal awareness of, sensitivity toward, and ability to address employee concerns.

Drawing on our many years of experience as people, culture, and change consultants, we’ve identified five things employers must do to help reduce employee reentry anxiety. The five indicators can serve both as a framework to help employers build their reentry plans and as measures by which to assess progress.

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