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Getting staff back to work in the ‘new normal’

For many employers who have staff returning to work, there are some real concerns for their mental health.

With the pandemic starting to abate, many businesses are slowly introducing ways for staff to return to work – but with changed conditions. Fewer people will be in their workplace or office, some will continue to work from home, while others will have different ‘shifts’ to maintain social distancing and reduce the possibility of community infection.

Welcome to the ‘new normal’

For some employees, the thought of returning to their workplace is something to look forward to. But for others, the prospect is daunting. In studies by Monash University and Beyond Blue, many people reported they had experienced anxiety and depression during the lockdown[1].

As an employer, your support for your staff during this challenging time is critical. So here are some things you can do to help get your employees get back to work while supporting their mental wellbeing:

  1. Acknowledge how your staff are feeling. Like you, they have endured physical and emotional changes as a result of the pandemic. Adding any new changes, even if they are positive ones, will still be challenging.
  2. Treat everyone individually. Some staff will have anxiety or stress associated with returning to work and may even have health conditions. Recognise that everyone copes with change differently. Offer support through EAP or a wellbeing self-check-in through our partners SuperFriend. If they need more help, direct them to Lifeline, Beyond Blue or Headspace.
  3. Get staff involved in making decisions. Consult staff about how and when they should return to work. Employees need to be aware of, and involved in, these decisions under Work Health and Safety laws. The Australian Government’s Fair Work also encourages employers to engage in best practices by consulting staff before making any changes to encourage their cooperation and engagement.
  4. Talk early and often. Give your staff plenty of notice about any changes and reinforce those changes at team meetings and one-to-one catchups.
  5. Be flexible. Not everyone wants to rush back to work. So be prepared to phase in a return to work plan. Some staff will need time to adapt to new shifts, routines and processes. So make gradual, flexible changes.
  6. Learn from the experience. Some people are more productive working from home, but this is not possible in every job or workplace. Give your teams the opportunity to consider how they could work differently while maintaining social connectivity in the workplace.

How we can help?
This will be a challenging time for both you and your staff as you transition to the ‘new normal’ way of working. If you’ve got any questions about how we can help you during this time, feel free to get in touch with your local member services manager or call one of our staff at the Contact Centre


[1] abc.net.au/news/2020-04-18/mental-health-and-coronavirus-how-australia-is-reacting-covid19/12159750