Ideal Outcomes

A 10-Point Plan For Prioritizing Employee Well-Being When Your Teams Go Back To Work

By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

Employee engagement, in my experience as an expert on company culture, has been recognized as a key driver of productivity for more than 20 years. It’s a concept often used interchangeably with employee well-being, but these are not the same thing.

Today, with the challenge of dealing with a pandemic, a focus on employee well-being is imperative as companies face the need to develop strategies to bring people back to work. Although many employees are looking forward to a return to work and a return to normalcy, many also fear it. Companies need to do whatever they can to protect employees and not only allay their fears with words, but also offset them with actions.

Begin by thinking about employee well-being in a broad, systemic way. Consider every aspect of an employee’s job: the role and duties, company and colleague expectations, potential stress levels, hours required, and the work environment itself. What impact do these factors have on a person’s physical and mental health? What about their mood or their sense of purpose? In other words, think of their well-being. I believe taking a holistic view will help organizations realize a job is more than a job; it’s often a component of a worker’s quality of life.

Taking a holistic perspective enables employers to better develop plans and strategies for bringing people back to work. Keeping employees physically safe is fundamental, but it’s not enough. Returning to work after a pandemic is uncharted waters, and we must consider unique strategies that address not only short-term tactical concerns, but also longer-term emotional distress and loss of productivity. Consider these 10 points:

1. Prioritize safety. Make the workplace as physically safe as possible by complying with any recommendations shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Address fears. People are likely worried about potential exposure. Clearly communicate everything you have done and will continue to do to disinfect work areas and allow for social distancing among desks, conference rooms, etc.

3. Review policies. Review your workplace policies, especially those that relate to leaves of absence and sick days. Make sure they are applicable in this new world and that they are legally compliant.

4. Acknowledge emotions. Recognize many employees might have been isolated from friends and family or even quarantined. They might be returning to work feeling a wide range of feelings. Recognize this, and talk to them about how they’re feeling so you can help set them up for success.

5. Support loss and grief. Employees might have lost loved ones, or they might still be facing family illness. Make sure your team is aware of the resources the company provides to them. For example, you might have an employee assistance program that can provide information and resources. Make sure employees understand how your mental health benefits work.

6. Educate leaders. Train managers and supervisors on how to recognize signs of emotional distress and how to encourage employees to seek support if they need it.

7. Be flexible. Employees might have challenges with child care because as many schools and camps are not open. Remaining flexible as you phase people from remote working to coming back into the office will reduce concerns.

8. Rebuild social relationships. Identify special interest groups that employees might be interested in. Develop ways for people to meet (even if still only online) so that they can share their interests and passions. Allow for some of the workday to be set aside for such activities.

9. Address financial concerns. Provide employees with education to help them address financial concerns. Even if your employees kept working and did not lose any compensation, their spouses, roommates or other family members might not have been in the same situation. Tap into community resources to assist them.

10. Look ahead. Develop a plan for attracting new employees. Candidates will be looking for companies that understand and act on fundamental regard for their well-being. Develop communication strategies so that you can continue to attract top talent to your organization.

When organizations think about their plans to bring employees back to work, they need to think holistically by considering all aspects of employee well-being.