Employees Psychological Wellbeing

Supporting the psychological needs of your staff post lock-down

Lockdown has completely transformed our working environments and routines. With the latest government announcement suggesting that social distancing measures will still be in place until November, how do workplaces ensure employees are in the right place psychologically to navigate these changes in the long term?

Paula Brockwell, Lead Psychologist at The Employee Experience Project, shares her thoughts with us on how workplaces can prepare employees returning to work post-lockdown.

In a matter of months, the implications of COVID-19 have completely transformed our working environments and routines. Office workers have quickly adapted to working from home, embracing all the pros and cons that come with it.

Avoiding that dreaded commute, spending more time with family, or having less distractions to allow for more productive ‘quiet working’ are just some of the noticeable benefits to working from home for many. However, some have struggled to balance work and childcare, or make the distinction between work and ‘down time’; some simply miss the sense of community and social aspects within an office.

The reality is that social distancing measures will be essential for the foreseeable future and projections suggest they will be required in some form until November. It’s one thing to adapt to these measures for a few months, but the prospect of doing so in the long-term, as we return to our offices, is a very different challenge. It has the potential to completely transform office culture, bringing a huge emotional toll for us to navigate.

These uncertain times pose two big questions about the future of workplaces. How can we ensure people are in the right place psychologically to cope with this new working environment and has the purpose of the office changed as we enter the ‘new normal’?

For workplaces that have recently reopened or are planning to in the near future, there are a host of new challenges presented by COVID-19. Both the physical environment and culture need to support the psychological needs of the workforce in order to contribute to enhanced productivity and employee retention rates. I have filtered these factors into five key priorities for workplaces to consider:
Team Meeting Office - Building Trust

1. Build feelings of trust

In this new environment, reassure staff by making clear what processes are in place to ensure everyone’s safety. Be honest about the pressures and concerns they might have, acknowledging that some workers will feel anxious about returning to the office.

It’s key that we normalise the challenges and focus on building a partnership where the employees can work together to adopt changes and new ways of working.

Employee at Desk

2. Help the workforce understand their value in the new world

 Especially in times of uncertainty, employees need to understand their individual role and why it is so important. With many businesses having to deal with an experience gap between those furloughed and those not, or having to drastically shift their focus in order to navigate a very different commercial landscape, helping everyone re-connect to their new world is key.

If the business’ purpose is changing, take them on this journey and help them understand how their actions are critical in supporting the overall business success.


3. Keep wellbeing front of mind

Physical health impacts emotional energy in a big way. When the workforce returns to the office, there will be a lot to consider with social distancing measures in place. Don’t forget about the value of hydration, nutrition, exercise and emotional wellbeing.

Related - office water coolers

It’s important that workplaces keep talking about these elements and encourage each other to stop, refuel and rehydrate. A helpful way to promote hydration is to provide workers with a reusable water bottle to refill throughout the day.

Comfortable Office Space

4. Ensure processes are ready before you act

There’s so much uncertainty ahead and forward planning isn’t the same as it used to be; businesses will move away from annual planning and will be more likely to focus on the priorities week-to-week. Before the office is reopened, ensure there are clear communications about what to expect and what employees are required to do.

Having new workplace ‘advocates’ who are clued up on new systems, processes and priorities is a really great way to offer clarity and support for workers in their new environment.

Millennials in Office

5. Physical space to facilitate collaboration

Lockdown has allowed people to experience the benefits and pitfalls of working from home. It has created an opportunity for many businesses to adopt a culture shift they may have been cautious of before. In the future, a positive employee experience will hinge on giving workers even more flexibility and choice about where they work.

In the long-term, once social distancing measures have been phased out, it is likely that central offices will be less focused on having everyone in one place at one time, but instead used as a hub for employee collaboration and socialising. The office design and facilities will need to reflect this by providing spaces that connect people, keeping emotional wellbeing, physical health and hydration front of mind.

Ultimately, the workplace as we know it is changing significantly in light of COVID-19. Workplaces need to think carefully about the physical and cultural elements of the office and how this will impact the employee experience in times ahead.

It’s clear that the role of the office is changing, right now it needs to adapt to the new social distancing measures in a way that offers safety and security, while in the long term, not losing sight of the invaluable benefits of human connection and collaboration.

Paula Brockwell is the Lead Psychologist at The Employee Experience Project. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with 18 years’ experience in creating positive change in business.

If you have reopened your workplace, or are looking to in the near future, and require additional support in meeting the needs presented by COVID-19, please get in touch with our Dispenser Customer Service Team via 034567 496 555 or service@brita.co.uk.

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