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How Employers can help Employees Overcome Re-Entry Anxiety

A Practical Guide to Workplace Readiness and Resilience


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The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed the world in ways we could not imagine just two years ago, with telehealth and telework being but a few enduring features of life under lockdown.

As public health restrictions lift and offices reopen, many employees are sticking with teleworking while others are returning to a different work environment from what they left. That’s creating a new set of work-life concerns for employees, including worries about their risk of infection, new social expectations, and the adjustment of routines to new work realities, says the Mental Health Commission of Canada. There’s even a name for it: return or re-entry anxiety.

A recent survey conducted by Leger found that more than half (52%) of Canadians were anxious about going back to the way life was before it was turned upside down by COVID-19.

We’ve come up with a list of ways employers can help employees return to the future of work safely and confidently.

  • Survey employees to find out how they are feeling about going back to the office. This pulse check will provide an invaluable guide in developing a new, effective operating model that builds individual and organizational resilience.
  • Be flexible. If possible, give people some options about when and how often they come into the office, at least at the beginning, to help ease their transition.
Nearly 75% of 5,000 employees surveyed by McKinsey would like to work from home for two or more days per week, and 52% want at least three days of remote work.
  • If an employee chooses to work from home, make sure they are equipped with the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively. Some employers, like Medavie Blue Cross, have expanded their computer purchase loan programs and health and wellness spending accounts to supplement.
  • This can be complemented by strategies and initiatives that support improved work-life balance such as paid sick days, personal time off, vacation incentives, and mental health programs and resources.
A majority (58%) of Canadian employees surveyed would like a hybrid-work arrangement that gives them the option to work from home or at the office once the pandemic ends, according to a poll by Citrix Systems Inc.
  • Expect a remote-work option to become central to your future retention and recruitment efforts. It could even be a make-or-break term in negotiating offers of employment. Given the tough competition to attract new talent, giving employees a choice in the way they work may give your business a competitive advantage.
A recent survey found that 58% of people say they would “absolutely” look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position.
  • Don’t rush to return to the old ways of doing things like mandatory in-person meetings. The evidence doesn’t support it and it will only create confusion, even friction, with your employees. Having said that, most of us like routine! Try to stick to established schedules, while exercising flexibility that accounts for new or changed circumstances.
  • As the pandemic persists, the challenges and uncertainties we faced over the past two years also continue. Tackle these head-on by re-evaluating your current operating model and updating it to help your entire team reintegrate, rebound and rebuild from the pandemic.
  • The same applies to your benefits plan. It’s always a good idea to review your plan to ensure that it is relevant and responsive to new realities, especially in times of crisis when the pace of change can hit lightning speed.
63% of working Canadians surveyed by Citrix agreed they’d only accept a new job if it offered flexible or remote-work options.
  • Adopt a test-and-learn mindset. We still have no road map or playbook to guide us through the next stage of our “new normal.” For this reason, experimenting and piloting new ways of doing things may be the best approach. This could involve trying out different working models, physical layouts, and tools to keep employees connected, protected and engaged.
LifeWorks Monthly Mental Health Index for June 2021 showed a negative mental health score of -10.7 among Canadians for the 15th consecutive month, compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark.
  • A prolonged period of isolation and social distancing has increased anxiety and depression, heightening the need to address a mental health crisis that existed prior to the pandemic.
  • Proactive Canadian employers are rising to the challenge by providing greater supports and services to help employees are struggling with their mental health:
  • Enabling employees to connect with licensed mental health professionals for live and virtual counselling services.
  • Giving employees access to a wide range of practitioners.
  • Setting a higher maximum for their psychology benefit.
  • Introducing or enhancing their Employee Assistance Program to address life-work challenges.
68% of respondents felt supported by their managers in balancing work and home life during the ongoing public health crisis, a survey by Citrix found.
  • The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of new innovations in health care and technology. Giving employees greater access to digital health resources and telehealth options is a smart investment that will pay off in the form of healthier, more productive employees.
  • Be clear and set expectations. Development of a new operating model could take months, even years. That’s due, at least in part, to the fact that we are still on steep learning curve when it comes to what actually works in this new world of work.

The one thing that employers can count on is that the right culture goes a long way toward achieving their organizational objectives. Promoting mental and physical wellbeing and offering increased flexibility and choice in how employees access their health care and do their work is key to maintaining productivity and retaining people.

As a trusted health solutions partner, and premier all-in-one carrier, we’re committed to helping employers build safe, healthy and productive workplaces. We encourage employers to speak to their Medavie Blue Cross representatives about the smart health solutions we offer and continue to explore our Insights blog for more actionable strategies on supporting employees through the pandemic and beyond.

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Medavie Blue Cross

For over 75 years, Medavie Blue Cross has been a leading health services partner for individuals, employers...