We’ve all felt the effects of COVID-19 in one way or another. Many have been abruptly stripped of their jobs, and even lost their closest family members and friends. There’s no question it’s been a rough experience all around. With the advent of various vaccinations it appears as though we’re on the cusp of getting back to some sort of “normal”. While this may sound promising, there’s two sides to every coin.
Re-entry anxiety is a very real effect of migrating towards a new “normal” and getting back to the way things used to be. Just think of how much your personal and professional life has changed over the last year due to the pandemic.
Do you now work from home full time, when before you were in an office?
Do you even forget your mask anymore? or do you have them peppered all around your house, car, and handbags?
Have you gotten more used to skype and zoom video calls than actually seeing friends or family in person?
So, what is Re-entry Anxiety?
Re-entry Anxiety is stress caused by entering back into a traditional social environment post pandemic. There is still fear that resides in many as we do not quite know what the outcome will be by removing our masks and entering large, crowded spaces.
As we begin to move back towards an in person work model, there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety that can come with it. Re-entry Anxiety is what we’re going to address in this post, and specifically what you can do to help your employees mitigate this.
#1) Acknowledge How They're Feeling
The APA performed a study that found only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance. Let’s extrapolate that to the impact this pandemic has had on all of us both personally and professionally.
Now ask yourself the question – Do my employees know for sure that we as an organization and leadership team care about their work-life balance? Moreover, do they know we care about their health and well-being?
After reflecting on that question, think about how you communicate this to your staff. By making it known you understand where they might be coming from you open the door to a more receptive audience.
You can’t please everyone however, you can be empathetic and acknowledge how they may be feeling. Everyone is different, and everyone works at your company for different reasons. Be sure to show that you care and your staff will be much more open to your ideas of bringing the team back together in person.
#2) Start Small
Change and uncertainty can be scary to most people. Just because the CDC says you don’t have to wear a mask doesn’t mean everyone will feel comfortable in doing so. Instead, start small.
For example – if getting back in the office is an important next step for your business consider polling your staff to see who’s comfortable returning. From there, you could have a small subset of willing participants begin to come back and build from there.
There’s no need to go all or none especially in today’s world where change is rapid and unpredictable. Start small and build on your plan over time. This will allow for better acceptance and flexibility over time should plans need to change.
#3) Encourage Fulfilling Activity
A great way to help your staff relax and get their mind off of the Re-entry anxiety is to encourage them to participate in fulfilling activities. What do we mean by this?
Fulfillment is something that we all crave. Some do this through their career, but others with their family or volunteering, there’s an endless number of ways to attain fulfillment.
Think back to a time you recently took part in something you found fulfilling. In that moment and the time following, how did you feel? It’s near impossible to feel anxious when you’re immersed in something you love to do and feel is contributing to a cause bigger than yourself.
Encourage your employees and give them time to pursue their passions. You could provide one or two days off per year that they can take for themselves in pursuit of fulfillment. You could also do a monthly newsletter highlighting individuals and what they’re doing in their spare time to encourage others to do the same. You’re only limited by your imagination.
#4) Stay Connected
It’s understated just how important clear and open communication is. Providing your employees with a frequent, general sense of where the company stands on certain issues and topics goes a long way to gaining trust and buy-in.
Here are some ideas to get you started…
- Start a company wide Slack channel
- Provide monthly newsletters highlighting company wide updates
- Start a company podcast covering updates and interviewing different departments to increase awareness and cohesion
Again there’s a million ways to maintain an open line of communication, and it may take time to see what sticks. The big takeaway is that you’re providing a layer of certainty for your people. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that they’re not in every board meeting with you and little updates every now and again go a long way.
#5) Promote and Support Health & Wellness
Maybe we have a biased opinion, but overall health and wellness is critical for an individual to be functioning at their highest potential. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on just how important it is to take care of ourselves and we believe employers have an obligation to encourage their employees to make health and wellness a priority.
There’s a million ways you could do this, but we’ll list a few simple ones here.
- Encourage short 10 – 15 minute breaks throughout the day
- Hold walking meetings
- Supply fruit and other healthy snacks
- Give out a company branded water bottle to encourage proper hydration
- Start a wellness club at your organization
These few examples are easy ways to show your employees you care, and that their health and wellness are a priority. Following our earlier point – start small! You don’t need to go all out. Find a couple easy things to implement and see what resonates with your people.
We’ve all been impacted by COVID-19 and we will continue to be impacted for quite some time. This includes moving back to a “new normal”. While the prospect of getting back to where we once were is exciting, it can also bring with it much uncertainty and anxiety. Use the tips above to help your employees better handle any Re-entry anxiety and show them you’re here to support them all the way. They won’t forget it!