Advice for employers to make the return to work easier on staff

There are a few things employers can do or implement in their workplace operations that can make the return-to-work less stressful on employees.

Professor Renata Schoeman, head of the MBA Healthcare Leadership programme at Stellenbosch University Business School, recommended a number of approaches for a return-to-work strategy that companies can be guided by, to promote good mental health for employees.

The worklife after experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic has undergone a transformation, especially in how people perceive and prioritise their jobs.

“Many employees have re-evaluated their work and life and priorities, and their expectations of employers and workplaces,” says Professor Schoeman.

She advises companies to do the following:

• Supporting flexible and hybrid work scheduling that combines on-site and remote working and allows employees to balance their life and family priorities with work, should be built into the post-Covid workplace as a means to reduce the stress of returning to work.

• While people worked from home, managers had to learn how to focus on output rather than hours spent in the office as a measure of performance and productivity. This has had a positive impact on employees’ attitudes to work and continuing this approach would contribute positively to employee mental health.

• Open communication, transparency, active feedback and listening to complaints and concerns, watching out for “hot spots” of tension and interpersonal conflict and dealing decisively with them, all contribute to a healthy work environment.

• Employees fear for their safety and protection from catching Covid-19. Employers can reduce this stress by ensuring that hygiene protocols are in place and the work environment facilitates employees’ personal safety.