The pandemic has changed so many areas of life, including the way we work. Without warning, millions of Americans found themselves working remotely, becoming teachers at home, and having to isolate from colleagues and friends. The isolation and lack of camaraderie affected people differently. As employers begin to reopen offices, how can they keep employees productive while also respecting their physical and mental wellbeing?
What challenges are employers facing to keep employees productive?
As we emerge from the pandemic, employers have a monumental task on their hands. Figuring out whether or not to bring employees back to the office is no small decision.
Some business owners and managers appreciate working face-to-face with their employees and are eager to be back in the office. They often feel that working in the same space promotes creativity and collaboration. In the case of extroverts who enjoy the energy of others, this may be especially true. However, returning to the workplace may cause increased anxiety, especially in more introverted people. These employees tend to prefer quiet workspaces and may work more productively in the solitude of their own homes.
Managers who show authentic concern and respect for how their employees work best, and take bold steps to help them produce their best work, have a unique opportunity to rebuild their teams to be even better than before.
How can employers respect employee wellbeing as they work to rebuild teams?
First and foremost, employers need to hear and listen to the needs of employees. These are two very different skills. Hearing is a passive practice, and listening is an active one. The most successful employers will be those who ask their employees about their needs, and then actively listen to what they have to say.
The way many employees approach work has substantially changed. Those who have been working from home may not be coming back as the same workers they were when they left. And they may not return to their “old” ways for a while, if ever. The situation may warrant one-on-one discussions to ensure comfort in talking about individual needs and challenges. Employers who listen carefully to employees will be better prepared to rebuild their teams.
What specifically can employers do to support employees they are bringing back?
Workplace benefits strategies are changing in response to employees needing more than just checkups and sick visits. The benefits a company offers can provide employees with the foundational support they need to return to the new, post-pandemic normal.
Employers should think about providing an array of benefits they may not have previously considered. As we emerge from the pandemic, some of the benefit options receiving the most attention include:
- Wellbeing programs with non-medical benefits to provide employees with stress management and preventative health care
- Employee Assistance Programs that focus on both physical and mental telehealth to make it easier for workers to access care
- Student Loan Repayment Assistance to help relieve the stress experienced by those who are struggling with debt
- Lifestyle Spending Accounts to help employees take advantage of physical, emotional, and financial wellness activities
- Emergency Savings Accounts to help workers (especially younger ones) rocked by the financial effects of an unforeseen pandemic emergency
In addition, for those employees struggling with more severe social anxieties related to returning to the workplace, benefits such as mental health coverage are crucial. If you offer a Consumer-Directed Healthcare (CDH) account in your benefits package, many behavioral health services may be covered.
And finally, for employees who remain concerned about contagion, employers can elect to provide personal protective equipment, such as disposable masks and hand sanitizers, and schedule regular office cleanings with disinfectant products.
These are just a few ideas to help employers boost employee productivity by respecting their physical and mental wellbeing. For more information on benefits that can make the transition back into the office easier, please speak with a third-party administrator (TPA), benefits broker, or your HR professional.
DataPath, Inc is a leading provider of cloud-based technology solutions for FSA and HSA account administration.