Blog: Returning to Work…

27th April 2020

It will happen. In the coming weeks, many of us are going to be inching back to the workplace. And we’re going to be involved with planning and rolling out a gradual return to work programme – for a diverse group of employees, businesses and across multiple locations.

So, how should we plan for such a return, knowing that our vision is for everyone to return home, not only safe, but well. What new work practices will we need to introduce to complement our existing practices, and achieve an ongoing high standard of product or service?

Here’s what I think the challenges are for businesses. If we’re aiming to consistently achieve the same work practices as we did before lockdown – but this time, in a new and different world – it may well generate a heightened level of stress. In turn, this will impact on our behaviour and our health and wellbeing. Stress can be defined as ‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them’.

Have you considered the stress levels of those returning to work? It’s a really important consideration. That’s because it will be based upon their experience during lockdown and what’s expected from them when they eventually return to work. It’s far easier for us to plan for the practical changes that need to take place, like the use of masks and cleaning practices. It’s a lot harder though, to think about the psychological changes that a return to work will bring.

You may be aware of the Kubler Ross Model. It explains our psychological response to grief and loss. The model was initially focused on how people respond to significant announcements, i.e. – significant change.

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As individuals, how we react to significant change varies greatly. For some, the loss during the lockdown may have been the very harsh reality of a loved one dying or, being seriously ill.  I talked recently to a work colleague whose grandmother passed away with Covid 19, and they could only say goodbye remotely.

For others, the change and loss may have been centred around personal isolation, separated from the people they love, not being able to do the job they’ve done for the last 25 years or, fearing that they wouldn’t have a job to return to. The change or loss may vary significantly – as does the impact that it has on us as individuals.

We don’t have a clear way of knowing how our friends and colleagues are doing. We don’t have a visual display screen which tells people how we’re feeling or how far we’ve travelled along the Kubler Ross Model.

How are you preparing your workforce for a return towards the new normal? Do you have a plan which address the practical risk control issues? Just as important, do you have one which will address how the psychological needs of your colleagues will be met?

Please do get in touch with the Broadhead Global team if you would like some guidance on how to create a kind and impactful return to work for your team. In the long run, it will be very worthwhile.

If you need us, we’re here

Written by Darren Broadhead – Health & Safety Global Leadership Specialist & Managing Director


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