Almost half of Canadians are nervous about contracting COVID-19 on returning to their workplaces. According to emerging research from Canada Life, 46% of Canadian employees currently working from home have expressed anxiety over office reopening and what that means for health and safety.
“Many Canadians are no doubt looking forward to getting back to a ‘new normal’ as vaccines roll out and the pandemic subsides,” added Mary Ann Baynton, director of collaboration and strategy, Workplace Strategies for Mental Health. “But for those working from home, this transition presents new and unique concerns, because they’ve been more isolated and have been able to limit their exposure to the virus for a long time. Employers need to understand what their teams are concerned about so they can effectively support them during this significant adjustment.”
The research found that younger workers (aged between 18 to 34) are more anxious about office returns than their older colleagues – at 33% to 22%. What’s more, fear over contracting COVID-19 is having a greater detrimental impact on younger employee mental health (42%) compared to employees aged 55 and older (11%).
“When we set out to complete this survey, we were hearing anecdotal comments from friends, family members and colleagues who are currently working at home about dreading the commute, adjusting to work routines or losing time they’ve been spending with their family,” continued Baynton. “We expected that these concerns would outweigh the fear of the virus now that vaccines are rolling out. We were surprised to see their concerns are still more focused on the virus and less focused on the change in routine.”
So, what should HR leaders do now to help reassure their anxiety-ridden employees? Speaking to Arran Stewart, co-founder and CVO of blockchain-powered recruitment platform Job.com, he believes it all comes down to policy.
“People are nervous about workplace health and safety – in particular in regards to hygiene,” Stewart told HRD. “As such, it’s important to review and revamp your policies. Ask your employees their thoughts on how you can improve wellbeing in the workplace. Listen to their concerns or their ideas. When we do return to the office, some people will find this change a real struggle. Adopt an open-door policy and make sure employees know they can come to you if they need to. Most importantly, remember to lead with compassion and empathy.”
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