Occupational Wellness: Returning to Work Health in the workplace as we settle into a new-new-normal
April 23, 2021
After over a year working remotely during a global health crisis, many are now feeling a sigh of relief as recovery peeks over the horizon. As vaccines become increasingly available, we’re seeing a reduction in restrictions for communities and organizations and a slow shift back to ‘normalcy.’
While the recovery has sparked positive excitement, it has also unsurfaced renewed workplace and personal anxieties associated with facing yet another era of change. Dare we say, the “new-new-normal.” At the top of every company and professional’s mind are when/if/hows of returning to in–person or hybrid work.
With any change – positive or negative – stress tends to, understandably, run high. The organizational and individual potential challenges associated with yet another “way we work” transition include managing changes in business operations, transforming expectations, balancing and honoring work-life and employee priorities, and the uncertainty of adjusting to new structures.
In the midst of it all, how do express positivity while retaining sensitivity, find peace as individuals, cultivate healthy transitions for our team, support each other as a community or industry, and remain united (or reunite) as organizations? In the world of ‘surviving,’ how do we find ways to thrive?
As we all look forward to a time when we can be together, let’s embrace new ways to intentionally incorporate meaningful wellness practices in our working environments. Here are a few of our favorite articles on occupational wellness and key takeaways we recommend you keep in mind as you return to work.
Return to Work Anxiety? You’re Not Alone (Forbes)
“Be graceful with yourself and others, be prepared, talk to your coworkers and employers, breathe, get help. Give yourself space to be patient and understanding with yourself and others as we all work to find our way to ‘the new.’”
- You’re not going through this by yourself and the questions you have are shared by others. Find ways to engage others in dialogue about the realities of the situation, what is known, what is not, and the path forward. If you’re comfortable in being vulnerable, find ways to productively share your emotions and fears associated with the future.
The Wellbeing-Engagement Paradox of 2020 (Gallup)
“At a time when layoffs and furloughs abounded, employees were thankful to have jobs, experienced the benefits of increased flexibility and autonomy resulting from remote work, benefitted from strong leadership efforts to engage them, and rallied with coworkers to keep everything afloat. In short, employees were inspired by and united under a shared sense of purpose.”
- Wellbeing and engagement diverged in 2020
- Remote workers experienced higher levels of engagement, stress, and worry
- Leaders face a crucial junction: sustainability and wellbeing vs. burnout
Preparing for the Transition Back to Office Life (Gallup)
“Employees’ pandemic-era experiences have reshaped their views of the workplace: how their work influences their overall wellbeing, how they want to interact with their colleagues, and how much flexibility they expect from their employers.”
- Gallup research shows that the five interconnected elements of wellbeing –career, social, financial, community, and physical – affect everything from job performance to health status.
1 in 4 Plan to Bolt Job Post-pandemic (Axios)
“Nearly half of employees surveyed by Prudential said they feel disconnected from their companies after a year of working remotely, partly because they are missing the benefits of interacting with people outside their teams and getting “face time” with higher-ups in the office. This “culture decay” can lead people to be more likely to hop to a new employer.”
- The number of workers planning to bolt their jobs is even higher (34%) for Millennials, the largest generation in the workforce today.
- Of those planning to leave their current job, 80% are concerned about career growth, and nearly 75% say the pandemic made them rethink their skill sets.
The $575 Billion Cost of Failing to Invest in Your Team’s Wellbeing (Forbes)
“Make wellness initiatives intentional, and well-rounded. Our diversity is our strength, across race, age, working style, metabolism, sleep patterns, and more. And so, there is not a single tool or process for us all to become well. A portfolio of wellbeing offerings must be designed to represent the full breadth of working and thinking styles, as well as job profiles, at your company.”
- “Sick workers cost US-based employers $575 Billion in 2019. That was before the Covid-19 pandemic! The rates of burnout, anxiety, and stress that are emerging as trailing indicators of the shutdown suggest that 2021 figures will continue to increase, with particular costs related to mental health even as we’re at less physical risk of illness.”
- Corporate wellness spending was increasing even before Covid-19, by about 5% a year. We can only expect this to skyrocket once numbers for 2020 are shared.
CU Health and Wellness Resources