We’re living in a different world to that which existed before the pandemic took hold. Now, after lockdowns and workplace closures, many companies around the UK are able to reopen office space and staff can return to work.
But is it that easy? Depending on our circumstances, lockdowns have affected us all in different ways and for some, they have had a significant effect on mental health.
This can mean some of your team members are itching to get back into the workplace and return to some sort of normal. They want to get back to routine and to see workmates. For others, the thought of returning to the workplace may be causing feelings of anxiety.
Whether your company is now back up and running and fully operational or you are still dipping your toes into the world of the big return to the workplace, this article will look at ways to help your young recruits settle into the workplace in as smooth a way as possible.
You might even have young recruits who were taken on during the pandemic and have been working remotely since you awarded them the role. They might not have even been to the office yet or met many of their coworkers in person.
What is clear is that mental health has become a much easier subject to talk about over the past few years and even more so during the pandemic. It’s important to keep that culture alive in the workplace where all staff – and yourself – feel comfortable discussing mental health issues and being open about how they are feeling in the workplace.
What Are The Stresses & Anxieties That Young People Might Feel About Going Into The Workplace?
Being Around Lots Of People
Whilst everyone’s lockdown situations have been different, we have all lived in isolation to some degree. Since coming out of lockdown, some young people might have been forced to self isolate either because they contracted Covid or they had been in contact with someone who contracted it.
Suddenly being asked to be in close contact with your work colleagues can cause anxiety. Young people might be slightly anxious about starting a new job anyway and that, coupled with being asked to be around lots of other people needs to be taken into account.
They might be anxious about contracting the virus and taking it home to vulnerable family members.
Dealing With The ‘New Normal’ In The Office
This is most relevant for your existing staff who were familiar with the office set up pre-Covid. Coming to terms with new safety rules and actions to be carried out on a daily basis as a way to keep themselves and everybody else safe can cause feelings of anxiety. This could include changes to working hours and changes to the structure of the day.
For your new young recruits who have no previous experience of your workplace, they won’t feel that same anxiety as everything is new to them anyway. If your existing staff are feeling disgruntled, however, about new routines and maybe having to be in the workplace more than other members of staff, this can have a knock on effect for your younger staff.
Feeling Anxious About Finances
Some young staff may feel they could be made redundant before they’ve even settled into their role properly. Graduate recruits may have relocated specifically to work at your company so finances will be a concern for them.
Doing The Job Of More Than One Person
On the other hand, you could be one of the many companies that is facing staff shortages and is struggling to fill the vacancies. Staff might be concerned about having to work longer hours or complete more work than usual during their time in the office.
What You Can Do To Help Your Young Staff Succeed In The Workplace
The successful return to the office – or the first time in the office for young recruits – is going to be all about communication and flexibility and concentrating on the gains of being back in the workplace.
Your staff can once again socialise with each other and work together as a team. This encourages new ideas and improves productivity and can therefore give team members better opportunities for promotion.
Listen To Concerns
This isn’t just about you communicating ideas and instructions to staff but also about you listening to them and finding out how they feel about coming back into the office. Especially your new young recruits, they might tell you they are completely happy to be in the workplace even if they are not because they will be looking to impress you.
You could ask staff about how they feel about returning to the workplace in a way that they can give their answers anonymously. This will encourage more honest replies.
Don’t Make Guarantees
We all know now about the uınpredictability of Covid so if your staff are feeling anxious about safety from Covid in the workplace, be honest and open with them.
Whilst you can’t promise that everyone will be 100% safe from contracting the virus, you can be open with them in explaining what measures the company has taken to ensure all staff will be in as safe an environment as possible.
This could be measures taken to increase safe ventilation for example or the positioning of office furniture so that everyone is socially distanced.
Offer Flexibility Where Possible
This obviously depends on the nature of your business but the closure of offices throughout the pandemic has shown that they can operate with staff working remotely. Do all your staff need to be back in the office 9-5 once the office reopens?
Some may not want a return to the crowded commute 5 days a week. Some may have found they have been more productive whilst working from home. Others may be eager to get back to the workspace environment and others might want a hybrid work life where they spend some time in the office and also time working from home.
The gains of being in the office for young staff is that they gain experience of the workplace, get to know their colleagues and training will be much easier when done in person.
If you have the type of set up where flexibility is possible, you could try letting staff experiment with their own hours for coming back to the workplace. This can give those who feel anxious about the return to work time to ease themselves being back in the office full time.
It will also give staff confidence that you are listening to their concerns and could mean a faster return to the workplace than insisting on set days or hours for being in the office in person.
Experiment with hours or let staff experiment with their own for coming back into the workplace rather than demanding a full time 9-5 work week. Let people ease themselves back into the routine.
Be Open & Approachable
It can be easy to get bogged down with work life and work talk once you are back in the office. During Zoom meetings and other online chats, however, you might have had the opportunity to talk about other aspects of the lives of your staff and your own life, too, outside of work.
Make an effort to continue these types of conversations in the workplace as they can help to ease any feelings of anxiety – including for yourself. It shows your staff, also, that you are approachable and you have the same concerns they do.
For young staff, conversations like this can also help them settle into the workplace and fit in with your team of staff more easily. Assigning a mentor or a buddy can also be a help for young people in their early days of being in the workplace.
We have written before about the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. Mindfulness benefits not only your staff but also yourself.
The charity Mind also has lots of helpful advice and resources for those with concerns about the return to the workplace after the pandemic.