How Managers Should Plan For A Return To The Office

Are you ready to keep your team members safe in the office?
Are you ready to keep your team members safe in the office?
Image Credit: Can Pac Swire

Good news – the pandemic is over, now everyone can go back to the office. Or is it? Managers are finding themselves in a tricky spot these days. The initial wave of the pandemic seems to have started to ebb. Companies have been eager to get their workers back into the office so that they can benefit from all of the impromptu discussions, shared insights, and easier management. However, now that it is starting to look like the pandemic might not be over. Instead, multiple variants have arisen and they seem to be even more contagious than the original strain. Oh, and fully vaccinated people can catch the virus. What’s a manager to do?

How To Keep Everyone Healthy

Though the Omicron Covid-19 variant has pushed back many reopening plans, many companies are still preparing to welcome employees back to the office this year. The question on manager’s minds is as stark as it is simple: how can we make sure everyone stays healthy? By now, most everyone knows the basics: use the mask, keep the social distancing, and all the other common-sense precautions we’ve mastered since the pandemic’s outbreak. Cultivating a healthy workplace turns out to be much more than wearing mere face coverings. What managers need is a blueprint for making sure the workplace nurtures employees’ bodies, minds, and spirits.

How Managers Can Ensure A Healthy Workplace

We need to start things off by getting smarter about our technology. There’s no shortage of apps, gadgets, and gizmos purporting to improve our overall health, productivity, and just about anything in between. The abundance of these options may be overwhelming, but taking the time to find the right tool can pay off handsomely for a manager. Here’s a smart first step for us all: we need to realize that our team members crave simplicity, and that any solution you offer should address them as complete human beings, not merely as workers. According to recent research by behavioral scientists, Americans now spend up to one-third of their lives, or a whopping 90,000 total hours, at work. If you account for the time we spend sleeping, eating, and bathing, it’s clear that work remains one of our chief activities. One thing that managers can do is to offer our employees a platform and app that allows them to create their own personal well-being journey, including access to a health risk assessment, tracking their steps, and access to health tips and resources both internally and externally, all in the same place.

Managers need to be willing to talk it out with their team members. American culture has always celebrated virtues like grit and resilience. The problem with this is that it too often translates into keeping our spirits high, our mouths shut, and our eyes on the prize. All of this is admirable, but as Covid-19 demonstrated all too tragically, when faced with major and painful challenges, team members can only endure so much before they start to feel overwhelmed. Managers need to be able to offer team members anything from immediate support to access to emotional and psychological services. Already increasingly anxious and stressed before the pandemic, currently Americans are now feeling even more insecure. Prescriptions for anxiety medications have spiked 34 percent, and an overwhelming 73 percent of Americans felt anxious. Those feelings come at with a real cost. Employee stress, leading to everything from decreased functional capacity to work absences due to illness, has cost the U.S. around $180 billion and at least 120,000 unnecessary deaths each year.

Managers need to let the spirit move us. Not long ago, a group of Americans were asked what they needed to feel a real sense of satisfaction; 78 percent said they needed to feel a sense of spiritual growth. More surprisingly, perhaps, a majority also said they felt comfortable speaking about their spiritual needs openly at work, and a whopping 85 percent of respondents said that a manager’s spirituality absolutely impacted his or her ability to successfully lead an organization. And while spirituality is still a bit of a touchy subject in a secular society like ours, a host of research suggests that employees who are spiritually satisfied perform better.

Finally, managers need to cultivate a culture of shared responsibility. Managers have to expect employees to take charge of their own well-being. As we learned, quickly and painfully soon after Covid-19 struck us, team members who were obese were significantly more likely to get sick or die from the virus. Just like avoiding smoking or substance abuse or sexually transmitted diseases, there’s a lot that team members can do to get better and stay better, even without much external support. Team members themselves must help curb those behaviors that lead to health risks and illness. And this well-being is best achieved when achieved together, through cultivating a culture of shared responsibility.

What All Of This Means For You

We all understand that the Covid-19 virus has changed everything for everyone. The good news is that with the arrival of vaccines, things are starting to look like they might once again start to get back to normal. However, managers need to understand that we are still very far away from normal. As our companies start to reopen their offices and urge us to return to them, managers are going to play an important role in helping team members become comfortable with the return.

A key role that managers will play is finding ways to keep everyone in the office healthy. We are not alone in doing this: we can use technology to help us. Apps can be used to help team members chart their own course to staying healthy. Managers need to be willing to talk with team members in order to help them through any issues that they may be having. Additionally, the company has to make professional resources available to team members if they need them. Managers also have to realize that spiritually is important to team members and they should be allowed to talk about it. In the end, each team member is ultimately responsible for their physical health and they need to take responsibility for it.

As more and more team members return to our offices in the coming months, managers must recognize that the vaccines that made it safe for us to once again congregate in enclosed spaces are not the end of our fight for good health. This is the beginning of a long journey, one that requires us to rethink our attitudes and create an environment that fosters true well-being for all.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What should managers do if a team member becomes sick with Covid-19?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What a great time it is to be searching for a new job! There are currently more jobs out there than there are people to fill them. This is all well and fine if you are a front line worker, but what if you are a manager? There is the very real possibility that everyone who works for you may be thinking about leaving. If that happens, you are going to very quickly become an ineffective manager because you have nobody working for you! How should managers deal with the great exitious?