Returning to work after Covid

For those working from home or on furlough during the pandemic, the lack of structure and routine created a cause for concern over people’s mental health throughout lockdown.

Woman sitting at desk in an office

Many lost access to the social support and interactions that come with physically being in the workplace, and the added stresses of caring for family and avoiding the illness can make for a difficult WFH environment. 

Professor Karina Nielsen, from the Sheffield University Management School, addressed the need to ensure workers are supported on their return to work, by developing a toolkit to provide guidance for employees, colleagues, management and Human Resources, with the aim of supporting a sustainable return to work. 

‘This way, everyone has a clear understanding of their role and specific actions they can do to support employees stay mentally healthy at work,’ Professor Nielsen said. ‘For employees themselves we provide guidance as to how they may organise their work to protect their mental health and for line managers we provide guidance on how to identify which work adjustments can be made to support returning workers.’

The research involved interviewing returned workers who suffered from stress, anxiety and depression and line managers with experience of managing returned workers, to explore the resources employees need to stay and thrive at work post-return. 

‘We focused on resources within the individual, such as self-efficacy, job crafting abilities etc. At a group level, we looked at the social support from colleagues and the collaborative working climate. At a line manager level, we wanted to explore a health-promoting leadership style and adjustments to work tasks, and at an organisational level, it’s about Human Resource, healthcare and employment policies and practices,’ said Professor Nielsen.

Off the back of the research, Professor Nielsen worked with Affinity Health at Work to create the free guidelines to ensure employees, colleagues, managers and organisations have everything they need to ensure a safe and happy return to work after Covid-19.

The guidance has been made available on the Mental Health at Work website, led by UK charity Mind and The Royal Foundation, and through Affinity Health at Work.

To find out more about Professor Nielsen’s work, follow her on Twitter.

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