Return-to-office stress: Employees reveal their workplace anxieties

From dress code dilemmas to lunch breaks – people have a lot of questions for HR

Return-to-office stress: Employees reveal their workplace anxieties

Ready to head back to the office? Hold your horses, HR – you’re employees just aren’t as keen as you are. A new report from Robert Half Canada identified some key return-to-work stressors that staff are fretting over. So, how should leaders set about quelling these fears and pave the way for a smooth recall?

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“During any time of transition, managers should aim to communicate as much as possible,” Sandra Lavoy, regional director, Robert Half Canada, told HRD. “Being transparent and clear about why you are calling workers back to the office will help to establish a sense of being in person with purpose. To help manage and alleviate stressors, it is also critical to understand employee concerns and be mindful of individual circumstances that make different types of work preferable for different people.”

Take dress codes for instance. New Robert Half research shows deciding what to wear/wearing uncomfortable business attire is the top daily detail about being back in the office that is causing concern for people. The main areas of concern for employees are;

  • Deciding what to wear/dressing in uncomfortable attire- 38%
  • Dealing with distractions- 31%
  • Bringing/buying lunch- 21%
  • Deciding whether to hug/shake hands/wave to colleagues – 11%

“By setting clear guidelines on dress policy – with an emphasis on balancing professionalism with the understanding that people may be happier and more productive when wearing something comfortable, as they have been for the past two years – managers can help alleviate some of the stress around decisions related to return-to-office attire,” added Lavoy.

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But it’s not all employee anxiety  – workers are genuinely concerned that they’ll be less productive in the office. The shift from WFH, where peace and quiet reigns, to a busy office again could be a recipe for disaster for staff that enjoy the silence.

A recent Robert Half survey found that 31% of employee are concerned about dealing with noise and distractions when they return to the office. As such, Lavoy revealed some strategies workers can take to minimize distractions and maintain their productivity while working on site.

“Conducting a meeting audit and discussing with their manager if there are any unnecessary meetings they can sit out to focus on priority projects, “ she told HRD. “That’s one option. “If office noises are causing too many distractions, workers can consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones to focus on important projects, or finding a private space in the office to work if possible.

“If interrupted by a colleague, they can politely let them know that they are busy but would be happy to schedule a more convenient time to continue the conversation Those only returning to the office a few days of the week, can work with their manager to schedule more quiet, focused work for remote days, and team-building and social time with colleagues on in-office days.”

Creating a schedule ahead of time can help to avoid unexpected distractions, while still allowing time for bonding colleagues and creative brainstorming in addition to accomplishing their work. After all, the most important aspect HR needs to consider when recalling employees is to be communicative, honest, and accommodating.

How are you dealing with office recalls? Tell us in the comments.

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