Blue Shield of California
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May 20, 2021 - 4 min read

Supporting remote workers transitioning back to the office

How employers can address the unique challenges of returning to in-person operations


Amid good news from high vaccination rates, in-person schooling, and economic reopening, employers will start bringing workers back on-site in greater numbers whether it be a full time or a hybrid model. However, the pandemic’s effect has permeated global work and culture since March 2020. In this context, it’s no surprise reading reports of historic lows in mental health, stress, and employee burn-out since the early days of the pandemic. Even the term remote worker provides insight into its challenges – compared to terms like telecommuting, distance learning, or working from home, the word “remote” can evoke a starker image of distance and detachment. As employees return to the office, there are tips and strategies for companies of all sizes to help employees make the transition.

When incorporating the aspects of a work culture benefiting both in-person and virtual work, a good place to start is at the end: with results. Working in the office or out, companies shifting to a results-based system instead of a time spent (or being seen) working system will allow employees to create a work routine fitting their strengths and situation. While some countries went so far as to grant workers the legal right to disconnect when working remotely, a shift to results-oriented work will increase freedom and flexibility for workers in any setting to be both productive and able to address their health and wellbeing.

Part of planning a transition is to prepare safety plans, both literal and figurative. Communicating new workplace safety measures and the reasoning behind the measures will serve to not only reassure the hesitant, but also give those in-office a framework on how to re-engage with people and places. Another variation of a safety net is anticipating and preparing for mental health stresses that may come with a return to social settings. We’ve previously covered resources such as Wellvolution and the myStrength behavioral health platform and Telehealth services for addressing employee mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic. Now, with the benefit of long-term planning, companies can be proactive in their wellbeing strategies as they return to in-person operations.

One helpful model for mental health planning is the ‘sieve model’ published by MIT Sloan. The sieve model “requires preempting work stressors by addressing the conditions that generate mental health issues in the first place, detecting emerging issues, and remedying identified issues.” We recommend company leaders at any level read the full article here, which explores the sieve model in-depth.

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