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Return to Work Benefits

HR practitioners and employee wellness co-ordinators have been experiencing a new post-covid hurdle to jump through in the workplace since the return to “normal”. Since experiencing the many benefits of remote working, employees are dragging their heels at the idea of returning to work. This new phenomenon in employee wellness circles, is known as return-to-work resistance and is causing employers across the globe to scratch their heads as to how to develop enthusiasm for employees to return to the workplace.

Having gone through the initial trauma of setting up a remote workforce, from dealing with IT requirements, to dealing with the emotional toll taken on employees during the initial shutdown and waves, employees have settled into their new routines and physically experienced a new perspective on the here-to (largely) unanswered work-life balance. Time plays a major role in the work-life balance argument and employees suddenly found themselves, filling the void previously dedicated to getting ready for work and travel-time, to other endeavours such as family, yoga, gardening, [fill in the pastime of choice], leaving them substantially more fulfilled and similarly less stressed. Although the raised covid-induced stress may have been difficult to mitigate, this has, to a large degree, passed and some employees remain unconvinced regarding the benefits of returning to work.

Reports indicate increased levels of employee retention, staff motivation and increased productivity are just some of the outcomes of remote working which, now that employees are recalled to the office, is directly reflected in trends showing mass resignation, predominantly in the skilled worker and upper levels, over the past months now that employees have come to experience for themselves, the life-changing effects of remote working. Organisations must now go gently as they try to show their employee’s how they will be better off back at work. Programs for employee wellness are being introduced so that employees can continue to experience the work-life balance to which they have become accustomed. Workplace mediation workshops, mental wellness programs, gym memberships, provision of healthy meals are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is now on offer.

Studies show that while younger employees tend to enjoy the diversity of the workplace, those in the family making stage and above, are less easy to please, having experience the benefits that time has afforded them, which they previously thought was gone forever. At the end of the day, employers must recognise that where they have failed to provide a positive working environment, there will be repercussions. Where previously employees experiencing workplace politics, negativity, bullying and the other unhealthy aspects which fundamentally affect an individual’s health and well-being, may have been inclined to stick it out, pitting their remuneration vs their long-term security and choosing to stay in an unhappy work-employee relationship, they are more likely to think twice now, chose to leave their toxic workplaces. Employers who now want to have their workforce under the same roof, must now pull out all the stops to ensure that they are listening to the needs of their labour force, or risk a major loss of skills.