OPINION

Employers must be attuned to staff as offices reopen

Leave could be key as staff return to offices

With studies showing Australians are now the most burnt-out workforce in the world, it's time to talk about how sick leave may be a vital lifeline for staff once the pandemic restrictions disappear.

Now that Australia appears to be on the road to scrapping lockdowns for good, how do you think your team will handle the shift back?

With workers in Sydney and Melbourne emerging from a second year of extensive periods of lockdown, it's important for employers to take stock of the impact the past 18 months has had on people's physical and mental well-being.

For the majority, taking leave during the pandemic whether for physical or mental wellbeing didn't feel like a safe option.

In fact, a report from the US shows us that using leave while working from home actually increased stress levels due to fears around job security, reduced productivity and public perception amongst colleagues.

What we've been through is a real trauma, of which the true effects may not yet have been fully realised.

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For those planning a return to the office, this upcoming change in gear may well be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Which is why it's important for employers and managers to be prepared for what's to come. The prospect of venturing out, attending an office, commuting or socialising with colleagues and friends may be daunting.

For organisations, balancing the needs of all your people and their individual circumstances should be considered as much as possible.

My advice for those feeling nervous about returning; firstly, take one step at a time. There's no need to rush back to your old environments, get comfortable and go to places close to you first to build your confidence.

Take some time for yourself if you need it. Burn-out is not good for you or your organisation, so book the leave you need. Focus on what you can control. Wear a mask, assess risks for yourself and follow the guidelines as best you can.

Try to maintain some routine. There will be a lot of big changes so maintain the things you're familiar with, including your sleeping, eating and exercising habits.

Perhaps most importantly, remind yourself and others that you will adapt. Just as you did to the stay-at-home orders.

It will take time so if you're struggling, talk to others or reach out for support. Your GP, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or support lines like Lifeline are there to help.

  • Marcela Slepica is the clinical services director at AccessEAP.
This story Leave could be key as staff return to offices first appeared on The Canberra Times.