Hitting reset: 2 ways your organization can improve employees’ return to the office experience

July 27, 2022

For business owners, plan sponsors and administrators


Maarika Arget is a Senior Consultant at Manulife focused on workplace well-being.

We’ve all been through a lot over the last couple of years and the data reflects how we’re collectively feeling: the Wellness Report shows that 51% of employees are experiencing feelings of loneliness (up from 48% last year) and mental fatigue is a top barrier to adopting a healthy lifestyle. Now, as organizations return to the office, employees have added stresses like commuting, changes to caregiving, and anxiety around potential health risks.

My role focuses on helping plan sponsors help their members live healthier. And in the wake of a pandemic and its effect on your plan members, here are two ways you can help employees hit the reset button and make the shift back to the office:

  1. Understand and acknowledge change

    Most of us had our worlds turned upside down by COVID. We struggled to shift to working from home while managing constant uncertainty on how to keep our families safe and navigate a new normal. Now, as employees return to the office, things are changing again, and we need to be flexible so we can meet people where they are in the process.

    You can help employees by being empathetic and transparent in your communications. Acknowledge that people are at different stages of coming back. Some may be anxious, others eager, and some excited about meeting people they’ve worked with for years, but never met in person. 

    Remind them of the resources available to help make coming back a positive change. From mental health resources to fitness facilities – after being away from the office for so long, employees may have forgotten about tools and benefits that can help.

    A great away to understand how your employees are feeling is to participate in the Wellness Report. Reach out to Manulife if you’d like your organization to participate in the survey and get the latest data on employee mental and physical health. Your results are confidential and can offer insights on how you may be able to improve your wellness strategy and help your employees.

  2. Create the best environment to come back to

    There’s a first day back in the office for everyone, but the transition to working in the office every day can take much longer than that. Whether it’s day one or three months into working from the office, here are a few ways you can create a positive environment to help employees manage change:

    • Consider a graduated approach to coming back to the office. Could you give people the option to come back voluntarily first, so it might not feel aggressive or abrupt? Or perhaps a hybrid model where people work from home a few days and spend time in the office as well.
    • Surprise employees with a delightful first day back experience. At Manulife, I was greeted by a balloon wall and huge welcome sign! We had selfie stations where we could pose with co-workers and many of us posted our photos on social media.
    • Be creative as you make employees feel welcome. Could you provide a gift card for the cafeteria? Or offer on-site health screenings; some people delayed care or avoided their doctor’s office during the pandemic. My team can set up a health screening clinic where employees can talk privately with a nurse to prioritize healthy habits or set some health and wellness goals.
    • Simply bring people together. You don’t need a big budget to create a welcoming atmosphere. Low cost/no cost social events can be a powerful way to help people reconnect.

Looking for support with your well-being strategy or programming? Learn more about Employee Wellness Programs and reach out to your Manulife representative to get started.

Here are Maarika’s other two articles in her reset series: 5 tips for plan members and How managers can help their teams reset.

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