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Uncertainty around return to office can affect mental health

August 26, 2021
By Kristina Vassilieva/Peninsula Canada

Photo: nenetus/Adobe Stock

Many Canadians are still working from home despite lifted restrictions.

Some companies have chosen to either call back only part of their workforce to the office when businesses were allowed to reopen, while others decided to keep operating remotely for the time being.

According to a recent report from LifeWorks, 25 per cent of Canadian workers are unsure about what their employer’s work plan for the future is, and another 12 per cent do not think that their employer has a plan.

Now that we are entering a fourth wave of COVID-19, there is even more uncertainty about working arrangements as new cases again climb. Employees who’ve only just returned to the physical workplace may soon be sent to work remotely again and some are worried about losing their jobs to another lockdown.


How can lack of lack of clarity around work affect mental health?

Uncertainty about the future of their jobs and working arrangements has the potential to impact employees’ mental health.

Some workers may experience anxiety about being back in the physical workplace due to COVID-19, having to continue working from home, or simply because they don’t know what will happen.

Workers who were given a choice about where they could work had the best mental health score in the report, highlighting the importance of flexibility in working arrangements.

Those who will be working at their workplace some of the time had a worse mental health score, followed by those who will continue working from home having the worst.

The importance of communicating work plans clearly

To better support staff, employers are advised to be transparent and clear about their return-to-work plans and what the future might look like for their workforce.

It is also a best practice to welcome feedback from staff before making any company decisions. Employers can let staff know about any upcoming developments by updating their policies and making company-wide announcements explaining the reasoning behind any changes.

Good communication is important in facilitating understanding between employers and staff. Workers should feel comfortable raising any concerns they may have with their management.

Just as with the transition to remote work, the transition back to the workplace or into any new work arrangements will require some extra support from employers.

Vaccination can also affect mental health

The LifeWorks report also found that vaccination can impact workers’ mental health.

In the report, those who are partially vaccinated have the best mental health score, followed by those who are not getting vaccinated. Those who are fully vaccinated have an even lower score, with those are still waiting to get vaccinated having the lowest.

Vaccination can be a personal and sensitive subject. Some workers may be worried and anxious about not having the vaccine yet, about possible side effects, or about being judged by others for not getting one.

For this reason, employers are advised to create a vaccination policy for their workplace.

This can explain the company’s stance on vaccination, the rights that workers’ have and how staff are expected to behave surrounding this topic.

Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.

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