Stress Management, Well-being and Self-Care

Group of happy employees

Helping Employees Deal with the Stress of Returning to Work Part 3 Flexibility and Support

by James Porter November 19, 2022

In this 3-part series we are discussing what you can do as an employer to make returning to work, a little less stressful. In the first installment, I wrote about the many beloved perks of working remotely including no time wasted commuting, being able to work from anywhere and being able to get things done at home, while still managing to get your work done, too. The gist of this first installment was: If you are asking workers to give up all these perks, you had better give them something darned good in return.

In the second installment, I focused on what employers could do to solve this problem: To entice workers back to the office. Here I introduced the concept of work-life integration as an upgrade to the increasingly out-of-date concept of work-life balance. Work-life integration promotes the idea of making the workplace a sort of home away from home. Creating cozy places to converse, fun places to play, encouraging workers to socialize during and after work and scheduling group recreational events are all examples of what work-life integration could look like. 

In this installment, I want to emphasize that remote work is here to stay. If you want to retain existing employees, hire the best new employees, maintain and grow your commitment to diversity, in order to be competitive, you simply must allow your employees to work remotely at least some of the time. And for workers still worried about covid, or passing on any virus to vulnerable family members, or who don’t want to have to deal with office politics and distractions, even coming to work only 2 or 3 days a week can still feel like a compromise they may feel unwilling to make.  

In order to sweeten the deal, employers need to focus on giving their workers more flexibility and support. Flexibility and support can take the sting out of coming back into work by offering first and foremost a supportive supervisor and on top of that differing start and stop times, various work at home options, and allowing employees to work from a management by objective model. Essentially all we’re saying here is treat your employees like adults (and accept that their personal lives come WAY AHEAD of their work lives).

Follow these five pieces of advice and YOU and your company will benefit just as much as your employees:

Don’t micromanage.

Give workers a clear picture of what you want and trust them to get the job done.

Solicit their feedback on what’s working and not working.

Communicate transparently.

Treat them fairly.

Remember, workers don’t want to be married to their jobs. They want to be married to their lives. So, focus first on becoming a supportive organization with supportive supervisors then you can help your employees create better lives, by giving them opportunities to volunteer in the community, opportunities to get to do team-building, and finally opportunities to let them manage their own time and let them be judged by their output rather than by the number of hours they put on the clock.

There’s an old saying that employees don’t quit their jobs they quit their bosses. If you want to retain your employees and attract new ones, the only benefit more powerful, than working remotely, is the benefit of having a thoughtful, supportive, and flexible supervisor embedded in an equally flexible and supportive organization.

James Porter
James Porter