I have heard from several employers recently that they are struggling to get their staff back to work as they are opening up their businesses. I have heard from many they are being told by their employees they would prefer to remain on the government CERB support than return to work.

I find this information very disheartening for many reasons, but not likely the ones you might expect.

There is a great deal of research supporting the universal drive for people to strive to excel in at least some area. Contrary to popular belief, people who are otherwise healthy (mentally and physically) have a drive to do things and do them well. 

This is great news for employers who provide appropriate rewards and recognition in the workplace. Rewards and Recognition consist of one of the Pillars under the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Standards of Psychological Health and Safety and are fundamental to establishing a health positive workplace culture.

As a general rule, people like to work at something and to be rewarded, in a meaningful way (not everyone is driven exclusively by the size of the pay cheque).  Some of the ways of recognizing staff are as simple as noticing and genuinely saying “thank you” and “your efforts are appreciated” on a regular basis.

Taking the time to find out why people are stating they prefer to remain on the Government subsidy is a logical first step.  They could be struggling with child care, or elder care, or be fearful of taking public transit. These fears are rampant. With the return to school in a couple of weeks, many parents remain fearful and concerned.  Most public transit has returned to usual routines, but the risk of exposure is a concern for many.

For others, they, or a household member, may be in a vulnerable category. They, or a family member, may have underlying health issues that make them more vulnerable and there is a risk in returning to work. They may be eligible for other government supported leaves new to the COVID pandemic or they may be able to work with certain accommodations that would not create undue hardship for the employer.

So the first step with employees resistant to returning is to start the discussion. Determining what the underlying issue is related to their reluctance to return and what is within the scope of what could be supported or accommodated.

You need to share that you have taken all possible precautions and followed the directives from all governing bodies related to reducing exposure, cleanliness, providing the necessary physical protection and processes to minimize risk of exposure.

Once all this has been addressed and the employee is still reluctant to return, the next step is to look at how the employee experiences their time at work. Is there harassment or discrimination occurring, even at very subtle levels that can be felt by the person if not witnessed openly by others? Are there job stressors and is the staff trained and supported in addressing these? Are team members supporting each other or do they strive to get ahead at the expense of coworkers?

There are numerous factors that go into developing a positive work culture where people are eager to get back to work and perform what they have been trained to do.

Work addresses so many of our fundamental needs as human beings. If someone is choosing nothing versus work, there is a reason for this. As an employer, you need to ensure their reason for not wanting to return is not something you have neglected.

For those who address what is within their control, they will be rewarded by a team willing to give the extra effort when needed and perform to their best.

For more strategies on getting your staff back to work and performing at their best, CHC Consulting has information and resources to share. We can also help you get at the root causes for disconnection with work teams.

If you would like to discuss any of this or related topics in more detail, please contact me to book your complimentary, confidential discussions session at communityhealthconsult@bell.net

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