COVID-19 and Return to Work


Posted By: Envision2bWell, Inc

COVID-19 and Return to Work

COVID-19 and Return to Work

By Ally Vastano, Content Writer

The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted us all, and while we may share some common experiences, everyone has been affected differently. Frontline workers, for instance, have had to face higher risks of infection. Similarly, people with underlying conditions that put them at greater risk of serious illness and death have experienced higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who don’t carry such risk. For some, the extra time at home has offered a nice break from the fast pace of their lives, even if they did go stir crazy at times. For others, it was a living nightmare because home is not a safe space for them.

The wide and varied experiences of the pandemic make it clear that an individual’s social conditions (otherwise known as social determinants of health) significantly impact the effects of the pandemic, especially when it comes to mental health. As employees transition back to in-person work, it is important for employers to answer these questions: How has COVID-19 impacted my employees and how can I best facilitate this transition?

Without the answers to these questions, employers risk loss in productivity, engagement, and job satisfaction. Ultimately, employers risk losing valuable employees.


Employees in masks returning to workCOVID-19 and Mental Health

Many employees carry a lot of stress and anxiety about returning to the office. For example, some individuals with autoimmune disorders and other conditions that do not permit them to receive the vaccine may be far less likely to want to return to in-person work due to their higher risk of infection (as well as a higher risk for more severe symptoms if they are infected). Likewise, essential workers who contracted COVID-19 as a result of continuing to work in person during the pandemic may feel disillusioned about workplace safety, and similarly be more stressed and anxious.

In general, people who are more worried about catching COVID-19 are likely to be under increased stress about in-person work, which may cause a decrease in employee engagement, productivity, and satisfaction. Other factors, such as children at home and mental health conditions, may also influence an individual’s experience with COVID-19, resulting in greater mental stress as the transition back to in-person work continues. If employers don’t wish to see a drop in engagement and productivity, they will need to keep these social determinants of health in mind so as to better provide resources that support employees, thus maintaining their capacity to engage and be productive at work.


The Vaccine           

Last week, President Biden announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was drafting a rule mandating that all businesses with 100 or more workers require their employees to either get vaccinated against the coronavirus or face mandatory weekly testing. He also signed an executive order requiring federal employees who work in the Executive Branch to be fully vaccinated with certain limited exceptions.

All of us living in the United States know that people feel differently about being vaccinated. As these mandates are enforced, employers will need to be sensitive to those employees who do not wish to get vaccinated so as not to alienate them. How a person feels about getting vaccinated is very much rooted in the social determinant of health: social and community context. (This is one of the five social determinants of health.)

5 Social Determinants of Health

For example, if an individual’s neighborhood/community/home is largely vaccinated, odds are he/she/they will also respond positively to receiving the vaccine. In contrast, if an individual’s community is largely made up of people who oppose vaccinations, he/she/they is much more likely to adopt a similar sentiment. In other words, a community’s trust or mistrust of the medical system can trickle down to the individual level. As the Washington Post explains, years of medical abuse and racism against the Black community have directly resulted in many Black Americans not trusting the medical system and not getting the vaccine for instance. Some Americans are mistrustful of vaccines in general, which makes them skeptical about getting vaccinated. A recent Vox article lists six different reasons why people are hesitant or unable to get the vaccine, but they almost all boil down to the fact that a "significant portion of Americans don't believe the vaccines are worth the potential downsides."


Next Steps

If employers wish to successfully navigate these unprecedented times, they need to be aware of what is going on with their employees, especially in regard to social determinants of health. This will help them to make the best decisions possible for their company and employees moving forward. Envision2bWell’s KSAA®  Assessment helps employers do just that by providing insight into the social determinants of health impacting their employees.

KSAA® stands for Knowledge, Support, Access and Autonomy. These are the four foundational elements of Social Health Empowerment® and they are the bridge from the societal conditions that disempower to the individual choices and behaviors that empower. With the KSAA® Assessment, employers gain vital insights into employee satisfaction, engagement and the impact of social determinants of health on their behaviors and choices.

Click here to inquire about the KSAA® Assessment.





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