Six Steps to Prep Your Employees for Return to Work

As the COVID-19 crisis subsides, the world is moving away from uncertainty and toward action, optimism and re-opening.

4 min read
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As the COVID-19 crisis subsides, the world is moving away from uncertainty and toward action, optimism and re-opening. Large employers around the country are preparing to bring employees back to work, and it’s anticipated that millions of workers will return to their office worksite locations between June and September.

HR and benefits managers have an essential role to play in reassuring and guiding employees who are returning to new work environments, whether it’s on-site, remote work, or some combination thereof. Read on for six positive steps you can take today to engage your employee population for a healthy and more productive return-to-work (RTW) experience.

1. Encourage ergonomics best practices, whether your employees are back in the office or working remotely

  • Encourage ergonomics best practices, whether your employees are back in the office or working remotely
  • We’ve all been on a Zoom video call lately and spotted our coworkers working at the kitchen table or living room couch. Poor remote-work ergonomics can have a serious snowball effect, and yet are easily addressable, especially with phased-in return-to-work dates.
  • Be on the lookout for musculoskeletal (MSK) issues that may have developed while employees were remote, and take action now (do not wait for your 2020 claims data).
  • For in-office or at-home workstations, reinforce efforts to reduce injuries from repetitive motion, awkward positioning and contact stress.
  • The above steps can have an immediate impact on your employees and prevent future spend.

Recommended action:

Consider providing remote work and in-office  resources, support and guidance to employees through multiple touch points.

2. Double down on employee wellbeing efforts

  • Be proactive and focus on each pillar of wellbeing while taking a holistic approach to better health. Taking action now can make reentry into the workplace an easier transition.
  • Anxiety, depression and stress can all be impacted by – and even directly related to – chronic MSK conditions and COVID-19.
  • A new Kaia Health survey revealed that 46% of U.S. chronic pain patients felt their overall health has declined since COVID-19, and their mental wellbeing was negatively affected through anxiety or feelings of loneliness. Being tuned in to MSK-related health conditions can help your team better address new challenges as they arise.

Recommended action:

Review your existing wellness solutions to determine if there are any new benefits or features that have been – or could be – added to corporate health and wellness benefits. In the wake of COVID-19, numerous wellness, telehealth and digital therapeutic vendors have pivoted their solutions to benefit the companies they serve.

Illustration of multiple squares with people completing different tasks inside each one.

3. Consider how your workplace will change, from layout to operations

  • As your organization prepares for return to work, understand which factors –  including social distancing, disinfecting and general safety measures – might impact employee wellbeing (think: meetings, office layout, hours).
  • If RTW is happening in phases, consider how to manage a dispersed workforce.
    Recommended action: conduct a full review and risk assessment of employee work environments to understand what situations have changed and how to safely minimize the impact of this change; apply temporary ergonomic adjustments and guidance for home-office environments or new in-office situations.

Recommended action:

Have a clear policy regarding remote work, know how many will be working remotely part-time, full-time, or on an as-needed basis.

4. Understand how pre-existing conditions such as chronic pain are being managed at home

  • For those suffering from chronic pain, their condition may have worsened during months of remote work. What might this mean for their RTW? Will our organization see increased absenteeism and lower engagement, and how can that best be managed?
  • Digital therapeutics can help address and alleviate chronic pain through personalized, holistic therapies delivered directly to patients through mobile apps.

Recommended action:

Tap into a digital therapeutics solution that can be implemented off-cycle, rapidly deployed and easily measured for effectiveness.

5. Stress Reduction

The new COVID reality has increased stress levels for many workers.

Recommended action:

Make sure all health-related safety considerations and guidelines have been implemented. Determine what you and your team can do to decrease stress levels during this transitional time and in new work environments.

6. Communication

  • More than ever, employees are relying upon corporate communications, and HR and benefits managers in particular, for trusted information regarding COVID-19 and related health and safety matters.

Recommended action:

Develop digital and print communications – including internal newsletters and corporate website channels – to inform employees of new workplace and remote-work policies along with wellness benefits and resources.


We’re looking forward to a bright, new future and a powerful new role for digital health and wellness. HR and benefits managers have a unique opportunity to get ahead of the wellness curve by building trust and providing guidance as workers gradually return to work. It’s the perfect time to build momentum toward better health outcomes and increased engagement through digital therapeutics.

To learn more about how we can help get your employees back to work while making a positive change in their health and happiness, schedule a brief intro call or demo with our team.

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