Woman working on a computer

How managers can support employees returning to the office

As lockdown restrictions ease and we hope for a brighter 2021, employees and employees returning to work will face a fresh set of changes and challenges. This resource aims to empower line managers and give them the skills to help – providing useful hints and tips, plus a reminder of the support tools available through Unum.

Understandably, businesses have mainly focused on the practical health and safety precautions needed so people can safely return to the workplace. But it’s also important to remember the possible psychological and emotional impact.

Line managers are likely to be the first port of call for someone having difficulty managing their wellbeing. This resource aims to empower line managers and give them the skills to help – providing useful hints and tips, plus a reminder of the support tools available through Unum.

Top tips for line managers

Communication is key

Both with your whole team and on a one-to-one basis. This way, you’re more likely to be able to spot people who may be struggling. Log in to your LifeWorks account for more information on how to communicate regularly, openly and honestly.

Know your team

Have regular one-to-ones and make wellbeing part of this conversation. Understand them as a person, and not just as an employee. Make sure your staff have what they need to do their best work – and take care of themselves and their loved ones.

Spot the warning signs

Have you noticed a change from the norm? If so, get in touch with the person and discuss what support they may need. Our stress awareness e-module can help you recognise stress in the team.

All of our online workshops are designed to help HR and line managers spot the signs if an employee is struggling with a physical or mental illness, and understand how best to support them.

Act sooner rather than later

It might be nothing, but then again, it might be something. It’s better to ask than risk missing an opportunity to intervene. The uncertainty of the current climate can aggravate a period of stress that may be sorted out relatively easily if dealt with promptly. To help, take a look at our preparing and starting the discussion tool.

Know your resources

Managers don’t need to be health experts. But you do need to recognise the value of health and wellbeing at work and be able to direct employees to appropriate sources of help – such as our Lifeworks and Help@Hand services (available to employees insured under Unum’s Group Income Protection policy at no additional cost)


Unum customers have access to LifeWorks, our Employee Assistance Programme. LifeWorks offers emotional and practical support to help tackle concerns affecting someone’s emotional wellbeing, including relationships, bereavement, stress and anxiety – at no additional cost. LifeWorks is confidential, easy to access and available 24/7, 365 days a year. It includes:

  • 24/7 helpline: Immediate and confidential access to qualified counsellors and experts, supporting your people on a broad range of topics whenever they need it
  • Financial assessments: Enabling people to feel in control of their finances with tailored recommendations to improve an individual’s overall financial wellbeing
  • Mental wellbeing support: Providing access to online modules, guidance and localised support to help employees receive professional care specific to their needs
  • Health and fitness plans including nutrition advice: Custom workout plans and nutritional advice to help employees reach their health and fitness goals
  • Life event resources: Guidance on key life events such as moving home, becoming a parent, elder care or starting a new job
  • Legal assistance: Comprehensive advice for businesses from law experts, taking the strain away from potentially complex legal issues

For more information on how to refer someone, log in to LifeWorks here.

And remember to take a look at all the great online resources available, such as articles, podcasts and infographics on a range of wellbeing topics and manager toolkits. Just some examples include: COVID-19Returning to normal after COVID-19Helping employees stay focused during times of change and Resilience and changeLog in to your LifeWorks account to access the suite.


Help@hand from Unum offers access to a remote GP service, mental health and physiotherapy support and a second medical opinion service, for employees and their eligible family members, and Unum’s LifeWorks EAP service through a single easy to use app.

Absence management support

If you think an employee is having difficulty managing their health at work, Group Income Protection customers can access a wide range of support, guidance and expertise from our vocational rehabilitation team. If you need help or would like more information, please call our employer absence helpline on 01306 646 001.

Newly launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Group Income Protection customers can refer an employee for an individual Wellbeing Check. Carried out by our in-house Rehabilitation team, the 1-2-1 discussion takes place over the phone and considers all aspects of wellbeing i.e. mental, physical, social and financial, signposting to further specialist support where necessary. To make a referral complete this form.

Sadly, the number of people lost to the pandemic may mean you’re supporting more employees dealing with bereavement. Our bereavement e-modulebereavement toolkit and LifeWorks can help line managers to support bereaved employees.

Be a positive role model

Help your team by leading by example with a healthy work-life balance, knowing when to switch off and encouraging self-care. Show them how to set clear working hours and stick to them. Use the NHS’ 5 ways to wellbeing to help staff make small changes to their daily routines that can have a big impact. Reinforce this by modelling it yourself.

Adopt a flexible management style

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. Each employee is an individual with their own set of unique challenges requiring individual support, whether it’s childcare, caring for a relative, relationship concerns, financial worries or their own health. Being flexible with working hours, locations and duties, where possible, can help ease the load.

Plan ahead and set clear objectives

This will help your team feel confident in what they’re doing. Make sure work is distributed evenly across the team and there’s a back-up plan in place if someone needs to take time off.

Encourage staff to share experiences

Regularly sharing experiences – both positive and negative – can help normalise concerns people may have, as well as being a forum for moral support and sharing practical tips on coping.

Remind employees of sustainable and healthy working habits

It can sometimes be tempting to power through a task or project, so remind them to take regular breaks, stand during the working day if possible, have a lunch break away from their workstation and stay hydrated.

Our Wellbeing Calendar is an interactive, ready-made HR tool supporting key wellbeing dates and events throughout the year – with webinars, articles and podcasts focusing on lifestyle, physical, emotional and financial wellbeing that you can also direct employees too.

Encourage employees to consider taking annual leave

We might not be able to go on the summer holiday we’d planned, but it’s important to take meaningful time away from work to recharge and enjoy ourselves.

Take care of yourself

Importantly, remember to ‘put your own oxygen mask on before helping others’. Try to look out for your own wellbeing by using the resources available to you and ask for help if you need it.

Is this page useful?