As the UK prepares for Lockdown Round 2, it seems that working from home is very much what the ‘new normal’ will look like. People all over the world have been practicing social distancing for months, and with this looking set to stay in place until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found, workplaces are most likely going to continue being radically different in the months to come.
With all these unknown changes, many employees may still be struggling with their mental health. According to the mental health charity Mind, 1 in 6 workers experience common mental health problems such a stress, anxiety or depression, even before the changes to our lives and work forced on us by the Coronavirus pandemic. *
It’s important to understand that no-one needs to be an expert on mental health. Often small, everyday day actions can make the biggest difference, and it can be as simple as communication. Keeping this going between ourselves and our employees will help to successfully manage the transition out of this new lockdown, dispelling the concerns of many workers, and helping everyone reduce their possible anxieties and the uncertainty around eventually returning to the workplace.
The UK government has again issued guidance and timescales for coming out of this lockdown. However, there are sure to be some individual issues that employers must consider before they begin the transition. Guidance is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.
Employers with more than five workers are already obliged to produce regular health and safety risk assessments, and by now will have hopefully ensured all areas of their work environment are in line the COVID-19 risk assessments. Employers with fewer than five workers are not required to write anything down as part of the risk assessment.
Workplace health and safety risks need to be identified and appropriately managed, with employers needing to be a step ahead of a raft of employment related concerns. Some issues may not become apparent until employees begin to return to the workplace fulltime, so it is important that employers listen to their employees concerns and are willing to review the measures in place at each stage of this process.
Employers may need to continue considerations for employment arrangements, contracts, as well as creating workplace flexibility to not only keep a business moving forward, but to keep all employees mentally and physically supported.
Some employers may continue to introduce changes to working hours or cohorting, potentially allowing people to work flexible hours should they need to avoid public transport rush hours. Depending on the workplace, it may be that PPE is continued to be used, if staff need to interact with the public for example. However, consideration should still be given to staff with skin complaints, breathing difficulties, anxiety or any condition that makes masks uncomfortable or difficult to wear.
In some cases, employers may still find that their employees are reluctant to return to the workplace after this second lockdown, based on the seemingly ineffective results of the last return. These worries may be excelled if they continue to have, or live with someone who has, an underlying health condition. In these circumstances, it is recommended to manage on an individual basis. Where possible, employers should continue to encourage staff to work from home, in line with government guidance.
For many office workers the remote working practice seen in the past few months may lead to a rise in requests for more flexible working patterns going forward, including working from home days. In many cases a full or partial move to homeworking may not be operationally feasible for some businesses or specific roles, however it’s important that staff feel safe if returning to the office is the only viable option.
Most important is perhaps letting staff know that they are not alone. There are many who feel alone, isolated and anxious, especially as we prepare to go through the same cycle again. Regular engagement with teams is key – not only to keep them updated on everyday work matters, but to monitor their well-being during these challenging and uncertain times.
Supporting wellbeing and mental health in your teams is so important, especially in these unprecedented times. Whether through individual discussion – or providing access to a confidential Employee Assistance Helpline – going the extra mile now could give you the best possible chance of having a motivated, positive and committed workforce who are collectively in a good place when we get through to the other side.
If you want your employees to look after your business now and in the future, now is the time, more than ever before, to look after them.
This content is published and provided for informational purposes only. The information contained within constitutes the author’s own opinions. i-stock is a trading style of Tavistock Wealth Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, FCA No: 568089. Tavistock Wealth do not provide ﬁnancial advice. Registered Office: 1 Bracknell Beeches, Old Bracknell Lane, Bracknell RG12 7BW, Company Number 07805960. Tavistock Wealth Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Tavistock Investments Plc. None of the information contained in the document constitutes a recommendation that any particular investment strategy is suitable for any speciﬁc person. Source of data: Lovemoney.com, tfagroup.co.uk, Tavistock Wealth Limited unless otherwise stated.