We are now into the 4th month of some form of lockdown. Whilst some restrictions ease, many employees who are working, find themselves working from home. And many more may have been furloughed under the government job retention scheme.
With home working now having been in place for a prolonged period of time, employees have been without direct contact with their employer and colleagues for several months. Coupled with coping with the impacts of the Coronavirus, it is likely to be a challenging time.
Managing employee wellbeing during Coronavirus will likely be high up on the agenda for many businesses as well as considering how you can keep employees engaged, maintain communication channels and ensure that employees are able to access the support that they would have access to in ‘normal’ times.
As an employer what steps can you take to ensure staff wellbeing during the Coronavirus pandemic?
For those working from home there are likely to be both physical and mental well-being concerns which employers will need to be aware of and address.
Home working brings new challenges such as a new working environment. No longer the office set up of a desk, comfortable chair and ergonomic equipment. Staff may be juggling limited space and equipment as well as managing work alongside other challenges such as childcare and home schooling amongst others.
As an employer ensure that you are open with regards to equipment that employees may feel that they need. Remember, that in terms of health and safety you are as responsible for employees who work from home as you are for those who are normally office based. Take a look at our recent blog on employer responsibilities for those who are working from home for more information on supporting physical wellbeing of your employees during Covid-19.
And the Coronavirus pandemic is also likely to be affecting stress levels, anxiety, feelings of isolation, and concern around the virus and its impact on friends and family.
Some areas that employers can look at when it comes to managing staff wellbeing during Coronavirus include:
- Ensuring that employees know where to find information, guidance and support should they be concerned about mental health issues
- Listening and responding to employees’ concerns
- Don’t rely solely on your employees to come to you with their concerns. It is important that your managers and line managers ensure good communication with employees to pick up any unreported issues or concerns. And that managers feel empowered and have the right skills to manage this. Regular catch ups and 1-2-1s could be a way to achieve this.
- Try to maintain the types of informal catch up that are possible in an office environment. Making use of different technology such as video conferencing or messaging apps could aid this
- Where possible, be flexible with regards to working patterns. Taking into account changes to circumstances for employees and being flexible in terms of working patterns can show that you trust your staff. As well as helping them to feel supported and keeping employee engagement up
- Provide your staff with resources to help them maintain their wellbeing – whether this be studies which show the benefits of exercise or tips and techniques to reduce stress and remain calm
- Some businesses are also organising social activities for their employees to help engagement and keep employees communicating. And communicating not only about work. Working from home coupled with the Coronavirus lockdown can be very isolating for some so social events may help offer some reprise from this
What responsibilities do employers have with regards to employee wellbeing?
Employers have a duty of care to support their employees’ health, safety and wellbeing. So, you must ensure that you fulfil this.
But don’t think about this just as a duty. A business that promotes well-being, creating a positive working environment and reducing stress can help individuals and organisations thrive. Staff retention will be higher for those who are happy in their working environment. And focusing on well-being could well be a a big factor during the Coronavirus pandemic, particularly when it comes to the return to work.
The Coronavirus pandemic has evoked different reactions in different people. And this will likely be noticeable when it comes to the return to work. Some employees may be keen to get back to the office. But some may be less willing or unable due to shielding or isolating requirements. As an employer, understanding the different viewpoints of your employees and creating a flexible approach to the return to work will help manage employee wellbeing at such a challenging time as well as likely creating a more engaged workforce after the coronavirus pandemic passes.