Opinion

Protecting wellbeing and mental health during Coronavirus

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Since the start of the Coronavirus crisis, the British Safety Council has put in place a plan to protect its people and its customers. Supporting our employees’ wellbeing and mental health is just as important to us as limiting the spread of the virus. Much of what we have done can be replicated by other organisations and we have been sharing best practice with our members.

Across the country, we have all had to make changes to how we work, particularly as most people are now working from home. Uncertainty is unsettling and can exacerbate stress and anxiety, so it is important that employers remember that they still have a duty of care to people working remotely, and that there are lots of things we can do to support staff mental health.

The most important thing is to keep connected, so that employees do not feel isolated. We are using technology to keep up regular meetings online, including linking people working from home back to the skeleton team at our office.

Keeping in regular touch is vital in supporting the mental wellbeing of homeworkers during the coronavirus crisis. Photograph: iStock shapecharge

We are also keeping people informed of developments on a regular basis. Not all employees will be glued to the news and to the internet; indeed, some might have deliberately chosen not to immerse themselves in distressing national and international coverage. Right from the start we tested our internal communications so that we can get messages to all our staff in real time. It is also good practice to keep up to date with resourcing plans too, as you may need to redeploy staff to different parts of the organisation.

It is also important to ensure staff working from home are looking after their own wellbeing. That means assessing risk in home workspaces and avoiding other hazards; for example, just as an employee should not be trying to repair a faulty printer at work, they should take the same care at home.

But it also means taking breaks, getting fresh air and eating and sleeping well. Some staff will be very worried for themselves or for their family and friends; again, regular and consistent communication will be reassuring. It may be necessary to adjust workloads, particularly if routine activity like shopping for food becomes more time consuming. If an organisation has lots of people off work, it may also need to ensure remaining staff are not overworked and that it is compliant with Working Time Regulations.

Finally, it is encouraging for staff to feel that we are all in this together. The British Safety Council is doing its bit by giving away courses that will help remote workers, managers dealing with employee stress and those with concerns about mental wellbeing. These courses can be found on our website, www.britsafe.org.

Charles Pitt is head of policy and influencing at the British Safety Council.

This article was first published on the Employee Benefits website.

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