Posts

EMBRACING WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY

In a year of considerable change and uncertainty, we have to work harder to protect our mental health. As a HR Manager or Team Leader, your attitude and actions can also help the resilience of your team.

Every employee was recruited because they offered skills, knowledge, experience and potential that your organisation needed. In a challenging year, this talent should be retained and optimised. A team with good mental health is productive, motivated and able to make valuable contributions. So, what measures need to be in place to help everyone to cope?

Every Mind Matters

This year, World Mental Health Day focuses on providing support to people within the workplace. In this article, we particularly focus on Every Mind Matters. This NHS campaign focuses on the well-being of children and young people, so how is that relevant to your workplace?

Working Parents

Some of your team are likely to be parents. In the last 6 months, their children will have missed out on opportunities that should be part of everyday life. The closure of schools, clubs, childcare facilities and leisure activities has affected their ability to socialise, learn and develop.

There have been extra pressures on working parents, including home-schooling and childcare. The continuing impact of Covid-19 on their children weighs heavy on their mind. In a Public Health survey, 52% of parents stated that the mental well-being of their children was their biggest concern. Many wanted more advice on how to support their children.

You can help by raising awareness of the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign. The website includes online resources and advice for parents. In addition, there may be ways to establish support networks within your team. If possible, specialist training or group coaching could help address parents’ concerns. These measures will build the confidence and resilience of your working parents.

Workplace Apprentices

Your organisation may employ young people as apprentices or in junior roles. The start of their career is likely to have been disrupted by Covid-19, along with their home and social lives. To help them remain positive, motivated and productive, it is important to talk. Maintain regular communication that expands beyond technical training.

You may not relate to the issues faced by young people, but the ‘Every Mind Matters’ website has a section dedicated to young people’s well-being. It includes videos and links to charities who offer support.

Within the workplace, mental health can also be bolstered by the routine of work, good support from colleagues and recognition of the contribution they are making to the team.

The Return to Work

If employees have been working from home or furloughed, the return to work may be particularly stressful. With new procedures in place, it is another change to their routine that may bring mental health challenges to the fore.

Communication, care and collaboration will optimise physical and mental well-being during the transition. Our article on Work-life after Lockdown offers advice on how to minimise the impact of returning to work.

Solutions-focused Mental Health Support

As a company that values the mental health of your employees, it is important to develop a culture of empathy. Individuals need to feel confident that they can talk in confidence about the challenges they are facing. The priority for those involved in those disclosures is simply to listen. By that, we mean actively listen, without distraction.

The role of the HR Manager or Team Leader is not to diagnose or judge. The aim of any discussions should be on providing solutions-focused support. Signposting to relevant internal or external resources, such as ‘Every Mind Matters’, can be helpful.

#WorldMentalHealthDay #EveryMindMatters

If your organisation would benefit from additional HR support, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Work at home image: pexels-vlada-karpovich

Some companies have just got staff back into the office and now they’re heading back home again. What are the employers’ responsibilities?

In the wake of a second wave of Covid-19, on 22 September 2020, the Prime Minister asked for office workers to once again work from home if they were able to. Unlike the lockdown earlier in the year where people were told to stay home unless they were key workers, this latest instruction allows those working in retail, construction and hospitality, for example, to attend their workplace.

It is also only guidance, so while earlier in the year (until 1 June), it was illegal to go into work unless you came under the key worker categories, this time around that is not the case. So what does this mean for employers?

Must my staff work at home?

There are many factors to consider when working from home, not least whether an employee is able to work ‘effectively’. If it is not possible for them to work effectively at home, you would be within your rights to ask them to come into the office, according to global HR lawyer Lewis Silkin.

If your staff do continue to come into the office, you must make sure that all health and safety procedures relating to Covid-19 are strictly adhered to, both to ensure the safety of your staff and to make sure that you are not open to complaints from staff who are required to work there.

Communication is key

For some companies, who furloughed their staff, this may be the first time they have had to organise work-from-home employees. If this is the case, there are a number of factors to consider. In all cases communication between management and staff is key.

You will need to check that staff are confident that they can carry out their work at home, safely and effectively. Allow them to be open about any concerns – for example they may have access to sensitive documents, where will they store them at home? There may be aspects of the job that are impossible or time-consuming to do from home. You need to have these types of conversations with them and about whether they need to come into the office or alter aspects of their role. To decide whether someone can work effectively, you may want to devise and make use of a Homeworking Questionnaire that can then be discussed with the individual.

It is important to be supportive of staff working from home. Not only practically but emotionally too. Ensure that there is an open line of communication for them to talk with managers and other staff. This is especially important for staff who are relatively new to the company or their role, and who still need to check in regularly with managers and senior staff. Make use of video conferencing facilities but remember to check that people know the basics of its use and are comfortable using it. Something as simple as knowing where the camera is so that not only the top of the head is displayed, or what the background looks like.

However, the responsibilities do not all fall to the employer. Employees have to take a reasonable amount of care of their health and safety, and let the company know if there are any issues, and if any initial arrangements need to be reviewed.

What if they want to come into the office?

Because the government guidance is just that, it is assumed that employers and staff will have sensible conversations about who should work from home. That said, if an employee is unable to focus at home, does not have the room to work from home, or is experiencing mental health issues from being at home all day – which mean they will be far more effective in the office – you should have a conversation with them to see how you can help. If it is just that they enjoy the company, or like getting out of the house, they should be working from home.

Homeworking policy

If your staff were furloughed during lockdown, this may all be new to the company and you will need to make sure you have got the basics in place. A homeworking policy is vital so that the company policy is clear to everyone.

  • The right space
    You should check that your staff have an acceptable place to work at home – it may be several months before we all back in our offices and the Prime Minister has certainly intimated that he wants those who can, to work at home over the winter months. Perching on a sofa five days a week with a laptop on their lap is not going to be acceptable. Help them carry out a risk assessment of their working space to make it as safe and as comfortable as possible. They may need advice on ergonomics when it comes to chair and desk, as well as lighting and ventilation. Will the organisation contribute to setting up a workspace? Remember that a DSE assessment is required.
  • The right equipment
    Make sure the relevant systems are in place so that your staff have the correct technology – if not a PC, then a laptop, monitor, keyboard and mouse may be required. What software and licenses are needed? Is all work carried out ‘in the cloud’ or is access to a server required? Most people have access to broadband but discussions about connectivity may be needed, depending on roles.
  • Change to contracts
    Consideration should be given to contractual changes may be necessary for employee’s working from home. Here conversations are vital. The CIPD believe that organisations should consider flexible working requests from Day One. It is expected that there will be an increase in employees exercising their Right to Request Flexible Working. To ensure responses are considered appropriately and are reasonable, it’s a good idea to follow the formal procedure as there may need to be a change to contracts.

What about childcare?

Unlike during lockdown, childcare facilities are open, and families can now have a support bubble to help with childcare where necessary. However, there have already been a number of instances where children have been sent home to self-isolate thanks to virus cases within school or nursery. Children who are unwell may also not be allowed back into an education setting until they have had a negative Covid-19 test.

So what happens when parents have young children isolating at home while they are supposed to be working? Some options available are that they: take annual leave; use unpaid time off for dependants, or use parental leave. However, it is unclear how many times this may happen over the next few months, and families may not  be able to afford to take too  much unpaid leave. Make sure that you can have an open conversation with staff about options, such as flexible working.

Further reading

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and subsequent containment measures will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on the economy, businesses and working lives. Organisations worldwide have had to make rapid changes to how they operate, including how and where jobs are carried out, as well as planning for, or returning staff to work safely. Workers in turn, have had to navigate new ways of working, as well as adapt to changing circumstances in their personal lives.

You may be interested in this research by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) with useful insights into: jobs and financial security; workload and work-life balance; health, safety and wellbeing, as well as their findings into employer and line managers’ responses to the pandemic.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you draw up a homeworking policy, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

As the government encourages construction and manufacturing businesses to get staff back to work unless they can work at home, we take a look at what SMEs need to consider to ensure their staff are kept safe…

The current message from the government is now for businesses to start getting back to work if they possibly can. And with a clearer idea of how long the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is to go on for, and a plan for getting people gradually back to work in place, now’s the time to look at how to manage staff back.

For now, anyone who can work from home should do so, but the government is suggesting that other employees get back to work by June where appropriate. The CIPD has said that employers should meet the requirement of a three-point checklist before bringing staff back to work. These are as follows:

  • Firstly, that it is essential for employees to be present in the workplace
  • Secondly, that it is safe for them to be there
  • And thirdly, that both employers and workers agree that they should come back into the workplace.

The workspace

The key questions to pose before your office staff return to work are:

  • Can they still work from home?
  • When they do come back to work how will that be achieved to maintain social distancing and minimise the risk and spread of infection?

You must consider how staff can safely distance from each other, not just when sat at a desk, but when walking around the office, using the toilet and drinks areas. You need to work out safe walking routes around the workspace and, if space is tight, consider splitting shifts or alternating days so that you don’t have all of the staff in at all times. Screens should only be used if you have no more space to distance employees, and meetings should be avoided. If they must take place, keep everyone distanced or take it outside if possible. Hot desking is also to be avoided. If someone has to use another desk, computers and phone, or other equipment, these should be thoroughly cleaned between users.

Changing the way you work

Perhaps this whole situation has made you realise that your staff can work from home. Maybe you don’t need an office or can utilise a smaller space. Now is a good time to consider how your business might look in the future. Start looking at the implications of people working full time from home – what do you need to do to make this happen – for instance:

  • Do you need a more robust IT provision in place?
  • What extra insurance cover will you need?
  • Have you been using Microsoft Teams or other collaborative software? Can this work in the future? If not, consider what sort of software and systems you need to make the shift in order to work more effectively and efficiently.

Getting to work

The message is that the youngest school children and those in Year 6 (age 10-11) will go back to school first. For some of your staff this will mean that they have children who cannot be left at home alone. Remember that even if your staff have slightly older children, they may have needs that mean they cannot be left at home all day either. Also, staff who need to use public transport may be unwilling to do so. In both cases, you need to have an open discussion with them about what the alternatives are:

  • Can they continue to work from home?
  • Can they work different hours to avoid going on busy transport systems, or work around a partner’s work hours to enable childcare?

Keeping safe

Government guidance says that all employers should be carrying out risk assessments on returning to work, consulting both with their workers and trade unions where applicable. If you employ more than 50 people you will be expected to publish the risk assessment on your company website.

To keep any contact to a minimum, staggered shifts and keeping staff in the same teams are good ways to minimise the number of people with whom they come into contact.

On construction sites, staggered arrival times and multiple entrances are suggested, along with screens to separate workers. Where social distancing is not possible, workers should work back to back or side by side. Swapping of tools should be avoided to lessen the risk of contamination.

In addition, in factories, plants and warehouses, employers should look at how people can work away from each other, in order to maintain the required social distancing, and to stagger the times and locations of breaks.

Working in other people’s homes

If your staff work in people’s homes, such as carers and support workers, or even nurses, they should discuss how social distancing will be achieved. However, working with people means often being close to them. They may require personal care which means that social distancing is not possible. There are other areas to consider. Recommendations can be to leave all internal doors open to minimise touching door handles; restricting the number of people working in normal busy areas such as kitchens and bathrooms; and the mantra of ‘wash hands on arrival and regularly throughout’ cannot be repeated enough. And, of course, it should go without saying that everyone – whether in the home or workplace – should try and minimise the spread of infection.

Restaurants

Keep kitchen access limited to essential staff to minimise any contact. If the kitchen is large enough, install screens to separate workers and only allow one person to enter walk-in freezers and pantries at one time.

Shops

Shops should limit customers in the premises to maintain social distance, use contactless payment where possible and reduce customer service to enable the safety for staff.

Vehicles

If your staff use the company’s vehicles, they should be provided with hand sanitiser and cleaning products. Keep staff in teams so that contact is minimised and supply screens to keep them separate if possible. Contact for deliveries should be kept to a minimum, using online payment and pre-arranging for goods to be dropped off in a safe and secure area.

 

You can read the full government guidance on working safely here.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you with work from home contracts, risk assessments, staff safety, the furlough scheme and other COVID-19 related issues, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 07767 308717 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace HR blog

Innovation happens in times of crises

Think World Wars. Diseases. Catastophes brought on by climate change. It is no different for us today living in the COVID-19 situation. We have been in lockdown. We are now considering a return to normal life. A life that will never be as ‘normal’ as that which we left behind some months ago.

In the UK, as in other places across the globe, we have to think about what normality is for us. In particular, this blog is about some questions to consider, and my humble opinion, about getting back to normality in the workplace during and after COVID-19. But, what is normality in the workplace? For each workplace, in my opinion, it will be different. How will your workplace differ? What are your views, as the country discusses return to work?

One such innovation is that of a local pub in our area who started a drive-through bbq service. I only found out about it after the date, but I will be watching out for the next bbq! Another is the ‘big boys’ working with the ‘little boys’ – M&S a well-known British organisation, met up with Deliveroo, part of the gig economy delivery service.

What?

What are you going to do now that your workforce will be able to return to work “tomorrow” as our erstwhile Prime Minister indicated in his statement last night.

Work being your normal place of work. Your office. Your workspace.

What does your organisation look like today?

What will it look like tomorrow after COVID-19?

When?

When is this going to happen?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement last night intimated that it will be sooner rather than later. In fact, he said the word “tomorrow” that being today, Monday 11 May.

How many of us are ready for a return today?

How practical is it?

Where will your people return?

How will you transition back to work?

So many questions. So many questions.

Why?

Now that most organisations have experienced first-hand that working remotely, from home, has advantages, will this become the norm? It is not for everyone, but everyone can be trained to work remotely. They have had to do so very quickly.

Not all organisations can work remotely. Think of our carers, doctors and nurses in the NHS as well as other Key Workers. Think of the organisations that need hands-on care.

BUT, even now we have virtual appointments with our doctors; we have a helpline to the NHS where we describe our symptoms and we are provided with a solution!

It is efficient, if not more so than being in an office.

Is it time to ask – why haven’t you considered this form of working before? 

Presenteeism has been a word bandied about often in the workplace. By working remotely, work has to be outcome-based. That is important.

What have you done today that has been productive?

Why have you not been able to complete that in the time that you have available?

Does it matter where you work? Does it matter when you work?

Not really. Provided you get the job done, in the time that it is needed to be done. And you are available for your customers when they need assistance.

Do you realise that some of your workforce may not be back at work? 

Why?

  • They may have childcare responsibilities and do not want to send their children to school until the COVID-19 situation is clear.
  • They may have experienced working in a different way, and decide that it is what they want to continue to do.
  • They may be considering another option, to become self-employed, or to take up a new job.

You may decide that you don’t need the same workforce that you had pre-COVID-19. You may diversify. You may find that your product is not viable, but you have something different to offer.

Where?

Where will you meet to discuss the way forward with your employees? So often it is your employees who will have suggestions and ideas to help you along.

Video conference, training videos, webinairs have been available for many years. But, they have now come into their own. They are growing businesses. Zoom, Skype, Teams, watching theatre productions from your home, as has been shown in The Shows Must Go On based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions and The National Theatre, as well as virtual visits to museums are different ways of working.

Are these the workplaces of the future?

This is how new employment begins.

A catastrophe. A solution.

Think – Wars. Foot and Mouth Outbreaks. Disease.

How?

How will we get back to ‘normal’ work?

It’s the practical things to consider.

What is legal?

What is best business and HR practice and what the government considers is necessary.

How can these be dealt with in practical terms?

It is not simply a matter of come in and start working.

We have to consider whether work spaces need deep cleaning.

How many of us can be in the workspace at the same time.

How do we employ social distancing?

What happens when you feel ill? A headache? A cold? Coughing?

Innovations

Innovations happen in times of crises.

Whilst we have been in lockdown, we have seen many innovations and different ways of working.

  • Supermarkets using different methods for shopping. Different timings for shopping for vulnerable people or older people. ‘One way’ human traffic systems.
  • A local pub in my area, last week, offered a ‘drive through bbq’. You HAD to place your order beforehand, you were given a drive-through time to collect your burger (and they looked like very good burgers even if I don’t eat meat – there was a veggie option too).
  • The gig economy boomed. The self-employed delivery company, Deliveroo, came into it’s own. How fabulous to see the big organisations such as M&S having to link up with the smaller self-employed person.
  • I watched a programme on TV on Sunday – farmers supplying customers direct with their vegetables, rather than through a supermarket.
  • Bakers supplying customers direct with their flour, because the wholesalers do not have packaging to make up the smaller amounts required by the ordinary person.
  • Workplaces have increased sanitiser stations.

Social distancing means putting in place ways and means for employees to be able to do so on an everyday level.

Are we moving back to buying local?

We have always known that the economy of the country depends on the small business.

Now is the time to show how we support our small businesses.

 

What are your views, as the country discusses the pros and cons of returning to work, and how we do so.


You may like to read our previous articles relating to COVID-19

If you would like to discuss any employment matters further and find out how we could help you  please contact us Embrace HR Limited. Phone us or contact us here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.