With England and Scotland joining the rest of the UK in another national lockdown from today, we wanted to remind clients and any other businesses in need of support that we are here to help in these difficult times. Whilst there is a light at the end of the tunnel with vaccinations being rolled out in the coming weeks and months, Boris Johnson has warned that the “hardest weeks” are ahead of us as schools close, stay at home orders are issued and the NHS is pushed to its limits.
Our advice for this third lockdown is very much the same as it was for the previous lockdowns - follow the guidance provided by the Government and the HSE, break planning down into manageable steps, keep staff in the loop with any changes and updates and make sure mental health and wellbeing are prioritised. These are difficult times for all and we’ve already seen the impact lockdowns can have on a person’s mental health, so look out for staff and do all you can to provide the support they may need.
Our free resources and relevant courses
We've continued to support thousands of UK businesses with high-quality, approved online training, free support, and a range of free, easily accessible resources.
You may find the following free resources useful.
- Managing a remote team (White Paper)
- Health & Safety, HR & Compliance while working remotely (White Paper)
- DSE Checklist for remote workers (Checklist)
- Free YouTube Video Playlist - Remaining effective and productive while working remotely
- Mental Health in the Workplace (White Paper)
- Mental Health & Wellbeing Toolkit (Guide)
- Wellness Action Plan (Guide)
If you have staff that need to remain at work
- COVID H&S Checklist (Checklist)
- Returning to work during COVID (White Paper)
- Sample policies and procedures
Although nobody can be entirely prepared for this national lockdown, businesses can use this time to provide their employees with high-quality online training that will help to keep them working safely and smoothly. You may find the following courses particularly useful:
- Health and Safety for Homeworkers
- DSE (Display Screen Equipment) including DSE Assessment Tool
- Effective Remote Working
- Mental Health Awareness
- Managing Anxiety
- Building Resilience
- Time Management
- GDPR & Cyber Security
- Returning to Work (during & after COVID)
- First Aid (online training endorsed by the HSE during the pandemic)
Training furloughed staff
Remember that furloughed staff can still undertake workplace training. Government guidelines state that employees ‘must be able to undertake any training [their company] require while on furlough’. Government guidance also explains that training for employees whilst furloughed is allowed on the basis that they are not making money for their employer (or a company linked or associated to their employer), or providing services to their employer.
For many businesses, this is a great opportunity to upskill their workforce and make sure that training is up to date prior to a return to work.
For those with homeworkers
The following guidance has been taken directly from the HSE:
As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.
When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:
- How will you keep in touch with them?
- What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
- Can it be done safely?
- Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?
The HSE’s guidance mainly focuses on three key areas for homeworkers and they are Lone Working, Working with DSE, and Stress and Mental Health.
Lone working can pose greater risks to workers, especially without direct supervision and the support they may require if things do go wrong.
Think about the risks that your home workers could come into contact with. How can you mitigate these risks if at all possible?
Lone workers are also at a greater risk of becoming disconnected from the workplace, therefore employers should consider ways in which they can keep lone workers engaged and monitor stress levels and support them with their mental health.
Working with DSE
There are a number of risks associated with regular use of DSE, and although working from home doesn’t add to these risks, workstation assessments should still be carried out when working from home.
Employers should provide their home working DSE users with practical guidance on completing their own basic DSE assessment at home.
We offer an online DSE Assessment Tool, which is included within our DSE Training course, that can be distributed to homeworkers looking to complete their own assessment.
Some simple steps that DSE users can take to reduce the risks associated with their work includes:
- Taking a 5 minute break from the screen at least once an hour.
- Change position regularly to avoid static postures.
- Doing regular stretches.
Employers must also try and meet their employee's needs for specialised DSE equipment such as a keyboard, mouse, and desk riser.
Finally, it’s an employer's responsibility to engage in regular discussions with workers to assess whether additional support is needed.
For example, changes may need to be made if they were to report the following:
- Aches, pains, or discomfort related to their DSE arrangements.
- Adverse effects of working in isolation.
- Working longer hours without adequate rest and recovery breaks.
Stress and mental health
Home working can be a direct cause of work-related stress and can have a negative impact on an employee's mental health. It can also be difficult for employees to feel like they have access to proper support whilst they are away from their colleagues and managers.
With that being said, employers should ensure that they are offering their staff support when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.
It is essential that the homeworker has an emergency point of contact if they need any help. It is also advised that employers introduce procedures to ensure homeworkers have direct contact with their managers, to make it easier for them to recognise signs of stress in the employee.
These procedures could include:
- Having daily/weekly scheduled phone calls.
- Having scheduled video meetings with the managers team.
- Frequent communication through the use of messaging platforms.
For those who’s staff cannot work from home
In accordance with government guidance, employees are able to leave their home for work purposes if it is not possible for them to work from home. This also includes if their job involves working in other people’s homes.
It is essential that employers take steps and make arrangements to protect their workers from being exposed to Coronavirus.
Most importantly, employers must make it clear to their workers that they cannot attend work if they are showing any symptoms of the Coronavirus.
This government webpage offers information on working safely during coronavirus to specific business practices.
More generic guidance for businesses still operating at their premises includes:
- Limiting the number of people allowed on site.
- Introducing a one-way system to the workplace.
- Ensure that highly used equipment/surfaces are cleaned regularly.
- Hand sanitizer is readily available to all workers.
- Face coverings are worn when walking around the premises.
- It is also important that employers lookout for signs of stress in their employees who remain in the workplace. As we enter a second lockdown, workers could be left feeling anxious when they leave their homes. Ensure that they have the support available to help them through this tough period.
Keeping in touch with staff
For many, much of their human interaction comes from being in the workplace and talking to their coworkers. However, with the Coronavirus sending millions of people to work from home, this may not be a reality for quite some time.
Although working remotely shouldn’t fundamentally change a workplace’s culture, it can lead to a number of issues, such as a negative impact on the mental health of employees, if the correct systems aren’t in place to encourage communication.
If an employee doesn’t have frequent communication with other colleagues or their manager, it could lead to them feeling isolated and negatively impacting their mental wellbeing.
Fortunately, there are some things employers can do to help create and maintain strong social bonds amongst their team to help them keep from feeling isolated and stressed.
- Virtual Lunches - Typically a time where employees socialise with one another, lunch times can be recreated virtually in order to help employees catch up with each other.
- Team meetings - Whether it’s daily or weekly, team meetings are a fantastic way to bring together a group of employees who are used to working closely together. Team meetings can help employees to feel involved and engaged.
- Daily/weekly phone calls from managers - Although this may sound pestering, it’s a great way for employees and managers to remain on the same page as each other and catch up on how they’ve been getting on with work or their personal lives.
- End-of-day catch-ups - Similar to the phone calls with managers, end-of-day catch ups allow employees and managers to remain on the same page, but also offers the opportunity to ask any questions they may have about their current projects.
Get in touch with us today
If you need any further support or information please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team. If you’re interested in any of our courses, remember you can start a free trial at any time to see their suitability for your organisation and your staff.