Following the introduction of ‘Lockdown’ the instant ‘Working From Home’ revolution has shown how adaptable the UK’s workforce can be when necessary. Everyone is embracing new ways of working with technology, particularly using video networks such as MS Teams and Zoom to stay in touch with clients and colleagues.
But how is the nation coping working from home, and how should you, as an employer, help with your staff’s emotional well-being?
A survey is currently being conducted by the Institute of Employment Studies to consider the effect the COVID-19 crisis has had and how thousands of employees working from home are dealing with the change on their physical and emotional well-being, as well as their morale and motivation.
The main message so far from employees has been:
- Significant increase in muscular aches and pains
- Poor sleep and increased fatigue
- Increase in alcohol and diet, with a decline in exercise
- Concerns over finance, isolation, energy, work-life balance and family health
The main message so far given to employers has been:
- Make sure home ‘office’ set-up is safe and ergonomic
- Ensure employees are mobile & taking exercise
- Provide mental health support via informal messaging groups, virtual lunches, access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and regular contact
- Focus on ‘high risk’ groups – identifying those with financial concerns, those with children/elderly relatives to care for, those struggling to adjust, those at risk of domestic abuse
- Rethink performance targets & monitoring, involve employees in decisions about reorganising workloads and reallocating tasks & priorities
There is a question around the quality of the contact from line managers and the support being offered. Employers can start by using simple surveys such as The World Health Organisation- Five Well-Being Index (WHO-5), to help maintain contact with employees and assess how they are coping with the new working environment; this may help employers identify anyone who is showing signs of depression. The only drawback with this approach is that not all employees will want to admit when they are struggling.
Where an EAP can help
EAPs can help employees by providing a place to talk over issues, fears, emotions and concerns. Fast access to specialist counsellors is available 24/7 and depending on the quality of your EAP, further support can be arranged in the form of counselling sessions. Whilst in the current climate, social distancing means that there is no face to face counselling, but virtual and telephone counselling can work just as well in helping to tackle emotional issues.
EAPs can also provide legal and financial information from specialists and partners. They can help with debt, legislation changes and new benefit rules, providing information that may alleviate some of the fear and stress that this pandemic is bringing to employee.
You may feel that in these challenging times it may be beneficial to provide increased levels of counselling through your existing EAP but are unsure whether this is possible. There are different levels of EAPs which can be dependent on whether you pay for your EAP or if it is ‘free’ with your Group Life Assurance policy or Group Income Protection plan.
We can help you establish if you have a good quality EAP already in place and if you do, we can look at effective communication strategies for you to ensure your employees are aware of the EAP, what it covers and how to access help through it.