The latest lockdown has sent many employees back to home working and remote working looks set to be the reality for many businesses for many months to come. This creates significant employee health and wellbeing challenges: how do you ensure your workforce stay physically and mentally well when they’re working away from the office and you rarely or never see them in person?
Now, more than ever before, employers have a duty of care to their employees. As we face a second lockdown through the dark, cold winter months, the threat of mental and physical health issues is greater than in the early days of the pandemic. So what steps can businesses take to look after employees and help them to take care of themselves? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Encourage lunch breaks for fresh air and exercise
Taking a break for fresh air and exercise is critical to mental and physical health. However, with darkness falling earlier in the winter months, after work may no longer be the best time for employees to head outside. Encourage your teams to reorganise their day to either allow for a longer lunch break or morning walk. Can your employees use the time they would have spent on their morning commute to get out for a walk, run or bike ride? Building this into your organisation’s daily working practices and ensuring employees know that you are actively encouraging a daytime break will make sure they don’t feel guilty getting out while it’s light.
2. Help employees maintain their physical health
After almost ten months working from home, many employees have found that the initial set up they created for a short-term arrangement isn’t necessarily suitable for the longer-term. The usual employer ergonomic checks are obviously more difficult when workspaces are not in the office, but you can still help employees make sure that their working set-ups are as similar as possible to that in their office. Offer support and provide a guidance sheet for comfortable and safe home working set ups, encouraging employees to ask for help if they need it.
Employers can also empower employees to take more proactive care of their physical health during the pandemic and beyond by offering a health care cash plan – a lower cost alternative to traditional health insurance. Asset from Sovereign Health Care is an employer paid health care cash plan that supports both the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff, paying employees cash back towards everyday health costs such as dental treatment, eye tests, glasses/contact lenses, physiotherapy and much more. Asset also covers ad-hoc health and wellbeing treatments such as sports massage, acupuncture and reflexology. Employees also have access to GP24, providing online or telephone access to a GP and private prescription service, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
3. Offer emotional and practical support
An extended period working solely from home can leave employees feeling isolated so it’s important to ensure they know they have support. Managers should keep in regular contact with team members to see how they’re coping, both through structured meetings and ad-hoc check ins.
To supplement this, a quick and cost effective option is to give employees access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). These services provide confidential support, assistance and counselling to help employees deal proactively with a wide range of issues and life events including stress and anxiety, child care, family and relationship matters, health issues such as nutrition, smoking and drinking, and financial worries such as debt management, benefits, tax and budgeting. An EAP can be offered within employee benefits packages, either on a standalone basis or as part of a health care cash plan. The EAP provided within Asset helps employees and their immediate family by giving them access to confidential support including: a 24-hour, 365 day a year telephone support helpline; online support services; up to eight sessions of face-to-face counselling; medical information and access to legal, financial and consumer information.
4. Don’t forget the little things
Finally, little gestures can go a long way. Many businesses are putting together employee care packages, and services such as Deliveroo are offering employee hampers as part of their business offering. Could you send out a working from home Friday goodie bag to your teams, or organise a virtual Taco Tuesday lunch, with food delivered to your team? Small gestures like this will go a long way towards making your team feel less remote and more connected.