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Mental Health and Wellbeing

We are hearing that there is a direct effect on staff wellbeing as we continue to experience COVID-19 restrictions. This manifests itself in staff responses to,

  • Working from home,
  • Covering for absent colleagues,
  • Experiences of commuting for staff in metropolitan area,
  • In education, the physical demands of staff moving around the school site and the stresses of being in the right location, logged on and lesson ready.

Going back to basics, what are your duties as an employer?

As an employer you have a duty of care towards the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees. This could range from doing a risk assessment of them in different operational areas, ensuring their desks and working space is suitable for working; that the noise levels are appropriate in their working space and that they have the correct eye-wear (which you would need to pay for).

More intangible, but equally as important, are aspects like stress, uncertainty and anxiety. You need to make sure that your employees know what is expected from them (clear objectives), aren’t working too many hours (Working Time Directive legislation) and that they feel supported in their role (good management practice).

You should therefore be on the look out for,

A mismatch of expectations. For example, staff may be insensitive to the management time COVID-19 is taking up. It is possible that there will be tensions between staff whose attituded to COVID safety measures varies. We have helped resolve instances of this by effective mediation.

Fit-notes and self-certification. Best practice is to review the reasons for absence and to have a protocol to carry out return to work interviews. Have you adapted your approach where are staff working remotely? Often an early conversation will help returnees to become aligned with your goals and to fit back into their teams.

Staff engagement. Can you create a staff survey to find out how staff are feeling; you can include free text fields as well as more direct questions? Engaging staff is expected to increase staff health and wellbeing.

We suggest that it is vital that your culture and values are communicated regularly and that they include your commitment to the wellbeing of the staff team and the organisation as a whole.

In schools, unlike many other workplaces, staff are working in the school building. These are challenging times for all staff. Have you a space where staff take their breaks, which is welcoming, sufficiently socially distanced and have you thought about occasional thank you treats such as fruit or donuts? Have you thought about mindfulness services free to the staff? Could you arrange opportunities for staff to support each other? Resilience and mental wellbeing are often considered for students, but it is advisable to remember the needs of your workforce too!

We have given a lot of thought about how to implement these suggestions and would welcome a discussion with you. Please contact [email protected]; we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Expert HR Consultants London and South East

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