Employers can help with the emotional wellbeing of their staff whilst working at home

The instant Working at Home revolution has shown how adaptable the UK work force can be when required. We are all embracing new ways of working with technology, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to stay in touch with clients and colleagues.

But how is the nation coping with Working at Home (WAH) and how can you as an employer help with the emotional wellbeing of your staff?

A new survey has started to be conducted by the Institute of Employment Studies to look at the effect of the COVID-19 crisis and how thousands of employees who are now WAH are dealing with impact of this change on their physical & emotional wellbeing, their morale and their motivation.

The main message so far from employees:

• Significant increase in muscular aches and pains in 2 weeks
• Poor sleep & increased fatigue
• Alcohol increase and diet & exercise declining for many
• Emotional concerns over finance, isolation, energy, work-life balance & family health
• Work motivation holding up for most, especially if in regular contact with the boss

The main message so far for employers:

• Make sure home ‘office’ set-up is safe and ergonomic & that employees are mobile & taking exercise
• Provide mental health support via informal messaging groups, virtual coffee mornings, access to Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and regular contact with bosses & colleagues
• Focus on ‘high risk’ groups – identifying employees with financial concerns, those with elderly relatives to care for, those struggling to adjust, those prone to feelings of isolation, those at risk of domestic abuse
• Rethink performance targets & monitoring, involve employees in decisions about reorganising work and reallocating tasks & priorities

One good statistic is that 83% of homeworkers are reporting contact with their boss up to five times a week. 64% said there was an EAP available to them to provide advice and support. However, the question is 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 to help employers identify any employees who are showing signs of depression. The only drawback with this approach is that not all employees will admit to employers that 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.

In the current climate of coronavirus, social distancing means that there is no face to face counselling, but digital 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.

At Wingate, 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.

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 is yours ‘free’ with your group life insurance policy or Group Income Protection plan?

At Wingate, we can help employers understand all the above and more and provide recommendations for new arrangements or just small tweaks to existing arrangements. If this is something you may be interested in, please feel free to contact Wingate on 01883 332260 or at info@wingatebs.com

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