May 5, 2020

Employee Wellbeing as Lockdown Conditions are Eased

You’ve heard the clichés of the day, right? We’re in ‘uncharted waters’ during this ‘unprecedented time’ and there will be a ‘new normal’ once it’s over.

Like all the best clichés, of course, they’re based on a fundamental truth: the scale of the quarantine, its duration and the global uncertainties around the immediate future. These elements provide challenges unlike anything most of us have ever seen before. And it’s fundamentally unsettling to know that nobody has the answers.

For employers, it’s important to think about the impact on employee wellbeing as lockdown conditions are eased.

Quarantine is bad for our health

Something that psychologists do know from previous studies is that quarantine is bad for our health. While it’s ongoing, even the most fortunate and resilient will be suffering from uncertainty and probably some dysphoria – a profound sense of unease and dissatisfaction.

Surveys have indicated that many of us are exercising less, consuming more alcohol and a worse diet. And reporting reveals increased domestic strife and even violence. The government’s message to ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’ has been highly successful in its aim. But it works because it’s made us afraid, hyper vigilant and – in some cases – guilty. These feelings have a negative impact on our wellbeing. Along with grief, loneliness, financial worries and strained personal relationships, they will be following lots of us around for a while yet.

Worried about returning to work?

Being asked to return to work after lockdown will bring some of our hard-to-manage emotions into even sharper focus. On top of the negative psychological impact we’ve just experienced, we can add additional worries. Will we be safe in the workplace? Might there be uncomfortable competing demands between our job and our health? How safe will our commute be? And will our jobs be secure?

What can employers do to help their workers through this time? How can people stay productive and positive at work if they are, not to put too finer a point on it, traumatised? There’s no simple answer to that, for any workplace or any individual. Just wrestling with how to plan acceptable social distancing seems daunting enough.

To support you, here’s a basic framework that may help you maintain focus on employee wellbeing as lockdown conditions are eased.

Communicate

Give everyone as much information, as clearly as you can, as soon as you can. You won’t have all the answers, but you can attempt to provide as much structure as is within your control.

Make people feel safer

Consider all the practical aspects of return now, even if your plans remain unformed. Ensure stocks of any PPE you routinely use are in place in advance; set out a plan of social distancing; communicate clear hygiene protocols. You can’t offer a guarantee of safety but maybe you can relieve some anxieties around this by showing you’re leading on this and that it is important to you.

Remember mental health

Keep in the forefront of your mind that people around you have been struggling, to some degree or other, with their mental health. Some may be significantly traumatised and/or grieving. Existing issues with depression or anxiety may be amplified. Ensure line managers keep this in mind in their interactions too. Create a culture where people can be open about their concerns.

Employee Assistance Programme

If you use an EAP, build in a reminder of the service to your pre-return communications. If not, consider putting one in place – it’s an economical and effective way to provide support.

Develop a shared purpose

Draw people together with a new common purpose find some good news about your business and celebrate it, or, if possible, develop a shared aim and plan to improve things. Involve them in decisions where you can.

To find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly Moorepay team on 0345 184 4615.

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About the author

Audrey Robertson

About the author

Audrey Robertson

HR Consultancy & Insurance Manager, Audrey, has a strong background in HR, Employment Law and related insurances in a career spanning over 15 years leading teams in-house and as a consultant supporting clients across retail, education and the B2B sectors. At Moorepay, Audrey heads up the Policy & HR Consultancy team as well as the insurance claims department. With a strong commitment and investment in employee wellbeing, having studied counselling and coaching, Audrey is a qualified Mental Health First Aider and supports our staff on-site.

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