Four industry experts share what they believe is the biggest priority for the wellbeing of employees when they return to a COVID world of work.
ANTONIO JAVIER GASPAR MARICHAL CMIOSH
Health, safety and wellbeing manager, Sheffield Hallam University
Work can be a life-enhancing experience, and work can also make our lives miserable. Which one happens depends on who we are, what we do, and how we are treated. We cannot change our genes; however, jobs can be re-designed to make them meaningful and give people a sense of purpose. Likewise, people can learn how to show affection and appreciation for others.
So, in a COVID-19 world of work, the priority remains the same: looking after people’s wellbeing from a systems perspective rather than adopting piecemeal approaches. In other words, embedding wellbeing in decision-making at strategic, tactical, and operational levels instead of treating it like a priority. It must be a core business value.
A good place to start is with managers – equipping them with the tools, social skills and confidence they need to enable people to thrive at work. Investing in managers is a cost-effective way to optimise individual wellbeing and organisational performance in a sustainable way.
Christopher Clark CMIOSH
SHE Advisor, Morgan Sindall Infrastructure
We adopted a multi-faceted approach to address the wellbeing of our staff and supply chain when returning to site activities. We provided clear advice and guidance on workplace adjustments on site and within the office environment, and produced a mental health hand book for site personnel that details the organisation support that can be accessed and details local and national charities that can provide support and advice for specific issues.
We conducted COVID-19 'safe start' presentations, which explained the office and site arrangements and provided a forum for discussion on wellbeing and mental health topics for all staff.
Lynda Parkinson CMIOSH
Health and safety lead, HB Projects
While some of our people worked throughout lockdown, others had periods of furlough. As they returned –some back to the office or construction site, others resuming work at home – a ‘people first’ approach prioritised making sure employees felt comfortable to return, and that they had the support and resources to do so safely.
COVID-19 affected people very differently – there is no one size fits all solution. Although physical changes were made to workspaces to ensure they were safe and compliant, we had to be cognisant of how people felt about returning and of their home circumstances.
We issued a survey to assess people’s physical ability, as well as their emotional comfort with coming back to work. Results were supported by manager one-to-ones and return to work briefings to outline the changes we had made and provide reassurance. Feedback from all workspaces was welcomed so we could assess the effectiveness of our measures.
Andy Anderson CMIOSH
Health and safety manager, Amazon
To support employees return to work the most important priority we found was to build up trust quickly and show that the business cared.
We took a holistic approach, with the first priority to implement physical safeguards to ensure social distancing, provide lots of sanitising gels and disposable face masks. In addition to this, we've offered wellbeing support in terms of mental health awareness and signposted employees to services. We recognise that the current situation is taking a serious toll on employees' state of mind.
There has been a continual daily communication campaign to gain employee feedback on how the business is approaching the situation to high satisfaction levels, and this feedback dictates the business strategy to improve where required.