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My business’s COVID Safe plan:

Hello

We have put together some guidance for businesses based on the two topics which we have found they are struggling to implement: Physical distancing and hygiene in the workplace. We hope you find it useful.

COVID‑19 will be with us for some time, so it’s important that your business has a plan ‑ and continues to plan ‑ to keep your workplace healthy, safe and virus‑free. This guidance will help your business prepare a plan for the different stages of the pandemic. It covers: 

  • How to make sure that staff who are working can do so productively and safely
  • A guide to understanding the issues around physical distancing and what practical steps you do to make your staff feel safe
  • Help you to put effective hygiene regimes in place to make sure that you minimise contact with the virus

You should revise any plan frequently, particularly as restrictions and conditions change.

Important resources from the Government and Health and Safety websites. 

There are a number of important work health and safety laws, obligations and duties your business needs to comply with. It’s important you carefully review the guidance using the links below to understand your obligations and ensure your business is properly prepared. What needs to be done to meet your work health and safety obligations will depend on your business’s individual circumstances – these will have changed because of COVID‑19.

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/wsi/2020/353/contents/made

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

You must talk to your employees to understand their concerns and work together to ensure your workplace is COVID Safe. A worker who reasonably believes their workplace or work practice were harmful or potentially harmful to health or safety has the legal right to refuse to undertake it.

It will also be important that you continue to plan and adapt as circumstances change, so make sure you stay up to date with current advice and guidelines. Below are some of the issues you should be looking at as an employer:

  • What are my duties under employment and health safety law?

  e.g.: who do I owe a duty to? facilities, identify and manage risks, training, emergency plans

  • What can I do to keep workers safe?

   e.g.: health monitoring, physical distancing, hygiene, vulnerable workers, PPE

  • Working from home
  • e.g.:  mental health, home station set ups, identify and manage risks
  • What are my worker’s rights?
  • e.g.: consultation, discrimination, right to stop work
  • Cleaning and protection
  • e.g.: how to clean, what to use, PPE, masks, gloves
  • Mental health
  • e.g.: looking after yourself and your staff, work related violence, family and domestic violence

Other helpful resources

This is a difficult time – we all need support. Industry associations and Chambers of Commerce have tailored advice and support which might help your business.

http://www.makeuk.org

www.scci.org.uk

http://www.taforun.org.uk

http://www.fsb.org.uk

It’s also vitally important that you think about mental health – both for you and your workers.

Here are some resources that might be helpful:

http://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/useful-resources/

http://www.acas.org.uk/supporting-mental-health-workplace

http://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/toolkit/transitioning-back-to-work-after-lockdown/

Keeping people safe (you, staff, customers and the public)

The first step in preparing your business for operating in the COVID‑19 environment is to understand how your risks have changed. This is why it’s critical your business completes a risk assessment and follows guidance from the Health and Safety Executive https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/controlling-risks.htm

Health and Safety Executive’s risk assessment guidance will help you identify how your business needs to prepare. You will need to know the current restrictions and how they apply to your business. You can also use this information to update your existing risk assessment plan for COVID‑19 risks.

  • Read through the HSE advice on how to undertake a risk assessment.
  • Complete or update your risk assessment. Keep it somewhere safe and easily accessible. Review and update it regularly to make sure you keep on top of any new risks that may emerge or as public health advice changes. Setting a reminder in your phone can help make this a habit.

It’s critical that your business completes a risk assessment and follows guidance from the HSE executive.

Remember to talk to your workers as soon as possible – they will also know where potential risks may exist and have ideas about how to make your workplace COVID Safe.

What do I need to do to keep my workers safe and limit the spread of COVID-19?

Employers have three options for their employees, either keep them working from home or ask them to come back to their workplace or a combination of both. All the options needs thought and planning to make sure that you keep them safe and productive.

If you as an employer are asking your employees to work somewhere that they perceive to be unsafe, or if they have other issues which mean that they can’t return to work, then this might not be a reasonable management request. Many people are struggling with issues around transport, childcare and caring responsibilities and these issues must form part of your planning and implementation.

Staff must not to come into work if they are unwell. 

Home working

Ideally as an employer you will need to carry out a simple risk assessment of your employee’s home working environment and consider how suitable someone is to work from home effectively. Some people enjoy the flexibility of home working, others miss physically being in the same work space with their colleagues. One of the most important issues is how employees use their computer as they need to be comfortable sitting for long periods. The following principles are a good rule of thumb for a comfortable sitting position:  

  • Balanced head, not leaning forward.
  • Arms relaxed by your side.
  • Forearms parallel to desk.
  • Screen approximately arm’s length from you
  • Top of screen about eye level.
  • Space behind knee to the edge of your chair
  • Feet flat on floor or on a footrest.

An adjustable chair which makes getting the right height easier is beneficial. If employees are using a dining room chair, they might have to sit on a cushion to get the right height and use a cushion for lower back support. This method works just as well if you are using a desktop and monitor. Sitting on a settee, armchair or edge of the bed is definitely not a good idea!

Employees should choose a space with lots of natural light, avoiding glare or reflection to reduce eye strain and headaches. Research shows that making your home desk look like your work desk work makes it easier to complete your work.

Bringing employees back into the workplace

If it is not possible to work from home or redesign practices, there are two key issues for employers to understand and implement in the workplace:

  • Physical distancing
  • Effective hygiene practices 

Physical distancing

Physical distancing is important because COVID-19 is most likely to spread through close contact with a person who has the infection and who may not yet have developed symptoms. Physical distancing means keeping people apart. Currently, this means keeping a distance of at least 2 metres between people.

The likelihood of interactions causing the spread of COVID-19 is low if physical distancing advice and good hygiene are followed as the virus is unlikely to be spread

Remember, you must consult with workers and health and safety representatives on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including what control measures to put in place in your workplace.  

Why is physical distancing important? 

Physical distancing is necessary because the most likely way of catching the virus is by breathing in micro-droplets from another person sneezing, coughing, or exhaling. By ensuring you maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres from others where possible, you will reduce the likelihood of exposure to micro-droplets of others. 

Current advice is that everyone, including people at workplaces, must implement physical distancing measures wherever possible.  

How do I make sure there is 2 metres between people?

You should consider and make adjustments to the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 2 metres apart to continue performing their duties. For example, this could be achieved by, spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing, or considering floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 2 metres distancing requirements. 

You should also review tasks and processes that usually require close interaction and identify ways to modify these to increase physical distancing between workers where it is practical and safe to do so.  

My workers cannot maintain a physical distance of 2 metres when performing work. Does this mean they cannot perform work?

It will not always be possible for workers and others to keep 2 metres apart at all times at the workplace. For example, workers may have to work closely with each other or others because of the nature of the task

Working in close contact increases the risk of workers being exposed to COVID-19. You must consider whether the work task must be completed or could be rescheduled to a later date. If the task must be completed and your workers will be in close contact, you must undertake a risk assessment to determine what control measures are reasonably practicable in the circumstances to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks from COVID-19. For example, if close contact with others is unavoidable, you must implement other control measures such as: 

  • minimising the number of people within an area at any time.
  • limit access to the workplace or parts of the workplace to essential workers only. 
  • staggering start, finish and break times where appropriate.
  • moving work tasks to different areas of the workplace or off-site if possible.
  • if possible, separating workers into dedicated teams and have them work the same shift or work in a particular area and consider whether these dedicated teams can have access to their own meal areas or break facilities.
  • ensuring each worker has their own equipment or tools.  
  • wearing appropriate PPE to minimise risks.
  • reducing the number of tasks to be completed each day, where possible. 
  • postponing non-essential work.
  • splitting workers’ shifts to reduce the number of workers onsite at any given time. Schedule time between shifts so that there is no overlap of staff arriving at and leaving the workplace or have different entrances and exits to avoid interaction. 
  • put signs around the workplace and create wall or floor markings to identify 2 metres distance. Your staff could wear a badge as a visual reminder to themselves and each other of physical distancing requirements. 
  • limit physical interactions between workers, workers and clients, and workers and other persons at the site – e.g. by using contactless deliveries and limiting non-essential visitors.
  • require workers to use other methods such as mobile phone or radio to communicate rather than face to face interaction.
  • ensure rooms are well-ventilated so that air changes several times an hour.

Layout of the workplace

You may need to redesign the layout of the workplace and your workflows to enable workers to keep at least 2 metres apart to continue performing their duties. This can be achieved by, where possible: 

  • restricting workers and others to certain pathways or areas.
  • spreading out furniture or plant to increase distancing.  
  • floor and/or wall markings and signage to identify 2 metres distancing requirements. 

If changing the physical layout of the workplace, you must allow for workers to enter, exit and move about the workplace both under normal working conditions and in an emergency without risks to their health and safety.  

Staff gatherings and training

Postpone or cancel non-essential gatherings, meetings or training. If these are essential: 

  • use non face-to-face options to conduct – e.g. electronic communication such as tele and video conferencing 
  • if a non face-to-face option is not possible, ensure face-to-face time is limited and lasts no longer than it needs to.
  • hold the gathering, meeting or training in spaces that enable workers to keep at least 2 metres apart and with 4 square metres of space per person – e.g. outdoors or in large conference rooms. 
  • limit the number of attendees. This may require, for example, multiple training sessions to be held.
  • ensure adequate ventilation if held indoors. 

Workplace facilities 

  • Reduce the number of workers utilising common areas at a given time – e.g by staggering meal breaks and start times. 
  • Spread out furniture in common areas.
  • Place signage about physical distancing around the workplace. These posters can be placed around the workplace and in client-facing work environments (e.g. workplace entrances). Consideration needs to be given for those where English is not their first language.   
  • Consider providing separate amenities such as kitchens and bathrooms for workers and visitors/clients.

Lifts

Even if workers and others only spend a short amount of time in a lift each day, there is still a risk of exposure to COVID-19 that you must eliminate or minimise so far as reasonably practicable. 

  • You must still ensure, as far as you reasonably can, that people maintain physical distancing in lifts and lift waiting areas.
  • Remember, you must consult with workers and their representatives (e.g. health and safety representatives) on health and safety matters relating to COVID-19, including when using lifts.
  • You must also consult with the building owner/manager and other employers in the building about the control measures to be implemented to address the risk of COVID-19. You may not be able to implement all of the control measures yourself but must work with others to ensure those measures are put in place.

Safe use of lifts is best achieved through a combination of measures, determined in consultation with workers, including those that control the number of people needing to use a lift at any one time. This includes:

  • reducing the number of workers arriving and leaving buildings and using lifts in peak periods, where possible (e.g. stagger start and finish times for workers by 10-15 minutes per team or group).
  • maintaining working from home arrangements for some staff (where this works for both you and your workers). This could include splitting the workforce into teams with alternating days or weeks in the workplace.
  • changing lift programming to facilitate more efficient flow of users – e.g. decrease the time that doors stay open on each floor (where safe to do so) or where there are multiple lifts, assign specific lifts to certain floors based on demand (e.g. lift A to service floors 1-5, lift B to service floors 6-8 etc). 
  • it is still important that lift users physically distance themselves to the extent possible when waiting for a lift and when in the lift. You must do what you reasonably can to ensure crowding in and around lifts does not occur.  

In the lift lobby or waiting area:

  • ensure workers and others maintain a physical distance of 2 metres, to the extent possible.
  • implement measures at waiting areas for lifts, such as floor markings or queuing systems. Also create specific pathways and movement flows for those exiting the lifts where possible (you may need to consult with your building manager or other employers in the building to ensure this occurs). You could consider engaging someone to monitor compliance with physical distancing measures where appropriate.
  • place signage around lift waiting areas reminding users to practice physical distancing and good hygiene while waiting for and using lifts, including to wait for another lift if the lift is full.
  • display an advisory passenger limit for each lift

Within lifts:

  • users of lifts must maintain physical distancing, to the extent possible.
  • place signage in the lift reminding workers and others to practice good hygiene by washing their hands, or where this is not possible, using appropriate hand sanitiser, after exiting the lift, particularly if they touched lift buttons, rails or doors – see also our information on hygiene
  • implement regular cleaning of high touchpoints such as lift buttons and railings – see also our information on cleaning.

New risks

In some cases, depending on the design of a building, stairs may be an option to reduce demand on lifts. If workers and others are to use stairwells or emergency exits as an alternative to using lifts, you must identify and address any new risks that may arise. For example:

  • the increased risk of slips, trips and falls particularly if the stairs are narrow and dimly lit.
    • the risk that arises when opening and closing heavy fire doors.
    • the risk that a person may become trapped in the stairwell.

You must also consider workers’ compensation arrangements and whether your contract of tenancy allows for workers to use stairs, other than in an emergency.

You must also consider how existing measures will be impacted if you allow workers and others to use stairwells or emergency exits. For example:

  • does increased usage of emergency exits and stairwells impact your emergency plans and procedures?
  • will stairwell usage increase the risk of fire doors being left open? 
     

  Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • Non-essential visits to the workplace should be cancelled or postponed.   
  • Minimise the number of workers attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible. 
  • Delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace to provide maintenance or repair services or perform other essential activities, should be given clear instructions of your requirements while they are on site.  
  • Ensure handwashing facilities, or if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for workers after physically handling deliveries. 
  • Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods such as mobile phones to communicate with your workers wherever possible. Providing where possible access to a toilet.  
  • Direct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered. 
  • Use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paper work where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For instance, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection (as applicable). If a pen or other utensil is required for signature you can ask that the pen or utensil is cleaned or sanitised before use. For pens, you may wish to use your own. 

On-going review and monitoring

If physical distancing measures introduce new health and safety risks (e.g. because they impact communication or mean that less people are doing a task), you need to manage those risks too. Put processes in place to regularly monitor and review the implementation of physical distancing measures to ensure they are being followed and remain effective. 

Do I need to provide personal protective equipment to workers who are in close contact with each other? 

You must ensure workers comply with physical distancing requirements where possible. In circumstances where the nature of the task requires workers to be in close contact, you must put control measures in place that minimise the time workers spend with each other or with other people in the workplace. You must also ensure workers are practicing good hygiene.  

If you have a situation where, despite other control measures, workers will be in close contact with each other or with other people for longer than the recommended time (i.e more than 15 minutes face to face  consider the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).  

Workers must be trained in the proper use of PPE. Be aware of the workplace risks that may arise as a result of workers using and wearing PPE. 

My workers need to travel in a vehicle together for work purposes. How do they practice physical distancing?

Physical distancing in vehicles

You must maintain physical distancing wherever possible between individuals when in vehicles:

  • avoid multiple occupancy vehicles where safe to do so
  • vehicles should not be shared if possible
  • if it is not possible to keep a 2m distance in a vehicle, consider additional safety measures

Steps that will usually be needed:

  • Devising mitigation measures where workers have no alternative but to work within 2m to minimise the risk of transmission, including:

    – clear signage to outline social distancing measures in place
    – single person or contactless refuelling where possible
    – using physical screening, provided this does not compromise safety, for example, through reducing visibility
    – sitting side-by-side not face-to-face and increasing ventilation where possible
  • Using a fixed pairing system if people have to work in close proximity, for example in a vehicle.
  • Making sure vehicles are well-ventilated to increase the flow of air, for example, by opening a window.
  • Ensure regular cleaning of vehicles, in particular between different users.

You must reduce the number of workers travelling together in a vehicle for work purposes. You should ensure that only two people are in a 5 seat vehicle – the driver and a worker behind the front passenger seat. Only one worker should be in a single cab vehicle. 

These measures may mean: 

  • more of your vehicles are on the road at one time  
  • more workers are driving and for longer periods than usual (if driving by themselves).  

Because of this, you should review your procedures and policies for vehicle maintenance and driver safety to ensure they are effective and address all possible risks that arise when workers drive for work purposes.  

If workers are required to travel together for work purposes and the trip is longer than 15 minutes, windows should be opened for the duration of the trip.  

You must also clean vehicles following each use, no matter the length of the trip.

Do workers need to practice physical distancing when on a lunch break or when travelling to and from work?

Yes. Workers must always comply with any public health directions or orders. This includes maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres between people.    

Do I have to maintain physical distancing if I’m visiting a client’s home?

Yes. The rules apply even when the workplace is a private home or dwelling. The client’s home is a workplace when you or your worker are there to perform work 

You or your worker should talk to the client to ensure they understand the risks of COVID-19 and about the control measures to reduce the risk of exposing them and your worker to the virus.  

Handwashing and hygiene

COVID-19 is most likely spread from person to person through:

  • Direct contact with a person while they are infectious.
  • Contact with droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated by droplets coughed or sneezed from an infected person.

Good hygiene is necessary to stop the spread. This means:

  • frequent hand washing with soap, or hand sanitising, including before and after you eat and after going to the bathroom.
  • hand washing should take 20-30 seconds.
  • hands (palms, fingers and back of their hands) should be covered with soap prior to washing them with warm water. This should occur after a worker has had contact with a customer, as well as after cash transactions. It is particularly important workers sanitise or wash their hands before or after touching their face.
  • alcohol-based hand sanitisers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol are the recommended form of hand hygiene. If hand sanitiser is unavailable, workers should be regularly given the opportunity to wash their hands with soap.
  • avoiding physical contact with others such as through shaking hands.
  • avoiding touching eyes, nose and face.
  • covering mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing with a clean tissue or elbow.
  • putting used tissues straight into the bin.

Practical good hygiene examples:

  • have automatic alerts set up on computer systems to remind workers about washing hands and not touching eyes, nose and face.
  • have hand sanitiser stations on entry and exit points and around the workplace generally.
  • cashless transactions.
  • increase access to closed bins.

Signage and posters

It is important that you have signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread. This includes posters on what is COVID-19 and how we can stop it spreading, how to wash your hands and the physical distancing requirements.

Think about your business’ hygiene and cleaning practices. Are there enough supplies? Are frequently used areas cleaned regularly?  What do I need?

  • Detergent, either as a solution or as wipes, or
  • A 2-in-1 detergent and disinfectant solution, or wipes which can be used for routine cleaning.

When should I clean?

  • Clean your workplace at the end of the work day using a detergent, or a 2-in-1 detergent and disinfectant solution. Focus on frequently touched surfaces such as table tops, door handles, light switches, desks, toilets and toilet doors, taps, TV remotes, kitchen surfaces and cupboard handles.
  • Clean objects and surfaces used repeatedly by lots of people frequently throughout the day using a detergent, or 2-in-1 detergent and disinfectant solution. For example: trolleys and baskets, checkouts, card reader machines, handrails, lift buttons.
  • Clean surfaces and fittings that are visibly soiled or after any spillage as soon as possible using a detergent, or a 2-in-1 detergent and disinfectant solution.
  • Instruct workers to clean personal property that has been brought to work and is likely to be handled at work or during breaks with a detergent or 2-in-1 detergent and disinfectant solution, or wipes. For example: sunglasses, mobile phones, iPad’s, car keys. This checklist will assist you to implement health and hygiene measures at your workplace and do a review of your facilities.

How to safely clean

  • Read the product label and Safety Data Sheet for the cleaning product(s) before using and make sure you follow all instructions, including all required personal protective equipment (PPE). Also make sure the product is suitable for use on the surface you are cleaning.
  • Instruct workers to wear gloves when cleaning and ensure they know to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water, or to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if they cannot wash their hands, both before and after wearing gloves.
  • If possible, use disposable gloves when cleaning and discard after each use. Otherwise, only use reusable gloves for routine cleaning and do not share gloves between workers.

After cleaning

  • Dispose of any disposable cloths in a rubbish bag, or launder reusable cloths in the usual way. Cleaning if someone in my workplace is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 Preparing to clean
  • Prevent access to the areas that were used by the suspected or confirmed case as well as any common areas (break rooms, bathrooms) and any known or likely touch points.
  • Open outside doors and windows if possible, to increase air circulation.

What do I need?

  • A detergent, as a solution that can be mixed with water,
  • A disinfectant containing alcohol in a concentration of 70%, chlorine bleach in a concentration of 1000 parts per million oxygen bleach, or wipes and sprays that contain quaternary ammonium compounds.
  • A combined detergent and disinfectant solution.
  • Appropriate PPE for cleaning staff, including disposable gloves and safety eyewear.
  • Provide a disposable apron where there is visible contamination with respiratory secretions or other bodily fluids.
  • A surgical mask if the person suspected to have COVID-19 is in the room.

What should I clean?

  • all areas of suspected or confirmed contamination
  • any common areas (e.g. break rooms, washrooms), and
  • any known or likely touch points in the workplace. How to safely clean
  • read the product label and Safety Data Sheet for the cleaning product(s) before using and make sure you follow all instructions, including all required PPE. Also make sure the product is suitable for use on the surface you are cleaning.
  •  Ensure staff are trained in putting PPE on and taking PPE off, including washing or sanitising hands between steps.
  • Use disposable gloves where possible, and discard after each use. Wash or sanitise hands before and after wearing gloves. After cleaning
  • Dispose of any single-use PPE, disposable cloths and covers in a rubbish bag and place it inside another rubbish bag and dispose of in general waste.
  • Launder any reusable cleaning equipment including mop heads and disposable cloths and completely dry before re-use.
  • Empty and re-clean equipment such as buckets with a fresh solution of disinfectant.

Responding to a COVID19 infection: Do you know what to do in the event of an infection?

You should plan for how to respond if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID‑19 associated with your business. Your plan will depend on the circumstances of your own business and whether the affected person has physically been in the workplace. It is important to take the time to plan now so your business is confident it can respond swiftly and easily.

You are not expected, and should not try, to diagnose people. However, you have a work health and safety duty to minimise the risk of workers and others in the workplace being exposed to COVID-19, so far as reasonably practicable. If you reasonably suspect someone could have the virus, or has been exposed, this creates a health risk at your workplace, and you will need to follow the steps below.

The person you are concerned about is at the workplace

  • ISOLATE Prevent the spread. Isolate the person from others and provide a disposable surgical mask, if available, for the person to wear.
  • SEEK ADVICE Follow advice of public health officials.
  • TRANSPORT Ensure the person has transport to their home and only to a medical facility if advised to do so by NHS111)
  • CLEAN and disinfect the areas where the person and close contacts have been. Do not use those areas until this process is complete. Use PPE when cleaning.
  • IDENTIFY & INFORM Consider who the person has had close contact with. Tell close contacts they may have been exposed and follow advice on quarantine requirements and follow the information on the governments track and trace system.
  • REVIEW  Risk management controls relating to COVID-19 and review whether work may need to change. Consult workers with workers on all issues around workplace health.

The person you are concerned about was recently at the workplace

  • SEEK ADVICE Call 111 and or follow advice of public health officials.
  • IDENTIFY & INFORM Identify who at the workplace had close contact with the affected person. If instructed by public health officials, tell close contacts they may have been exposed and follow advice on quarantine requirements.
  • CLEAN and disinfect the areas where the person and their close contacts have been. Do not use those areas until this process is complete. Use PPE when cleaning.
  • REVIEW risk management controls relating to COVID-19 and review whether work may need to change. Consult workers on workplace health issues

You can find information on track and trace here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-how-it-works

This information has been compiled by Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service and should be used for guidance only, always check for current guidance and new advice from reliable sources. June 2020.

Social isolation and working

So, you’ve listened to the government announcement on work and you realise that you aren’t going to be able to go into your workplace for some time. Your isolation is going to continue with uncertainty over when you will be able meet your work colleagues again in the flesh and whether you will have a job in the future.

It might feel like it was a long time ago, but before the pandemic, working from home was seen as a positive way to take some control over your life as people felt it gave them a better work life balance, greater flexibility and reduced their stress levels.

Now, maybe it’s the time to reappraise whether working from home is going to work for the numbers of employees for whom home working isn’t a choice anymore. Studies are beginning to show that isolation is becoming more widespread for home workers. Maybe this is going to accelerate during the pandemic. Recently the head of a UK bank, suggested that having large numbers of staff working from their kitchen was a good thing, but how many of his kitchen workers are now longing to get back to the cut and thrust of their office?

I’ve found that it’s easy for Isolation to creep up on you. I realised after a couple of weeks of the lockdown that I was hardly going out of the house and I had begun to feel that I was beginning to lose what I considered to be proper contact with my staff and with colleagues from other organisations. Virtual meetings are ok, but you are still isolating, with the hard stop of each meeting where as before you could and would linger to have a chat with someone you haven’t seen for a while.

Research tell us the problem is that social isolation is difficult to talk about. There’s some shame attached to it, as nobody wants to be perceived as a loner or a shut-in. This prompts people to try to pretend that everything is fine A few people I’ve talked to about the reality of working from home is that they feel that professional advancement is slowing down, that they are more out of sight and mind than before and it might be difficult to get involved in new opportunities.

A recent blog post highlighted a lot of the issues that are missing with working remotely. “The main way most of us are connected to our local, geographical communities is through work.” “When you remove that – when you’re not commuting, you don’t bump shoulders, you don’t meet the guy who happens to have a cousin on your block and now you’re friends – you have to work harder to feel connected.” (1)

So, what can you do?

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, taking control is one way of being able to manage working remotely. This can be difficult as it’s easy to get sucked into looking at the news and social media as a way of distracting yourself from your remoteness.  I find that the way news or stories are presented as facts, turning probability into certainty is disturbing. Cutting down on looking and consuming news and media is one of the ways I’ve chosen to manage this and I’ve found it wasn’t difficult to do.  Other things I’ve found to be useful include:

  • Keeping in touch with family and friends on a regular basis via Skype, Facetime and Zoom.
  • Keeping in touch with someone you know who is without family or friends, contacting them and asking them to contact you if they want to.
  • I write a ‘to do’ list that I need to do the next day as I find it helps me keep my focus.
  • I exercise every other day. I find running for at least 30 minutes energises me for the day ahead, but any exercise is fine. There are lots of online fitness sessions to choose from.
  • A friend who has 2 young children has ‘on’ and ‘off’ duty days with her partner. On her off duty days she gives herself a treat which is to listen to audio books. She says it diverts her mind from the pandemic.
  • A lot of friends have started to cook more and made lots dishes that they hadn’t thought of before.

The pandemic has meant that the world of work has changed and the chances are it won’t go back to what it was like in March 2020. This may mean that working from home is an option or an employer’s preferred way of working for some. This will mean people will have to develop strategies for maintaining their resilience is a slightly more remote working environment.

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/mar/25/extreme-loneliness-or-the-perfect-balance-how-to-work-from-home-and-stay-healthy

 

Resilience and Remote Working

So, we are working from home due to the threat of infection by the virus.  We have our home working ‘office’ set up and then we realise that we might be working from home for some considerable time.

We are all dealing with a new event that we haven’t experienced before, or if we have experienced something similar, we may not have coped with it well. I’m guessing for some people that remote working is completely new. Waking up and not having to get in a car or the bus before you start work is ‘different’.

The lack of a commute may appeal to some, but many people use the journey as a nice part of down time. I like to listen to an audiobook on the bus and I’m not the only one who is reading a book or a newspaper. I have a friend who now “goes out to work”, which for him is stepping out of his front door for a 10-minute circular walk and as he walks back in, he is ready to start work.

Freedom or stress?

Once this pandemic is over, there are likely to be more people continuing to work remotely, either employed or self-employed. Whatever their employment status, many face similar challenges. Whilst there may not be anything we can do about the decision to work remotely and from home, we do need to work out if it can ‘work for us’. Where possible, try not to stay remote working if you can see it’s not for you.

There has been lots of research about stress and control at work. The Goldilocks principle applies here – neither too much or too little is the best way to go in developing a positive work dynamic.

I think control is the key to becoming resilient if you have to work remotely. I find it challenging to work in this way. That may be because I have children and a dog. But I like working alone – I find I can get so much done and it gives me freedom to work in a pattern I’m comfortable with. I find it creative, going back and forth to different pieces of work. I don’t like to plan and have a formal structure to the way I work.

What can you do to stay in control?

I’m equating control with being and staying resilient. If you think is the case, then what can you practically do? Here are some principles I think are beneficial:

  • Work out how you spend your time.
  • Be clear about your job outcomes.
  • Work out what is controllable and uncontrollable.
  • Negotiate time and boundaries.

I think if you can work out a way of using these principles to help construct your work routine, then you could manage working remotely effectively. Planning out a structure is also useful out. E.g.  Place yourself under pressure for 50 minutes in the hour, then take a 10 minute complete break doing something else like walk around the house and garden, or, if you really need to, look at emails……. Then start again placing yourself under pressure for 50 minutes. (1) This should begin to give you control over your working day. You can go further and combine them with a more holistic way of thinking, which could include the following:

  • You are not ‘working from home’ – you are ‘at home, during a crisis, trying to work.’
  • Your physical, mental and emotional health is extremely important – you should try to manage this the best you can.
  • You should not try to compensate for lower productivity by working longer hours.
  • Be kind to yourself – don’t judge how you are coping based on how others seem to be coping.
  • Be kind to others – don’t judge how they seem to be coping compared with how you are.
  • Success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal. (2)

Working remotely and from home has some ‘freedom’ attached. At times it can become overwhelming, but we do have the ability to control how we respond. Hopefully, you will find information and practical steps to maintain and improve your resilience in these difficult times.

(1) Adapted from http://www.mas.org.uk/uploads/articles/Together_Apart-Remote_Workers_in_Corona_Times.pdf

(2) Adapted from Blue Mountain Community College Boardman, Oregon

 

 

A guide to your Employment rights during Covid 19

We have produced this guide because we are being contacted by employees who are worried and concerned about keeping safe at work and want to know their employment rights if they are affected by the COVID 19 virus in the UK.

Self-isolation and sick pay

As of 13 March 2020, employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay due to them from their first day of self-isolation if it’s because:

  • they have coronavirus
  • they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
  • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

The money – set at £94.25 a week – is paid by employers for up to 28 weeks. So if you are self-employed, you will not be eligible – but if you are a casual or agency worker, you will be.

To receive SSP you need to be earning at least £118 a week.

SSP can now be claimed from a person’s first day away from work, rather than the fourth day as before.

If someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.

If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days. Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.

If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

What does self-isolating mean?

If you have been told to self-isolate, you will need to get to the place you are going to stay using your normal mode of transport, once there remain indoors and avoid contact with other people. This will prevent you from spreading the disease to your family, friends and the wider community.

In practical terms, this means that once you reach your residence you must:

  • stay at home
  • not go to work, school or public areas
  • not use public transport like buses, trains, tubes or taxis
  • avoid visitors to your home
  • ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you – such as getting groceries, medications or other shopping

Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.

As isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor, this will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they don’t need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.

People who need to claim Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note or an isolation note.

The notes can be accessed through the NHS Website and NHS 111 Online. After answering a few questions, an isolation note will be emailed to the user. If they don’t have an email address, they can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to their employer. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.

Taking Holidays

Employers, employees and workers should be as flexible as they can about holiday during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a good idea to:

  • talk about any plans to use or cancel holiday during coronavirus as soon as possible
  • discuss why holiday might need to be taken or cancelled
  • listen to any concerns, either from staff or the employer
  • welcome and suggest ideas for other options
  • consider everyone’s physical and mental wellbeing
  • be aware that it’s a difficult time for both employers and staff

In most situations, employees and workers should use their paid holiday (‘statutory annual leave’) in their current leave year. This is 5.6 weeks in the UK.

This is important because taking holiday helps people:

  • get enough rest
  • keep healthy, both physically and mentally

If you have been furloughed because there is no work can request and take their holiday in the usual way, if their employer agrees. This includes bank holidays.

Furloughed workers must get their usual pay in full, for any holiday they take.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it may not be possible for everyone to take all their holiday entitlement during the current holiday year.

Employers should still be encouraging workers and employees to take their paid holiday. Employees and workers should also make requests for paid holiday throughout their holiday year, if possible.

The government has introduced a temporary new law allowing employees and workers to carry over up to 4 weeks’ paid holiday into their next 2 holiday leave years. This law applies for any holiday the employee or worker does not take because of coronavirus, for example if:

  • they’re self-isolating or too sick to take holiday before the end of their leave year
  • they’ve had to continue working and could not take paid holiday

They may also be able to carry over holiday if they’ve been ‘furloughed’ and cannot reasonably use it in their holiday year.

Some employers will already have an agreement to carry over paid holiday. This law does not affect any agreements already in place.

If an employee or worker leaves their job or is dismissed and has carried over paid holiday because of coronavirus, any untaken paid holiday must be added to their final pay (‘paid in lieu’).

Bank holidays are usually part of the legal minimum 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday.

Employers can still require employees and workers to take paid holiday on a bank holiday, unless they’re off sick. They must give employees or workers notice.

Employees and workers can also ask to take a day’s paid holiday on a bank holiday. If the employer agrees, they must get their usual pay in full.

If employees and workers are not sure if bank holidays need to be taken as paid holiday, they should:

  • check their contract
  • talk to their employer

If bank holidays cannot be taken off due to coronavirus, employees and workers should use the holiday at a later date in their leave year.

If this is not possible, bank holidays can be included in the 4 weeks’ paid holiday that can be carried over. This holiday can be taken at any time over the next 2 holiday leave years.

If employers do not already have an agreement in place, they can decide whether they’ll allow extra holiday (more than the 4 weeks’ paid holiday) to be carried over.

Extra holiday may include:

  • the remaining 1.6 weeks of statutory annual leave
  • holiday that’s more than the legal minimum

Employees and workers should check their employment contract or talk to their employer to find out what they’re entitled to.

If the workplace has a recognised trade union, or there are employee representatives who work with the employer on these matters, the employer should involve them in agreeing changes.

If any agreement is made, it’s a good idea for it to be in writing.

Employers should get legal advice if they’re not sure whether to allow extra holiday to be carried over.

An employee may no longer want to take time off they’d previously booked, for example because their hotel cancelled the booking. Their employer can insist they still take the time off, but it’s good practice to get agreement from the employee.

If the employee wants to change when they take this time off, they’ll need to get agreement from their employer.

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday.

An employer could, for example, shut for a week and tell everyone to use their holiday entitlement.

If the employer decides to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take.

For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

Employers can also cancel pre-booked paid holiday. If they decide to do this, they must give staff at least the same number of days’ notice as the original holiday request.

For example, if an employee has booked 5 days holiday, the employer must tell them at least 5 days before the holiday starts that it’s cancelled.

This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned and cause upset. So employers should:

  • explain clearly why they need to do this
  • try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans

 If you think you have developed coronavirus symptoms

If you becomes unwell in the workplace with coronavirus symptoms, you should:

  • tell your employer immediately and go home
  • avoid touching anything
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if you do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
  • use a separate bathroom from others, if possible

If you live alone, you must self-isolate for 7 days. If you live with others and are the first to have symptoms, you must self-isolate for 7 days. Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.

If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

If an employee needs time off work to look after someone

Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This could apply to situations to do with coronavirus.

A dependant does not necessarily live with the person, for example they could be an elderly neighbour or relative who relies on the person for help.

There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.

The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.

If a dependant such as a partner, child or relative in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a minimum for this time.

What if I’m self-employed?

If you are self-employed and have had a loss of income, you can receive a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly profits over the past three years – up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

Initially, this will be available for three months in one lump-sum payment, payable from June.

You can access the Coronavirus Self Employment Income Support Scheme. As long as you traded in the past financial year, are still trading now and plan to continue doing so.

Most of your income needs to come from self-employment and your average trading profit needs to have been less than £50,000 a year.

If you became self-employed since April 2019, you will not receive any help under this scheme. This is because you haven’t yet have filed a tax return, which is needed to help calculate financial support.

HMRC will contact those who are eligible.

This information was compiled by Sheffield Occupational Health Advisory Service (SOHAS). We are operating a telephone advice service at the current time. If you live and or work in Sheffield and you need advice on workplace health issues, please ring 0114 2755760 or go to our website and use the ask and expert tab to send a message.

 

Practical Steps for Working from Home

I’ve been working at home, like millions of other workers have been for the past 4 weeks, with family all around me. I’m lucky in that I have a room I can work in and when the door is shut, they know that I’m working and shouldn’t be disturbed. I have worked from home on an irregular basis for some time and I have got a set up that works for me.

What if you have never had to work from home and now here you are, not quite sure how long your new way of working will last?

When I first started to work from home, I used a laptop and sat at the dining table and soon found out this wasn’t ideal as it started to strain my back.  As worked from home more often, I used a desk that was in the spare room. If this isn’t an option, I would advise that you try not to use your bedroom. Your mind will start to associate working with the bedroom and this could affect your quality of sleep.

I use a laptop and the only way I could get it set up properly was to use a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and put the laptop on top of some hardback books as they are sturdier. I followed the rule that your eyes should be level with the top of the screen and make sure that my upper arms are at 90 degrees to the desk and forearms are level with the keyboard. I have an adjustable chair which makes getting the right height easier, if you are using a dining room chair you  might have to sit on a cushion to get the right height and use a cushion for lower back support. This method works just as well if you are using a desktop and monitor. Sitting on a settee, armchair or edge of the bed is definitely not a good idea!

I found that surrounding myself with things that make me happy improves my mood and productivity, like pictures or paintings. If you can, choose a space with lots of natural light that can reduce eye strain and headaches.  I also found that if you mimic how your desk looks like at work that made it easier to complete my work.  If you work better with a cluttered desk, then continue to do that.

Research shows that you can easily work longer hours working from home compared to the office, so give yourself some clues of the time, whether that is having a clock in your vision or set an alarm on your phone.  Tracking your time will make you keep to regular time and help you to take regular breaks. You also need to make sure that you know when to stop work and “close the office door” for the day.

If you think that your health is being affected by your work and you live or work in Sheffield, we are operating a telephone advice service. Please go to our website http://www.sohas.co.uk and click on the “ask an expert” tab to leave a message or ring us on 0114 2755760

New Way Of Working

Hello

From today SOHAS is moving to a telephone based advice service.

If you live or work in Sheffield and you want some advice on a work and health issue, please go to our website http://www.sohas.co.uk and click on the Ask the Expert tab to send a message or ring us on 0114 2755760.

If you have been in touch with our service before, please email the adviser who gave you advice or ring on 0114 2755760 and we will arrange for the adviser to get in touch with you and give you advice over the phone.

 

 

 

Caffeine and Productivity

Caffeine, the world’s most commonly used drug; be it through coffee, tea or energy drinks. As someone whose coffee consumption can only be described as an aberration; having since stepped into the realm of the workplace, my consumption of coffee hit an all time high. A coffee every hour at work was becoming a regular occurrence. After initial consumption I found I was more alert, focused and motivated. However, a few hours after the last cup, I noticed a gradual decline in those areas of cognitive function in addition to feeling ‘jittery’ and overly tired. Excessive consumption has been increasingly prominent in society today and is deeply instilled among the culture of work, where 54% of caffeine intake is derived from coffee [1].

Generally, caffeine has proven to improve memory and cognitive function. Regular coffee drinking may well in fact improve focus, alertness and productivity. However, as with all stimulant drugs our bodies build up a tolerance and therefore, in order to achieve the same effect, we must consume more. This also means temporary withdrawal symptoms will be introduced once we stop fueling ourselves with caffeine. This can range from headaches to substantial changes in our sleeping patterns. Consuming limited quantities can provide us with the boost we may need but having too much can exacerbate problems such as anxiety. Personally, I found this to be mitigating my performance later in the day when I had tasks to complete outside of work. This meant I was drinking more to keep my productivity levels consistent for a longer duration meaning when it came to when I needed to sleep, I was either still wide awake or slightly anxious. Reduction in your hours of sleep are indicative that caffeine taken six hours before initial sleep can have a huge disruptive influence on the sleep cycle [2] meaning the next day I was more tired and therefore in desire of more caffeine to function throughout my working day.

Moving onto energy drinks, Red Bull being the most popular among a younger demographic. Despite the consensus, coffee tends to have more caffeine in it. The typical 250ml can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, whilst the typical large cup of coffee can contain between 90-160mg. Red Bull only seems to be more caffeinated due to the culmination of caffeine, taurine and sugar which actively increases our heart rates and blood pressure whilst enhancing the effects of caffeine. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down, ultimately resulting in a much harsher ‘crash’.

So, which one would be the better option for enhancing productivity? An energy drink or coffee? In spite of coffee having a higher dosage of caffeine than energy drinks, energy drinks tend to be consumed more rapidly, whilst coffee is generally sipped, meaning the deliverance of caffeine is much quicker so you are more likely to reach the standard quota of daily caffeine consumption (400mg) from drinking energy drinks than coffee. However, coffee and energy drinks cannot necessarily be viewed in the same perspective as they are two very different beverages.  I believe taking smaller doses, learning and understanding how your body reacts to these beverages is arguably the best method of consumption.

Upon reflection, caffeine in any form has both positive and negative attributes and similarly to most substances, should be used in moderation. It would be useful to take note that a dosage of 500-600 mg of caffeine has the corresponding effects of a relatively low dose of amphetamines [3]. Caffeine intake is not the fundamental method of enhancing productivity; especially due to it being highly addictive. Although caffeine itself makes us more alert- and this alertness is what helps productivity- there are indeed alternative methods to enhance this, such as a good, a consistent sleep schedule, exercise and a healthy diet, all believed to be contributing factors.

A few tips to implement in daily life may prove to be useful:

  1. Do not drink caffeinated drinks right after waking up as this increases tolerance to caffeine because it replaces the natural cortisol-induced boost instead of adding to it.
  2. Theobromine in caffeine is the cause of the major “crash” you usually get after taking caffeine- Drinking water after caffeine consumption helps to lessen this effect.
  3. Lifestyle changes to reduce fatigue such as exercising more, a balanced diet and sticking to the same sleep schedule
  4. The primary reason for people drinking coffee has been found to be due to liking the taste. Therefore, drinking decaf would be an effective alternative to a caffeinated beverage.

 

[1] Sleep and Caffeine (2013). Retrieved 24 February 2020, from http://sleepeducation.org/news/2013/08/01/sleep-and-caffeine

[2] Wikoff, D., Welsh, B. T., Henderson, R., Brorby, G. P., Britt, J., Myers, E., … & Tenenbein, M. (2017). Systematic review of the potential adverse effects of caffeine consumption in healthy adults, pregnant women, adolescents, and children. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 109, 585-648.

[3] Lane, S. D., Green, C. E., Schmitz, J. M., Rathnayaka, N., Fang, W. B., Ferré, S., & Moeller, F. G. (2014). Comparison of caffeine and d-amphetamine in cocaine-dependent subjects: differential outcomes on subjective and cardiovascular effects, reward learning, and salivary paraxanthine. Journal of addiction research & therapy5(2), 176.

Sleep and Work

In the 1980’s I remember politicians and businessmen telling people how little sleep they needed to a run a country or a conglomerate. The magic figure seemed to be 4 hours with the implication being that if you slept any longer you wouldn’t be able to manage the pace of life and weren’t leadership material.

The perception that the pace of life is part of the cause why we don’t to sleep for long as we used to is an interesting but misleading one. Go back to the 1840’s and the introduction of the telegram meant that the middle and upper classes started to complain that their pace of life was too fast and the idea of a double sleep (1) started to change into the sleep pattern we have today.

Coming back to the present day, the issue of lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep is beginning to receive the same levels of attention as the menopause and working carers within a work context. It is estimated that 200,000 working days lost due to insufficient sleep each year in the UK. There is not a lot of research on sleep and work. However, research published in July 2016 by Hult International Business School suggests improving employees’ poor sleep may not only boost their health and wellbeing but may give businesses a competitive advantage. (2)

Why is lack of sleep getting lots of attention? I believe it’s because businesses are starting to look in more detail of the UK’s dismal record on levels of productivity over the past 12 years. While getting people to sleep better is not going to solve the countries productivity problem on it’s own, better sleep can as a contributor to living better, which may help people be more productive at work.

If you are sleeping poorly, recent research identified the following signs of how that can affect behavior in the workplace:

  • Decreased communication
  • Reduced performance
  • Greater risk taking
  • Increased intake of caffeine/energy drinks
  • Poor concentration/easily distracted
  • Poor mood/inappropriate behaviour (3)

A way of working out the best sleep pattern for you is find out where you are an owl or a lark (4) This can be important as it may indicate why you might not be sleeping properly. e.g. if your body clock is based around going to sleep early in the evening and you are consistently going to be later in the evening,

One of the most effective ways to help improve your sleep is to work out your circadian rhythm. Adults have a circadian rhythm of 90 minutes and this is very regular. The cycling of sleep follows this rhythm along with hunger and thirst, alertness and creativity. To work out the timing of your circadian rhythm, wait until the early afternoon and take a note of the time of when you yawn. This is a sign that you are your alertness is at your lowest and where you are most suspectable to go to sleep. You can then work out the times during the evening when you are most likely to go to sleep easily, by adding on 45 minutes to the time you yawned.  If you miss your optimal time to sleep, wait for around 45 minutes or until you yawn again and then should be able to go to sleep.

If you think that you don’t sleep well that are some practical things you can do to improve your sleep, these include:

  • Try not to eat 2 hours before you go to sleep. Digesting food will make your body active and produce sugar which will give you energy which will make it more difficult to go to sleep.
  • Try and set a regular time to go to bed and wake up including at the weekend.
  • Alcohol and caffeine intake can affect your sleep so try not to drink too much of either in the afternoon or evening.

While the issues around sleep and how much are or should be getting are not going to diminish whether from a business or personal point of view, It is important that everyone tries to maximize the quality of sleep they get. As ever change sometimes takes a long time to put be put in place, but I hope that you have found the practical steps in this blog useful.

(2) https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/wake-up-to-the-link-between-poor-sleep-and-work-performance/

(3) https://www.sleepunlimited.co.uk/

(4) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sleep-quiz-morning-person-night-owl-sleeping-habits-72thf8jkj

 

 

Is the UK the statutory sick pay person of Europe?

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is widely used in the UK but the clarity and understanding of how it works is sometimes unclear to organisations and employees.

What is clear is that if you compare statutory sick pay with other EU countries, the UK lags pay behind e.g. in Italy you can claim between 50 and 66% of average pay for up to 22 weeks which is roughly £1100 per month, with SSP being paid by the organisation.

Here in the UK, an employee can get £94.25 per week of SSP if they are deemed too ill to work. It is paid by the employees’ organisation for up to 28 weeks. The SSP weekly pay equates to £377 a month, whereas the average wage in the UK monthly is £2,307 and the average mortgage payment is approximately £670 per month. While many large organisations have company sick pay schemes which do pay 50%-100% of pay, 95% of people in the private sector work for small organisations and many of these do not have a company sick pay scheme. Add in the mix that in large parts of the UK, the average household has enough savings to pay for one month’s mortgage payment, you might think the title of this blog post maybe correct.

The impact on a small organisation of someone who goes off sick can be considerable in terms of productivity. Many find it difficult to get someone to cover another role and unless it’s clear that the person is going be off sick for a considerable amount of time, it is isn’t practical to employ someone on a short term contract to cover their work. If your company does pay sick pay then they will have an additional wage cost if they want to back fill the role while the person is off sick.

There is also a health dimension in relation to SSP. If you work in an organisation where there isn’t a company sick pay scheme and you become ill, you have three choices: either you go to your GP and get a fit note, you come into work or you book the time off as a holiday. There is data to show that people are making the decision to come into work while ill or take holidays to mask their illness, but what effect does that have on an organisation? Levels of presenteeism and leaveism are increasing and the natural conclusion is that productivity will reduce when these factors are in place.

So, what can be done to try and mitigate the effects of SSP on an organisation? In SOHAS’s experience we know that many organisations do not take a proactive approach to managing sickness absence. I often have conversations with managers and owners where they tell me they know how much sickness absence in their organisation is costing them and the problems it causes. Yet they often have no measures in place that tell them that someone is not well while they are at work. Is one of the issues at play that because the rate of SSP is so low compared to the average wage level, that they measure their bottom line rather than the health and productivity of their employees? If SSP was at the same level as other countries would that change their response?

 

It is worth looking at how other countries manage SSP. In Germany, the national health insurance compensates organisations for 80% of sick pay so long as the organisation does not employ more than 30 employees. Where an illness lasts longer than six weeks, the employee will receive a sickness allowance from the national health insurer amounting to 70% of the employee’s salary for a period of up to 78 weeks. In the UK, organisations ability to claim SSP back from the government was abolished in 2015.

A review of SSP in this country is long overdue and in the recent DWP consultation, SSP was recognised as an issue that need to be addressed. While we wait for the results, what would a fit for purpose SSP system look like?

  • SSP raised in line with other countries with similar economies
  • SSP aimed at small organisations, that allows them to claim back SSP from the government in a straightforward way.
  • Small organisations are given practical help to introduce preventative measures to manage their employees’ health before they go off sick.

The impact of the low rate of statutory sick pay for people aren’t in a company sick pay scheme is significant, not only from a financial point of view, but also for their future employment prospects and health. It is time for the government to recognise that a well-funded and managed SSP scheme, would be beneficial for employers, employees and the productivity of the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Resiliance

I’ve found that the term “resilience” is used a lot in describing the mindset that organisations want to see in their employees as a way of improving not just personal, but organisational wellbeing. While this is welcome, the increasing focus on workplace wellbeing provision should not come at the expense of effective workplace management cultures, which I think is overlooked by lots of the organisations I come into contact with, so what does resilience look like?

A good description of resilience is “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, threats or significant sources of stress” I think you can relate this to what happens in everyday life, either from a work or personal point of view.

I have a teenage daughter who I try to talk to about resilience. Her response to me talking to her usually involves lots of eye rolling and calling me names…. You may ask why I do this, but I think there is a value in me giving her some information about developing a quality that allows people who are knocked down by life, to come back stronger than ever. While the term resilience may be new, what it describes is not, as you’ll see from the examples on how you can improve your resilience.

  • Mental Flexibility – The ability to view many situations and challenges in an optimistic way and think of possible alternatives to success.
  • No overthinking – ‘Thoughts are not facts’ Having the ability to elevate yourself from any unwarranted stress of the mind and not seeing situations worse than they are.
  • Feeling comfortable with the unknown – Life will throw many curveballs your way, so being content with the uncertainty and seeing it as an avenue to grow and learn new things.
  • Build positive beliefs in your ability – Believe in your capabilities.
  • Build a community of support – Surround yourself with caring, supportive people who are keen to see you flourish at life, as well as appreciating the loved ones currently in your life.

Personally, I’ve got to the stage where I try and see failure as good feedback which   is useful, but maybe that has something to do with my life experiences, age and the job I carry out. We, as a society are now much more aware of the effect that mental health can have on our lives. You only have to look at the pressure that Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services are under and the explosion in private counselling services to see that people are increasingly looking for mental health related health and support.

Resilience is an important tool that can be developed and improved upon; it is not just something you either have or do not have. Having that ability to not hide from challenges but welcome them, and deal with a possible defeat but know how to overcome it and succeed the next time around. A healthy personal life in terms of surrounding yourself with people who will be a positive influence, eating healthily, getting physical exercise can all amount to a better mental health and increase resilience. So while there is a strong case about why personal resilience is important, what happens in organisations?

There is an assumed importance of resilience in an organisational setting and there have been programs developed to try and increase resilience of employees. As we know, resilience is this idea of persevering during tough times and facing adversity head on. This can be an incredible trait to possess not only in everyday life but also at the workplace.

A useful definition of workplace resilience is “A functioning team will be acutely aware of the need for its team members to feel consistently psychologically well, as this, combined with motivation and a positive attitude, offers the opportunity for it to perform at its peak”.

Workplaces that promote a vibrant, friendly, hardworking environment that also take interest in their employees’ health can result in better performances as well as better overall mental resilience

Mental resilience is not a trait you are born with and cannot acquire; it is more something you can learn, harness and really improve upon with time and effort. I’m hoping that eye rolling is some sort of subliminal evidence of learning how to become more resilient…..