Careers Wales shares how they have been supporting their staff during the Coronavirus Outbreak. Along with many other organisations, all of their offices have been closed since March 2020, resulting in complete remote working on a full-time basis. Adapting to working from home can be very difficult for some, with the risk of staff feeling very isolated, resulting in a negative impact on mental health. Read the steps they have been taking to combat this.

In line with many other organisations, all of our offices have been closed since 20th March 2020, resulting in all of our staff working from home on a full -time basis. Adapting to working from home can be very difficult for some, with the risk of staff feeling very isolated, resulting in a negative impact on mental health. As an employer, we recognise the importance of maintaining a healthy and productive workforce and the following demonstrates how we are achieving this.

Resources

  • Surface laptops have been provided to staff allowing for effective communication options such as Skype, and meetings via Teams. Managers conduct regular VC’s with staff to ensure that work being undertaken is in line with business need. Many teams use this facility on a regular basis as a lifeline for reducing feelings of isolation and ensuring business continuity, and Teams and/ or Skype meetings are also being used more informally by colleagues to catch up over coffee breaks. We have even had a Daily Squat Challenge on Teams chat facilities with interested parties which can act as a good motivational tool and a Teams meeting to wish a member of staff a very happy birthday! Training has been offered to staff on the use of Teams to ensure that all staff feel confident in its use and a video clip on Powtoon has been developed for staff on tips to working from home effectively.  Additional training has been delivered to staff via Teams such as Remote Working for Managers.
  • All staff are able to redirect their desk phone to their mobiles using UC.
  • Health and Safety have issued questionnaires to staff checking that we all have everything we need to work from home- equipment can be sourced or delivered from the offices if specialist equipment is already in use. Additional equipment can be obtained from IT such as risers, wireless mouse/keyboard- anything to improve the daily working environment.

Effective Communication

  • All staff working from home receive regular email communications from the CEO re developments in managing workloads during the crisis. This communication is forwarded to all staff on long term sick/maternity leave to ensure that everyone is kept up to date.  
  • Use of Yammer- special interest groups such as parenting, gardening, crafts, healthy eating, exercise, and pets have been set up. This facility allows staff to keep in touch with each other and enables colleagues who are not usually in contact with each other, to get to know each other better, by regularly posting photos or tips which staff can access- again this is a lifeline for ensuring people feel involved and not isolated. Staff who have taken part in initiatives to support the NHS/Key workers have featured on the Yammer group with many staff who have signed up to the “Race at your Pace” Challenge sharing their achievements. Whatsapp groups are also being widely used, providing another lifeline to staff.

Flexibility in Working Arrangements

  • Flexibility with working core hours. Whilst home working, staff, particularly those with small children at home, are not required to work core hours. Hours can be flexible provided that contract hours are worked. This allows great flexibility and removes the stress associated with juggling parenthood and working. The flexibility in relation to core hours is extended to all staff. This allows staff to find the best home /work life balance during this difficult time
  • Staff are encouraged to continue to book annual leave to ensure regular breaks from work.
  • For those staff affected by the Coronavirus, the need to obtain a medical certificate has been removed to alleviate stress and paid sick leave has been extended to those staff with short service who would not normally qualify. 

Employee Wellbeing

  • Mindfulness sessions are being planned for a Friday for all staff.
  • Wellbeing Champions and Mental Health First Aiders are still available for support and this has been highlighted on Yammer
  • Staff continue to have access via Westfield Health cover to counselling services and doctor on- line advice. Westfield have also disseminated a guide for staff on living and working during the Coronavirus pandemic
  • Recent communications from the CEO have signposted staff to ongoing support available relating to counselling or help available to those who may be experiencing domestic abuse due to self- isolation aggravating tensions.
  • Our CEO has also delivered a video message acknowledging the difficulties associated with full time home working and thanking staff for their efforts.
  • Links to on- line fitness classes and wellbeing webinars have been forwarded to staff linked to our Westfield Health cover together with guides on how to work effectively from home.

Sue Curson

HR Co-ordinator

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