Covid-19 and Reducing the Stress of Home Working

As employment law solicitors we are used to remote home working and so all the solicitors and staff at OTS Solicitors were able to switch from office to online services relatively easily and quickly. However many businesses aren’t so fortunate and are struggling with the mechanics of sorting out home working for large numbers of employees and are beginning to look at the impact on their business and on their employees of asking them to work from home. In this blog we look at the stresses of home working from an employment law perspective. 

COVID-19 update:

A message from OTS Solicitors - We have already brought online, and deployed the advanced infrastructure, processes and safeguards to allow our professionals and support teams to function fully remotely. Within our client service areas, our teams have implemented plans to ensure that our clients continue to be served without disruption. We would also like to remind our existing and new clients that we have offered a digital consultation option for several years and now in light of the Corona Virus developments we would encourage any clients seeking on-going consultations or new clients to contact our switchboard who will arrange an appointment via our online platform, skype or telephone conferencing

Online employment law solicitors  

For advice about any aspect of employment law our dedicated team of employment law solicitors can help you. Call us on 02039 599123 or complete our online enquiry form to arrange a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment.   

Covid 19 and the risks of home working 

In the rush to try and facilitate home working to limit the risks posed to employees by travelling to work and gathering together in offices, employers are asking large numbers of employees to work from home. It is clearly best that the government social distancing advice is followed to the letter; not only to halt Covid 19 but because employers are under a duty to take reasonable and prudent steps to protect the health of employeesHowever, business owners and HR staff also have to find the time to assess the risks of home working for their employees and to try to manage and reduce those risks. 

Some may say that they are still ‘’firefighting’’ to sort out home working for their staff because of technological issues or other logistical problems but once the home working arrangements have been set up it is important for employers to start considering: 

  • Health and safety for home workers  

  • Practical issues for home workers  

  • Stress related issues for home workers.   

For many professionals some element of home working is common place. However, what was once a luxury for many of spending one day at home catching up on paperwork has now become full time home working. For others, the whole experience of home working is totally new.   

If you ask many employees why they do the job they do then, other than the obvious answer ‘’for the money’’, many will say for the job satisfaction or for the company of others. Many of your employees may not have families and with social distancing and social isolation they may feel cut off. 

Therefore, whilst you as an employer have tried to protect your employees by facilitating home working this could in itself be a cause of work place stress. It is important that employers risk assess home working and consider the support they can provide to employees who are home working. Help could include: 

  • Telephone support from HR staff or line managers that is focussed on making sure that employees are OK rather than looking at work or billing targets 

  • Remote support from colleagues, such as video conferencing or Skype team meetings, so that staff don’t feel so isolated 

  • ‘’It buddy’’ set ups so that those employees who aren’t used to home working have someone to ask for help or advice when they are stuck with what is really a straight forward computer question or glitch but can quickly become a major issue for a stressed out employee when your specialist IT staff are overstretched with the issues involved with managing home working for the entire workforce 

  • Offers of flexible working if your employees’ hours are not time sensitive. Flexible working may help your employee cope with the adjustment to home working and the closure of schools. For example, your employee may be able to carry out work when a partner or family member is around to help look after the children or after they have gone to bed. Alternatively, your employee may need some flexibility so that they can shop for themselves and self-isolating friends and neighbours at non-peak shopping hours 

  • Encouraging communication between employees by WhatsApp or messenger so that they still get the benefit of the office place coffee break or lunch hour and contact with others 

  • Making sure employees are not over working as whilst some of your employees may react to the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic by not being able to concentrate or to focus on work, others may work beyond their contracted hours of employment as a distraction from Covid 19. Whilst that may appear to be a good thing from an employer’s perspective it isn’t necessarily. That is because it could just lead to a build-up of stress and to physical issues such as carpel tunnel syndrome or back issues from sitting hunched up over a desk that has been hastily set up for home working 

  • Consider adjusting performance targets as whilst it may be self-evident to you as a business owner that unless you are in the retail sector or in the medical supplies sector that demand for products and services may well fall, your employees may be stressing that you may still be expecting them to meet pre Covid 19 performance or sales targets 

  • Think about online management communication – sometimes however much support an employee receives from their colleagues or their line manager an email or newsletter or regular communication from your chief executive officer or managing partner can really help boost morale and a sense of you and the business all having to pull together despite what can be perceived as the isolation of home working  

  • Ensure employees are reassured that asking for help is OK – at a time when most employees are worried about the economy, recession and job losses many employees will be worried about saying if they are suffering from stress due to home working. Try to develop and promote a culture that it is OK to say that an employee is finding it hard to cope with home working 

  • Remember staff benefits – whilst you may not be able to hold the annual staff conference this year or reward hard working staff with a restaurant voucher think of alternatives such as something as simple as a phone call or an email to acknowledge a staff member’s birthday or a home entertainment voucher if you want to try and still offer staff rewards and benefits to those employees who are home working.     

Managing the stress experienced by home workers may seem low down on the list of priorities for business owners at present as they come to terms with the impact of the coronavirus but employment law solicitors say that the best advice is to ask your HR managers to look at these issues now so that they don’t become an additional business stress for you and your business. 

Online employment law solicitors  

If you have questions about home working and employment law or health and safety at work then our online employment law solicitors can help you. Call us on 02039 599123 or complete our online enquiry form to arrange a video conference, Skype or telephone appointment.  

COVID-19 update:

A message from OTS Solicitors - We have already brought online, and deployed the advanced infrastructure, processes and safeguards to allow our professionals and support teams to function fully remotely. Within our client service areas, our teams have implemented plans to ensure that our clients continue to be served without disruption. We would also like to remind our existing and new clients that we have offered a digital consultation option for several years and now in light of the Corona Virus developments we would encourage any clients seeking on-going consultations or new clients to contact our switchboard who will arrange an appointment via our online platform, skype or telephone conferencing

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