How to protect employee health and wellbeing during coronavirus outbreak

Wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak
  • Financial wellbeing
  • 5 minute read

These are unprecedented times for your employees. Employers need to know how to protect employee health and wellbeing during this pandemic.

Over recent years, many businesses have grown to embrace the idea of flexible working — specifically remote working. However, with the emergence of Coronavirus (COVID-19), some have been plunged into the world of remote working without adequate preparation or training. This is unchartered territory for these organisations — this, alongside the anxiety caused by Coronavirus, is likely to result in wellbeing concerns for employees and managers.

There are a lot of questions to consider — will employees cope with the isolation? Do they have worries about their long term financial wellbeing? Are they feeling supported and encouraged by their leadership?

For many businesses, the transition into remote working won’t be easy. It’s important that as well as the practical aspects of how to function remotely (including relevant tools and software), that employee health and wellbeing is a top priority during the Coronavirus pandemic.

To help your employees pull through and persist while performing at their best, we’ve outlined ways in which you can protect employee health and wellbeing during these difficult times.

1. Prioritise employee financial wellbeing

In uncertain situations like these, people begin to worry. They question whether their income is safe and whether the company can survive. Now more than ever, financial wellbeing is a huge concern for employees, and it’s something employers need to take seriously.

Employers should begin by initiating honest conversations with their employees. Employees should feel free to air any concerns with management and ask for help where they can. Managers need to answer questions and provide education where possible.

Employers can take this opportunity to explore financial protection and other such options with employees, to offer them further peace of mind and security at a time when they need it most.

Learn more about the importance of financial protection for employees

2. Encourage employees to set working hours

It’s likely that many of your employees thrive with a routine. Take away the structure of a typical day — getting dressed for work, driving to the office and being around colleagues — and you might find that your employees start to lose focus or grow disengaged.

Encourage your employees to pick standard working hours. They don’t have to be the traditional 9-5 hours, but it’ll be good for their wellbeing to know when they should be working and when they can switch off — something that can be difficult for remote employees to do.

3. Ensure employees take frequent breaks

Some things never change. Breaks are important for employees in the office, and this is no different for remote employees.

Encourage your employees to take periodic breaks to stretch their legs, clear their minds and to relax. A ten-minute break every hour or so will do wonders for an employee’s health and wellbeing. It’ll also have a notable impact on their productivity levels. In fact, one source claims that the most productive people work for 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break.

4. Maintain constant communication

You don’t want your employees to feel like you’ve forgotten about them. You are still a tight-knit, high-performing, uniform team, so it’s important to keep in regular contact. Frequent discussions will help to alleviate feelings of isolation. It also allows for the exchange of regular feedback, which will reassure employees that they are on track and performing as expected. We recommend utilising a team collaboration tool such as Slack, which allows for in-the-moment feedback and discussion.

5. Keep employees updated

These are uncertain times, and employee wellbeing is bound to worsen if they feel a lack of security. While it’s wise to have frequent discussions, content matters. Don’t avoid difficult discussions, and prioritise honesty. Keep employees up-to-date with employee progress, roadblocks and obstacles. If there is an issue that might affect them, they deserve to know. Don’t keep your employees on a need-to-know basis. They’ll sense you’re holding back on them, which will cause a feeling of unease.

6. Encourage exercise (in the home)

Mental and physical wellbeing are highly dependent on one another. When you have healthy dietary habits, you feel better in yourself. Similarly, when you exercise and get your endorphins flowing, you feel better about yourself. It can start with small steps, but every little helps. Encourage your employees to take breaks from work and to incorporate exercise into their everyday routine. There are plenty of ways to get exercise indoors, whether it’s through treadmills and exercise bikes, or whether it's through a workout routine on YouTube.

7. Get managers to complete free online wellbeing training courses

Managing remote employees requires a different skill set to managing employees onsite. Managers need support and training through this transition, so they are able to encourage and motivate their team. The British Safety Council offers free online training courses for remote employees and managers of remote employees, including “Remote Workers’ Health Safety and Welfare”, “Mental Health: Start the Conversation are aimed at all employees” and “Managing Stress in your Team”. The more remote training courses managers and employees have access to during this time of international crisis, the more equipped everyone will be to cope.

Related: Seven steps to financial wellbeing

8. Organise virtual socials

We’re social creatures. Just because we’re working remotely (including some of us who would rather not work remotely in the first place), that doesn’t mean we don’t have social needs.

In-person meetings are clearly off the table, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have face-to-face socials. As long as employees have the right setup, technology allows us to get together after work for a non-work-related chat. This will help to take the pressure off while allowing your employees an opportunity to bond. You might also want to consider starting a virtual book club, or perhaps a health club with challenges your employees can compete to win.

Learn more about workplace employee engagement strategies

9. Promote access to relevant support to employees

If your organisation offers certain wellbeing initiatives, make sure you advertise these services well, while sharing specific governmental resources relating to Coronavirus. The more informed your employees are, and the more supported they are, the more stable and secure they will feel.

10. Encourage self-care and healthy daily routines

It can be easy to let certain daily routines fall by the wayside when working remotely. Encourage employees to maintain self-care while under self-isolation. While it might be possible to spend all day in your pyjamas, it isn’t the best for a professional frame of mind or for self-esteem. Where possible, stress the importance of maintaining a routine and self-care regime so employees maintain a sense of normalcy and stability.

Now is the time to look at the levels of financial wellbeing within your organisation. Contact Close Brothers today to see how we can help your employees.

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