Everyone needs to feel safe going to work. Not only is this part of the duty of care for an employer, but jobs that involve risks to health and safety are associated with substantially lower levels of job and life satisfaction, happiness and positive emotional experiences.
The absence of environmental risks or hazards to health and wellbeing is a known feature of good jobs. Keeping employees safe:
Covid-19 and its response has introduced new health and safety risks and concerns to the workplaces and commutes for key workers, those encouraged to return to work this week and those working from home.
A third of key workers who reported that their work had been impacted by COVID-19 were concerned about their health and safety. Difficulty in following social distancing advice, and there being limited or no protective clothing available were the most cited reasons.
Just over a third (35%) of people would not feel comfortable going back to their workplace when the Government ends the current lockdown measures. Concerns were slightly higher among women than men (38% vs 33%).
Homeworking - either being asked to work from home or that people were finding it difficult - was the most common reason given by the 40% of adults who said the coronavirus was affecting their work.
The Health and Safety Executive of the Government have published some guidance on how to keep employees safe from Covid-19 health and associated risks. These include the use of PPE in health care settings, the use of hand sanitiser for manufacturer and supply workers, access to welfare and washing facilities for drivers, keeping records of employees illnesses, as well as practical guidance to protect home workers.
A number of other organisations have provided recommendations for what employers can do to secure the workplace, including ACAS, SOM, CIPD and for gig economy workers from the Fairwork Foundation.
Home-based working guidance
For home workers, there are macroergonomic interventions that are shown to be effective in office-settings. One study reported that the 31 office workers who had been through a programme of workspace redesign and ergonomics training experienced physical health benefits, and found the time it took to complete tasks dropped by 11%.
Listening and adapting to employee concerns
Adapt the work environment: ACAS recommends employers to make “sure everyone is social distancing if they come into the workplace” and to support their workforce to abide by the Government’s guidelines, which might include agreeing more flexible ways of working. An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and should take steps to protect everyone. For example, they could offer extra car parking where possible so that people can avoid using public transport.
Targeted approaches: For clinically vulnerable people, those most at risk (pregnant, aged 70 or over, or who have a long-term health condition), a personalised adjustment plan should be constructed, while clinically extremely vulnerable people must continue to shield.
Have you used our employee wellbeing snapshot survey yet? How are you finding it? Let us know!