Health & Safety

Mental health & working from home

Headshot of Sarah Cope

Sarah Cope, Business Development Manager

17 July 2020

Working from home has become not just the ‘new normal’ but ‘the normal’ for many workers since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and it seems until a vaccine is widely available it will remain that way for some time yet. For some it is working brilliantly, for others not so much, but it certainly was a hot topic of discussion for the latest Health & Safety Forum meeting run by SEE.

Mental health is not often something you think Health and Safety teams are concerned with, rather they concentrate on physical safety, but yet right now this is forming a large part of their work. Not only have many across the South East and other regions been busy with ensuring staff have adequate equipment to work from home, they have also been involved in finding ways to support those struggling mentally. In our latest session some councils shared that they are holding wellbeing sessions, others have hired guest speakers to talk on the subject with 400 staff logging in virtually.

Illustration of 2 men and 2 women with scribbles around their heads

Mental health is a hot topic 

The majority of our councils have issued guidance, reminding their staff simply to remember to get up, move around and get fresh air during the day. Personally, I have become bad at this, so often I have sat for too many consecutive hours in front of my screen without moving away.

 Other councils have gone further and sent out surveys to gauge how staff are feeling at home, how they are working, and what is needed to support them, both physically and mentally.

“…so often I have sat for too many consecutive hours in front of my screen without moving away.”

We heard stories of staff who just don’t want to work from home – they feel too isolated as they live alone, or they simply don’t have room. Counter to that there were several organisational surveys which had shown the majority of workers want to work from home permanently. There is no denying the working landscape will be changed dramatically and for good post-COVID. Personally working from home has proved beneficial and suited me perfectly. My productivity is up, and my stress and anxiety levels reduced – which frankly is a bit of a miracle considering I was made redundant, started a new job and have been home-schooling my 5 and 7-year-old since the COVID lockdown began.

New rules for offices

In the same vein new rules in offices were spoken about during the forum, and this will surely cause anxiety issues. Most councils are now operating one-way systems around their offices and have made toilets unisex with a one-in, one-out policy. It’s clear that mental health is high on the agenda as one of our member councils has invested time in making a video showing colleagues the new systems in place, perhaps one way to ease some staff anxiety.

Face masks was an interesting subtopic of conversation, one of our Health & Safety officers mentioned that face masks will be mandatory when moving around the offices, but can be removed when stationary at a socially distanced desk. Parking wardens in another organisation were needing to share a car, so a policy of sitting diagonally opposite and both wearing face masks was implemented.

As someone who lives with anxiety I have to admit I am relieved and comforted knowing mental health is such a hot topic for organisations, not only being discussed in our HR surgeries on a regular basis but also by our Health & Safety teams across the region.

If you are finding you are struggling, MIND is a wonderful charity offering information and support.

 

Get in touch

If you want to find out more about our Health & Safety Forum – an ideal place work with extended colleagues, to share issues and problem solve – get in touch with South East Employers.

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