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COVID-19: Employer Considerations - Work-Life Balance & Mental Health

Work-Life Balance

At this stage, a lot of companies are now working remotely and when the Government’s restrictions were introduced, most companies had to act quickly to ensure that their employees could work from home.

When employees transition to a remote environment, it is hard to set boundaries, especially if the employer does not appropriately set them.

Some employees may feel like their work is always there, they can find themselves always working. When a manager sends an email late at night, the recipient may feel the need to respond because they see the email or hear the "ding" of it coming into their email box immediately. Employers need to communicate what the expectations are for working from home:

  • Do you expect people to work certain hours of the day? 
  • What are your expectations for a response outside of regular business hours? 
  • Are employees taking sufficient rest breaks?

It is vital that managers monitor this closely and take responsibility particularly to employee’s rest periods while working remotely under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, even though the employee might not be physically present in the normal workplace, employers have a duty of care to their employees during hours of work regardless of location.

  • Encourage employees to schedule a new routine to get dressed every day and have a balanced day of work, physical activity, social activity and sleep: 
    • Encourage employees to get up and get moving 
    • It is vital to stick to normal bed time routines, in particular, sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on people’s mental health and physical well-being 
    • Create work buddies to check in on each other and encourage video conferencing to ensure social interacting, particularly for colleagues who may be in self-isolation or cocooning whether they have contracted the virus or are classified as high risk or vulnerable at this time 
  • Encourage employees to take a period of downtime and switch off not just from work but a break from COVID-19 on their mobile devices, social media and news updates etc. 
  • Many employees are trying to juggle working whether attending the workplace as a frontline employee or an employee working from home and looking after their children: 
    • Employers should consider staggering work hours to accommodate employees in this instance 
    • Children and COVID-19 – as an employer it is important to be understanding at this time. COVID-19 has created and continues to create and shape a new norm for all of us particularly for children or teenagers who may not be old enough to fully understand. Although we are aware of the unprecedented effects that this has had all over the world, can you imagine how frightening this can be for a child?

In terms of work life balance, some employees may be finding it more challenging than ever to juggle the demands of their jobs and the rest of their lives particularly at this time. We can offer advice on how, as an employer, you can help your employees during this time.

Mental Health

As working from home will remain in place for some time to come, employers should take the opportunity check in and ensure their employees are coping during these unprecedented times. Our mental health is invaluable to us.

A definition of Mental Health from the WHO is that “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Good Mental Health is essential for our overall physical good health, our well-being and is a vital contribution to our quality of life.

Mental Health is sometimes shadowed in the background and employers forget about their duty of care to employees Mental Health, just as much as their physical health. Employees with both good mental and physical health will be more engaged and proactive in their work and daily lives.

As an employer there are many ways in which you can contribute to promoting Mental Health Awareness, eliminating its stigma and Well-Being in your workplace such as:

Promotion 

Communication

  • Keep your employees informed with regular updates in relation to COVID-19 and the company 
  • Keep in touch with employees who may be remote working, self-isolating or cocooning, check in by phoning or even video calls 

Exercise

  • Set challenges for your employees for example a weekly step counter competition

Flexible Working

  • Some may say that it is difficult to manage a flexible working arrangement, but done right it can boost motivation, productivity and have significant impacts on your employees moral 

Bereavement Counselling and Supports 

  • Employers must be aware that employees will have been affected by COVID-19 and unfortunately some may have lost loved ones during this time. Even in more normal times, the loss of a loved one can be difficult. It can trigger a dip in peoples mental health 
  • There is no right or wrong way to experience loss or to grief
    • Employees may experience a wide range of emotions 
    • Managers should be of as much assistance as possible and should make time for employee(s) and listen sympathetically

Employee Assistance Programme 

  • This is a confidential employee benefit service that helps employees deal with both personal and/or work related problems

The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business highlights that many employees may have gone through traumatic events during the crisis and may also be fearful of returning to the workplace. It calls on employers to put supports in place for employees who may be suffering from anxiety or stress and provide information on publicly available sources of support and advice. As part of this, employers should also outline the measures that they have put in place to reduce the risk of infection in the workplace. The HR Solutions team can advise and assist you in devising this plan.

How can RBK Help?

For more advice and support please contact a member of our HR Clients Solutions team: