With rapid developments to the COVID-19 pandemic and more and more cases of the virus emerging worldwide every day, Coronavirus is the topic at the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is having a noticeable impact on everyday life for businesses of all sizes and employees across the globe and not to mention the impact it is having on mental wellbeing.
We want to guide employers and employees to the most useful and reliable sources for COVID-19 advice and provide support for employees to look after their mental health in uncertain times.
With the amount of news travelling around at current, it is important to ensure you’re filtering the reliable information and guidance from the unreliable. Up-to-date advice is available from a range of trustworthy sources below:
In order to limit unsettlement for businesses, transparency and communication is more important than ever. We’re aware that many leaders will be facing questions that they may not even have the answer to however our advice would be to communicate early and take an honest and open approach to maintain credibility.
If you haven’t already, it is a good idea to create a Coronavirus policy for employees to clearly set out guidance and expectations and to circulate key communications on business continuity. If your organisation is large enough you can create a small crisis response team responsible for communicating central information.
Business leaders play a key role in reducing employee anxiety therefore it is important to keep employees informed with regular updates. After all your employees will be at the centre of communications in and out of your organisation and this will help equip them (as much as possible) for any queries that they may face. Communicating with your immediate staff will also help maintain trust and motivation levels during uncertain times.
Certifying Absence and Sick Pay Entitlement
In terms of certifying an absence, those with symptoms do not legally need medical evidence concerning the first seven days. It is suggested that employers use their discretion regarding requesting medical evidence absence where an employee is advised to stay at home, in line with the public health advice currently being issued by the UK government. Statutory sick pay is now being issued from day 1 (rather than day 4) of illness for all those affected by coronavirus. For those with a zero hours contract, you may be eligible for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Those that are self-employed are also eligible for Universal Credit.
Support for Small Businesses
If it’s possible for the business to operate from home, it is highly recommended according to the latest public health advice. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected businesses globally, particularly SMEs. The UK government will work with businesses over the coming months to provide support measures, such as allowing small to medium sized businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid for any absence due to COVID-19. There is also a business rate relief expanded discount, small business grant funding and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme available. HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. The HMRC Time to Pay Scheme vows to waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulties contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.
Employee Wellbeing: Look After Yourself
With government advice to avoid social contact which isn’t absolutely essential, more of us will be subject to spending time indoors and changing our usual social schedules. But it’s not all bad, we’d like to view this as an opportunity to witness a different social speed of life and a chance to prioritise looking after yourself.
It’s a worrying time for everyone, but we understand that for those suffering with conditions such as anxiety or OCD it is particularly difficult. Read on for some ways to ensure that you’re looking after your physical and mental wellbeing.
Focus on the facts, not the speculation
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health and employers have a duty of care to provide support for those who may be feeling anxious or stressed about Coronavirus and its implications. One good tip if you find yourself feeling anxious, is to limit the information you pay attention to regarding the virus. With it being the topic of conversation socially, on the radio and in any news story, it can be hard to avoid. For every reliable source there will be ten inaccurate accounts. Make a mental note to only trust limited information from reliable sources, such as the World Health Organisation, avoiding constant exposure to media coverage.
Keep a Routine
Focus on the things that you can control: such as self-hygiene and personal health. Not only will this keep you safe from germs but eating well and being active will increase your health and boost your mood. When working from home the temptation to stay in your pyjamas and tracksuit bottoms is high, after all why bother to dress if you’re not going outside? But trust us when we say this is a bad idea. Firstly it quickly starts to feel gross but also by getting up and getting dressed as normal you’re setting your mind set to wake up for the day. We also recommend staying active. It is still completely safe to exercise outdoors and if you are working from home, going for a quiet walk or run every day will get you out of the confinement of your house and improve overall wellbeing by continuing to access sunlight. If you’re fearful to leave the house in the day then there are plenty of free home workouts that you can access. Look to find meaning in each day, as self-isolating doesn’t have to mean boredom. Around your working hours, why not get round to doing those things at home you’ve always wanted to – but never had the time? This could be something as simple as picking up a new book, or doing some DIY around the house.
Limit Social Media
Often news finds its way onto our social media feeds and this can create hysteria and panic. Do remember that social media conveys opinion: rarely fact. Reassure yourself by telling yourself that the things you do read will rarely be 100% accurate. Find other ways to relax rather than scrolling through social media, such as watching some light-hearted comedy, reading a book or exercising.
Connect With Others
For those who already struggle with their mental health, being told to self-isolate can prove extremely difficult. Buddy up with a colleague over video call for a catch up during the day or connect with others around you safely by arranging check in times for those people you know are isolated. It may be that you give an elderly relative a call at certain times a day, or check in with friends regularly that you know suffer with anxiety. Pets and radio stations can provide a great source of company whilst you are at home and please remember, there is always somebody there to listen.