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Colleague welfare must be a priority as lockdown eases

09 September 2020

As the UK lockdown continues to ease, Jan-Hein Hemke from Facilicom UK & Ireland, shares the importance of safeguarding colleague welfare as we transition to a ‘new normal’.

The past few months have been unprecedented, as the Coronavirus pandemic has swept our globe. From the tragic loss of lives to the impact on the economy and employment, the effects of the virus have been felt by all.

COVID-19 has changed the face of our society beyond recognition and its impact on our wellbeing is hardly surprising. In fact, a recent study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has revealed that mental health has been hard hit by lockdown, with a quarter of respondents reporting at least one concern since restrictions came into force.

However, in recent weeks we have seen a string of announcements from the government, as they continue to loosen the strict limitations put in place back in March 2020. From industries such as retail and hospitality given the go-ahead to reopen, to the increased freedom for those who have been shielding, there seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel.

Although this is welcome news for most, it is understandable that some are anxious about what these changes may bring. For those who have been shielding for several months, the thought of leaving the house can be daunting.

Others, who have been working from home since lockdown began, are nervous about returning to the office environment. And of course, people who have been furloughed, essentially loosing 20 to 30% of their income overnight, are concerned about their future.

While it has been encouraging to see so many businesses stepping up their employee welfare efforts (one of the positives to come out of such a difficult situation), it is vital that this support doesn’t start to dwindle. It has never been more important to maintain this momentum and be there for our colleagues during this period of transition. 

As an employer that has always placed the wellbeing of our colleagues at the heart of our business, we already had many procedures in place to help them feel reassured and valued. Here are just a few ways that we have been looking out for our colleagues’ wellbeing over the past few months, which we will continue to follow moving forwards:

It’s good to talk
Our Employee Assistance Programme, for example, has been in place for many years, offering 24/7 access to a trusted, compassionate health and wellbeing counselling service. We know that this provision can really make a difference to those that are struggling, either with workplace stress or pressures at home. We continue to urge all of our teams to take full advantage of this during these difficult times.

Feeling part of the family 
Our ‘mental health first-aiders’ have been keeping in touch with our colleagues who aren’t currently working on-site, contacting them once a week to ensure they still feel part of the company. We’re consistently checking how they are coping and discussing ways we can support them, from offering reassurance about their position to motivating them to help their local community through volunteering.   

Bridging the furlough gap
We have also tried to ease the financial burden that furlough brings, by trying to bridge the gap between the government funding and their usual wage. We do not underestimate the impact that losing 20% to 30% income overnight can have, which is why we have put provisions in place to ensure that almost all of our colleagues still receive 100% pay whilst on this leave of absence. 

During challenging times, it goes without saying that people need more support than ever, but employee welfare shouldn’t be reserved for a time of crisis. It must be a consistent effort that is engrained into the heart of your business. After all, if you take care of your employees, they will, in turn, take good care of your business for years to come. 

Jan-Hein Hemke is managing director of Facilicom UK & Ireland.