The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in 9.3 million people being furloughed and these are unprecedented times and has touched all of us. Many of us don’t know what our future looks like, and this lack of control is causing stress.
For others, who are now working at home, juggling work and family life, may feel isolated from others in their ‘normal’ working environment, causing stress. This form of stress is a result of a lack of support or difficulty in maintaining relationships. Some people, such as healthcare workers, have had their workloads (demands) increased may feel additional pressure which also can turn into stress.
Stress, like most physiological responses, manifests in different people in different ways, causing some people to withdraw or turn to alcohol (or other substances, including food) to cope with their situation. Unfortunately, one fix does not work for all, as stress is often the result of a combination of factors in both personal and working lives.
CONTROLLING WORK-RELATED STRESSORS
The HSE have developed a set of standards of management practice for controlling work-related stressors and are aimed at those stressors that affect the majority of workers in an organization and cover six main factors which can lead to work-related stress:
- The demands of your job
- The control over your work
- The support you receive from managers and colleagues
- Your relationships at work
- Your role in the organization
- Change and how its managed
Understanding the details of what these risk factors are in your workplace, identifying which areas may be presenting problems, and then work with employees (and their representatives) to take action to reduce these problems.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO REDUCE STRESS AT WORK
An area that needs to be added to the list is stress (risk) factors associated with COVID-19, so as an employer what can you do to reduce stress from COVID-19:
- Regularly ask your workers how they are doing and if anything is stressing them
- Where workers are distressed about the challenging conditions caused by the pandemic, acknowledge their feelings about the situation and reassure workers they are doing what they can in the circumstances
- Stay informed with information from official sources and regularly communicate or share this information with workers
- Consult your workers and representatives on any risks to their psychological health and physical health and safety
- Support innovations to address the psycho social risks where you reasonably can
- Provide workers with a point of contact to discuss their concerns
- Make workplace information available in a central place
- Inform workers about their entitlements if they become unfit for work or have caring responsibilities
- Proactively support workers who you identify to be more at risk of workplace psychological injury (e.g. front line workers or those working from home)
- Refer workers to appropriate work-related mental health and well being support services, such as employee assistance programs
NON-WORK-RELATED CAUSES OF STRESS
There are things that may stress your workers during the COVID-19 pandemic that may not be work related. Even though you may not have legal obligations in relation to that stress, you should take this into account, and if you are able to, offer workers increased support and flexibility to get through this difficult time.
These stressors could include some or all of the following:
- Financial stress,g., from reduced hours, loss of employment (such as their own secondary employment or their partners)
- Balancing work and caring responsibilities,g., from trying to work while also meeting the needs of children and others unable to attend their usual activities or care arrangements
- Concern for vulnerable family members/friends,g., from concerns they might get the virus or increased emotional stress at not being able to visit and assist elderly relatives
- Change to activities that support good mental health,g., reduced exercise because of closure of gyms, reduced holidays because of travel limitations and reduced social interactions
FOCUS ON ORGANISATIONAL RESILIENCE?
Recent events in changes OF Covid 19 epic centre from Lagos in Nigeria to Benue according to NCDC data analytics reinforced that the risk of contracting COVID-19 has not gone.
With Government support not being implemented properly across all boards, we should all be considering the long-term future of our businesses and planning on how we will ride out what is going to be a bumpy future.
Lock down has presented business with several lessons and this can be broken down into the following:
The current lockdown meant that Business Continuity Plans (BCP) were exercised and for many, for the first time. For many it was a shock at how ineffective the plans were.
We encourage businesses to take the time to revisit their plans and look to how they will manage future spikes in the virus, the business response to a potential recession and develop a new and improved plan to support a sustainable business.
Most organizations have seen an increase in productivity during lockdown. While there has been much reporting around this, it’s important that organizations look at why this is and learn from the findings.
Productivity has been linked to an increase in staff wellbeing, however, lockdown has also highlighted issues such as mental health, domestic abuse and disruption in sleep and exercise patterns, which should be considered when looking at any future business planning.
A major concern of lockdown was how were individuals and teams going to respond with a lack of physical contact. The use of video conferencing tools has helped with this challenge and appears to support increased productivity. The main issues facing teams today is the anxiety of returning to work and the use of public transport and the risk this brings.
The COVID-19 outbreak has shown that our health as a key issue. Research has identified those who are at risk and they include those health conditions that can be prevented though exercise and diet and highlighted the importance of personal hygiene.
We have program in 9 areas as established by NCDC to manage your health. These learning’s should be used by organizations to review the effectiveness of their current wellbeing programs to make sure they are individually-tailored while reducing the risk of absence.
Volumes of road traffic are noticeably starting to build, and we look like we are returning to the bad habit of using our cars for all journeys.
We must use the learning’s from the lockdown period to help our planet and local environment. The challenges to businesses are:
- Do we need to return to the office?
- Do we need to meet in person?
- And, do we need to drive to our next meeting?
The alternatives offer a healthier lifestyle, but we need to educate and give ourselves and our team’s permission to pursue a new way of working.
In the wise words spoken by Michael Dell:
“Recognize that there will be failures, and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success”.
Businesses can use the learning’s from the current challenges to prepare for the future and by doing this we can be hopeful of a happy and healthy future, which is good for our families and the environment.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, then it must be to look after the environment. In the past 250 years, there have been 10 pandemics, with 4 occurring in the past 20 years (SARS in 2002/3, Swine Flu in 2009, MERS in 2012 and COVID-19 in 2019/20).
The question we have to ask ourselves is why?
There are a number of contributory factors:
- The use of antibiotics, not only in medical use but also agricultural use. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, but bacteria (and other ‘germs’) are very clever and are able to adapt to their environment. The best example is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), where the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus has become resistant to antibiotics
- Global travel, this is one of the reasons why COVID-19 has spread to 188 (out of 195 recognized) countries
- Changes in the ecosystem from human destruction of the rainforests, forcing animals to adapt and live closer to humans
From a pandemic perspective, the most dangerous place to live is where humans and lots of animals (namely birds and pigs) live together in close confines.
Sadly, this is not unique to our times, since the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago, where humans started to settle down and become farmers, humans and animals have lived in close proximity, a viral epidemic have been the bane of people’s lives and with global travel compounds the problem.
There are proven reasons why we need to distance ourselves from others outside our own household to control the spread of COVID-19 – the virus is transmitted when people are in close contact with each other.
The term ‘social distancing’ is being used by the Government, and subsequently being used by everybody else, but is it the correct terminology?
Humans are inherently social. We are not special in this way, in most animal species social behavior is important. Although we may share some broader aspects of our social behavior with more primitive species, human social behavior is more complex but no less important for our health and survival (Young, 2008).
So, should we be ‘socially distancing’ or ‘physically distancing’?
The term ‘social distancing’, implies that you need to be distant from socializing. This sounds like you must be socially separate from your family and friends, i.e. not interact with them. While physical distancing simplifies the concept that you need to be physically distant or separate from another person (or object).
Staying in touch with people assists the human connection we all need to thrive daily (being social), while physical distance is vital to slow down the transmission of COVID-19 amongst people.
Why is it a 2m distance?
This originally came from studies in the 1930s, where scientists found that respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes, would land within 1-2m. However, in light of COVID-19, more recent studies have been carried out, showing that coughs can travel up to 6m and sneezes can travel up to 8m in a ‘gas cloud’ (Bourouiba, 2020). However, trying to keep distances of up to 8m (or 26 feet), which is approximately 4 times the length of an average UK size bed, is going to be impossible to do, which is why we are being told to ‘catch’ sneezes and coughs either in tissue or the crease of the elbow.
Is a 1m as effective as 2m distance?
The simple answer to this question is no. 1m is good but 2m is better. Halving the distance from 2m to 1m, more than doubles the chance of transmission. At 1m the risk of being infected is 13%, but at 2m the risk of being infected is 3% – for every 1m further away in distance, the relative effect of the risk of transmission is 2.02 (Chu, et al. 2020).
Guidance for physical distancing
- Work remotely (wherever possible), whenever you have the chance
- Avoid physical meetings. Use online conferencing, email or the phone when possible, even when people are in the same meeting
- Unavoidable in-person meetings should be short, in a large meeting room where people can sit at least 2m from each other; avoid shaking hands
- Eliminate unnecessary travel and cancel or postpone nonessential meetings, gathering, workshops and training sessions
- Do not congregate in communal areas (kitchens, copier rooms, post room, etc). Keep 2m apart when possible
- Avoid using lifts, wherever possible. If they must be used, limit their use to 2 people and ask them to face away from each other
- Bring lunch and eat at your desk or away from others (avoid lunchrooms and crowded restaurants
- If you decide to eat at your desk, make sure you clean your desk before and after; and try and ‘get away’ from your desk by going for a walk
- Stagger lunchtimes, wherever possible
- Avoid public transportation – try to either walk, cycle, or drive. If unavoidable, go in early or late to avoid rush-hour crowding on public transportation
- Limit recreational or other leisure classes, meetings, activities, etc, where close contact with others is likely continue
KNOW YOUR STATUS
Symptomatic: the person presents with symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, at the time that the virus was isolated from his/her throat (the swab test)
Presymptomatic: the person presents with NO symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, at the time that the virus was isolated from his/her throat, but develops symptoms later
Asymptomatic: the person never develops symptoms, even though the virus was isolated, it is never too late to say this again: wear a mask, sanitize, practice social distancing, restrict or avoid visiting, go shopping as seldom as you can; support and encourage those you know who are frightened or lonely or alone or struggling to cope with these abnormal times; keep yourselves as active and as healthy as you can
10 NEXT STEPS FOR LEADERS AT ALL LEVELS
- Communicate with employees to raise awareness, enforce policies (e.g., travel restrictions) and familiarize them with available tools and resources
If pandemic planning considerations have not been incorporated into existing business continuity and disaster recovery strategies or updated, begin rapid planning or refresh of pandemic strategies and actions
Perform an immediate assessment of processes and functions with high manual intervention and critical third-party dependencies, especially in high vulnerability and impact locations, to understand key risks, including any single points of failure
- Review crisis communication plan and designate single points of contact to facilitate seamless engagement with local, national and global authorities, and other key internal and external stakeholders
- Identify potential policy exceptions and institute a crisis management exception approval process to manage such exceptions on an accelerated basis in each jurisdiction
- Confirm employees have the requisite capabilities, including access to requisite share drives, documents and other critical tools, to perform critical tasks remotely
- Review relevant standard operating procedures and manuals and update them, as necessary
- Monitor the situation and provide regular briefings to leaders on any emerging threats and issues
- Ask employees to confirm and update contact information (primary and secondary) in company records, as necessary
- Conduct brief pandemic training with employees to enhance employee and organizational preparedness to respond effectively
For further clarification Speak with one of our consultants to discuss how we can support your business continuity planning, please speak with
Kenny Odugbemi 08032002585, or email [email protected], tweet @ j_odugbemi
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DISCLAIMER: Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of FraudXpose or any employee thereof.