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Whether you have employees who are taking time off, working from home, or adapting their working practices, it is important to ensure they feel supported and engaged to enable you to continue your business now and in the future.

Many people are experiencing a time of heightened anxiety which could be linked to uncertainty about their work, or due to their personal circumstances. It is important that you maintain regular contact with your staff about what is expected of them now, and keeping them up to date with any potential changes to their work.

Supporting your staff through COVID-19

As businesses and their staff face into a period of uncertainty and change, it is even more important to be considering the wellbeing of your staff. Whether you have employees who are taking time off, working from home, or adapting their working practices, it is important to ensure they feel supported and engaged to enable you to continue your business now and in the future, keeping them up to date with any potential changes to their work.  

Many people are experiencing a time of heightened anxiety which could be linked to uncertainty about their work, or due to their personal circumstances. It is important that you maintain regular contact with your staff about what is expected of them now, and keeping them up to date with any potential changes to their work.

If you have concerns about how to support your staff during this time, you can access information and guidance for line managers on supporting staff wellbeing. You can also support your staff by sharing resources that they can use to look after their own wellbeing during this time. Some examples of useful websites can be found at Wellbeing Support

Your staff may also be experiencing a wide range of personal issues such as bereavement, addiction or domestic abuse. The BBC Action Line provides information on a wide range of topics so it may be beneficial to promote this to your employees to allow them to access information and support if they need it.

Preparing to return to work

If you handle the transition from absence/lockdown/working from home back to the workplace with support and care, it is more likely to be successful. There may have been a number of changes in the workplace or at home for your staff, and they could be experiencing additional stress or anxiety. Further guidance has been developed by Healthy Working Lives to help employers manage a return to work after lockdown.

If staff are moving back into the workplace, you should take steps to reduce any risks for staff based on their individual circumstances and be mindful that staff in higher risk categories may be more anxious about a return to work. 

There is a website and helpline to provide mental wellbeing support to staff working in health and social care who may be looking for advice on things like managing stress and anxiety, fatigue, sleep, relaxation and exercise.

Where staff are absent, it is important to maintain communication with them to keep them engaged and updated on any changes to the business. You should also consider what training or development staff might need to help them adapt back to the workplace. Further information can be found in the Returning to Work Planning Checklist in this blog from Scottish Enterprise.

Supporting disabled staff

Changes in where and how people are working might mean disabled employees need new or different support to do their job. This will be individual to the person and their role so the best thing to do is have a conversation with your employee about what support they might need to continue to do their job effectively.

Even where you don’t think there will be a change to someone’s support needs, it is good practice to discuss this with them to check this is correct.

Disabled employees can access funding for workplace adjustments through the Government’s Access to Work scheme. Advice on making workplace adjustments for disabled staff can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

For all staff, it is important to discuss any changes to working practices and be clear on what this means for their job role. Staff are better able to maintain their productivity if they are clear on what is expected of them, but also know where they can access support or advice if they feel they are struggling to adapt to new ways of working. For some staff, this clarity can be even more important. For example, those with autism may struggle with changes to their routine, or may need extra time/support to enable them to adapt to change. There are resources available to support people with autism cope with the impact of these changes, including tops tips on working from home.

Being flexible with your approach

It is important to be willing to adapt and flex to be able to find a solution that works for you and your staff.

Scottish Enterprise can offer advice to businesses to help them adapt their practices, and its website contains useful information on funding available to businesses.

Suggestions on how to support those working from home, particularly those who are also caring for children or others, can be found at Flexibility Works.

Information on time off to look after dependants can be found on the ACAS website. You could also direct your employees to advice for unpaid carers, including information on the funding and support that is available to them.

Staff and absence recovery

You should review the government advice on what to do if you have staff who need to self-isolate. You should share the government guidance with employees to ensure they have the right information. This guidance includes information on statutory sick pay (SSP) and the new Self-Isolation Support Grant.

The guidance above on returning to work is useful to help you support staff who may feel anxious returning to work after a period of absence or illness.