Employers need to step up as lockdown continues

Press release: It is the responsibility of business owners who have staff working from home during a lockdown period to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that their physical and psychological safety and wellbeing remains robust.

It may start as a novelty to work remotely, but as time rolls on it can be taxing on the physical and mental health of employees. Employsure, New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisor, is urging employers to be proactive in organising and maintaining a connection with employees, and to also ensure their work environment is safe.

“One of the most important aspects when running a business is ensuring the health and safety of staff. It is imperative correct measures are taken so employees stay motivated, healthy and safe,” said Employsure health and safety manager Larry Drewsen.

“An employer has a duty of care that extends to anywhere an employee can perform work. Employers must consider all scenarios and whether an employee’s home is a safe working environment. They must ensure they’re doing right by their staff and are compliant with health and safety legislation.

“The best workplace, no matter the location, is a safe workplace. If employees are required to work from home, their employer should require each of them to assess their environment and complete a working from home safety checklist.”

Employers should regularly check in on staff and identify any issues that might impede their work. Employers should also identify whether staff live in a COVID-19 hotspot and if they may have come into contact with an infected person. Proactively monitoring which staff members physically attend the workplace can help avoid a potential infection spread.

Because everyday encounters with colleagues do not happen spontaneously when working from home, employers can also urge their employees to reach out to fellow colleagues to maintain a social connection. Staying connected not only helps reduce stress and the feeling of isolation, but it can boost productivity. It also helps employees communicate with their manager and team to keep them informed of what project they are working on.

Common feelings employees who work remotely may experience during lockdown include social and professional disconnect, lack of motivation, loss of energy, appetite or weight changes, unexplained aches and pains, loss of interest, and feelings of anxiety and stress.

This is reflected in calls to Employsure’s employer advice line, which has seen a 68 per cent increase in employee well-being related calls from concerned business owners since the start of the year. To keep better track of employees and possibly identify any trends occurring, business owners should use employee management software such as BrightHR to manage sickness, rosters, work locations and all other sensitive information and documents.