Across India, state governments, ministers and court officials are doing their bit to raise funds for COVID relief. While the ministers of the state of Karnataka have volunteered to donate a year’s salary towards COVID relief, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has encouraged legislators to donate a month’s salary towards the fund.
The ministers have decided to pool in resources amidst these challenging times, to help the State tackle the growing crisis.
Meanwhile, in Maharashtra, all Maharashtra Congress MLAs will be donating a month’s salary to the Chief Minister’s relief fund and facilitate free vaccinations for all across the state.
Maharashtra Revenue Minister Bala saheb Thorat has commited to donate a year’s salary for the fund. In addition, Rs 5 lakh will be donated on behalf of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC).
In Rajasthan, Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasra, announced his intention to donate a month’s salary to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to help tackle the crisis.
He also requested private educational institutions, coaching centres and others in Rajasthan to provide financial support to help set up oxygen plants and other facilities.
Responding to Dotasra’s appeal, the Private Education Institutions Federation of Sikar has announced a donation of Rs 1 crore for an oxygen plant in Sikar.
In Chattisgarh, all the judges, registry officers and employees of the Chattisgarh High Court and Subordinate Courts will also donate a day’s salary towards the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. A circular has been issued with a request for this contribution.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has also appealed to the government employees of the state to voluntarily contribute a day’s salary to the Fund.
Over 70% of workers looking to make their commutes more sustainable post-lockdown
As UK employees begin to return to the office, nationwide research from zero carbon commuting specialist Mobilityways has found that nearly three-quarters (70.8%) of working people want their commutes to be more sustainable.
However, at the same time commuters still rank time (32.6%) and convenience (24.9%) as the most important factors in choosing how to travel to work, meaning they need help in planning more environmentally-friendly journeys that balance sustainability with their other priorities.
42.2% of those surveyed are keen to commute more sustainably, while 28.6% say they already do. 25% feel that there aren’t any sustainable options for their trip to work, again pointing to a need for wider change.
Reinforcing the interest in sustainable commuting, 37% are considering a switch to an electric vehicle, with 30.3% open to walking or running to work and 41.6% to cycling to the office. 71.1% would share a car as part of their commute, either as a driver or passenger.
Businesses need to prepare now for the future of commuting – and to make it easier for their staff to embrace more sustainable options, according to the founder of Mobilityways, Ali Clabburn:
“While more and more staff want to work from home for at least some of the week, the majority will still be commuting at some point. The encouraging news is that post-lockdown commuters want to be more sustainable, provided that they don’t sacrifice time and convenience while doing so. This is where forward-looking businesses can step in, providing help and reducing their own carbon footprint at the same time.”
Reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and increasing sustainability is becoming a key business imperative as the UK aims to meet its challenging Net Zero Carbon emissions target by 2050. As part of this the UK government has just announced that it is bringing forward the target of reducing GHG emissions by 78% (from 1990 levels) to 2035.
Under the GHG Protocol businesses are increasingly looking to measure and report on their Upstream GHG emissions, which include the impacts from commuting and other business travel during work hours using private vehicles. Local authorities in England have already been requested by the government to measure and report their GHG emissions from their own estate and operations. These reporting requirements are likely to be made compulsory across other sectors as part of moves to hit the Net Zero Carbon emissions target.
The Mobilityways’s market research, carried out with 4,366 of users of its free Liftshare platform between 5th and 9th April 2021, highlighted further impacts of the changes in commuting post-lockdown. 26.2% of respondents said they wanted to continue working from home after the pandemic, reducing overall commuting by car and public transport.
51% of people surveyed drove to work before the pandemic, dropping to 38.6% as staff return to the office. Demand for public transport is also set to reduce by over a third, from 17% of workers using it pre-pandemic to 10.8% going forward.
Additionally, despite £250 million of government investment over the last year in cycling and walking infrastructure, there is no surge of interest in people adopting these means of transport for their commute – while 6.8% cycled to work pre-pandemic, a similar number (7%) say they will get on their bikes in the future. Walking to work is actually predicted to drop from 3.9% to 3.3% when people return to the office.
“The pandemic has forced everyone to rethink how they live and work and this will dramatically reshape commuting. Coupled with tightening emissions regulations, the end of lockdown provides a clear opportunity to make commuting greener and more sustainable, benefiting the environment, individuals and businesses alike,” added Clabburn.
Mobilityways enables firms to calculate their ACEL (average commuter emissions level). It uses commuters’ travel data to map and model more environmentally-friendly commute options for workers – posing options and providing alternative routes and distance data for those willing to explore alternatives including walking, cycling, public transport and car sharing. The idea is to encourage more people to explore greener alternatives for their journeys to and from work.
Four in five employees currently have health and wellbeing concerns
According to research undertaken by GRiD ahead of Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May), of the four in five employees (79%) who currently have health and wellbeing concerns, stress and anxiety is the biggest issue for almost two thirds (62%):
Stress and anxiety:
- as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic (21%)
- related to work (12%)
- related to finances as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic (10%)
- related to home life (e.g. caring responsibilities, managing difficult relationships) (10%)
- related to finances more generally (e.g. debt) (8%)
The industry body for the group risk protection sector fears that some of these health and wellbeing worries may have been exacerbated due to the boundaries between work life and home life having become significantly blurred during the past year. Adding to this lack of delineation are the issues of presenteeism (working whilst sick) and leavism (using non-paid hours and annual leave time to catch up on work) which are reportedly both on the rise and potentially adding to employees’ stress and anxiety levels.
Stress and anxiety issues were not the only main worry for employees: a general lack of fitness (e.g. due to non-active lifestyle/sedentary working) was the primary concern for 14%, and a further 10% of employees also reported that sleeping problems were their main concern.
Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for GRiD said: “Stress and anxiety can seriously hinder our ability to function in everyday situations let alone in a demanding and often pressurised work environment.
“When employees work from home, it’s easy for them to switch on a laptop to ‘stay on top of their inbox’ or ‘get ahead for the next day’ but, because there are only so many hours in the day, the time for family, home admin/chores, relaxation activities or sleep are reduced as a result. This can cause stress and anxiety in other areas of their lives. Similarly, being ill previously meant resting at home but employees now have the ability to log on from their sick bed, despite whether that is good for their health or not.”
GRiD warns that employers need to be aware that these feeling of stress and anxiety among staff are widespread which may impact on their employees’ ability to complete work effectively and could potentially lead to more serious mental health issues in the future.
Employers need to support employees across a number of areas including medical, legal, financial, wellness, relationship, child and eldercare issues. There are a number of employee benefits, such as employer-sponsored income protection, life assurance and critical illness that not only support staff during the most challenging times in their lives but that also offer intervention programmes designed to assist employees in resolving day-to-day personal problems.
Katharine Moxham concluded: “Health and wellbeing concerns often start as minor issues that, if left unchecked, become bigger burdens. Unfortunately, the pandemic has meant that many employees’ lives are more complex and they have much more on their plate from both a personal and professional point of view. By using the support embedded in to employee benefits, employees will be able to help resolve their concerns efficiently because they’re being guided by experts in their field.”
Support mental wellbeing as businesses move to hybrid working
As the end of lockdown comes into view, employers are increasingly moving towards a flexible, hybrid style of working where employees will come into an office for two-three days a week and work from home for rest of the time. The move to hybrid working is largely being driven by employees that have become accustom to a better work / life balance and it also represents an acceptance by businesses that remote working to put it simply, works.
This mental health awareness week, Dr. Nick Zygouris, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Director of Mental Health, Maximus UK, shares his top tips on how businesses can support employee mental wellbeing during this period of transition and the normalisation of hybrid working.
“As businesses are considering a transition back to the office, it is vital to get this right to protect the mental wellbeing of employees. Especially when we consider that poor mental health costs UK employers over £42bn each year.
“At this stage, it is not possible to predict precisely the long-term impact of the pandemic on mental health, but one thing we do know, is that while people are extremely adaptable, any period of transition can prove to be stressful and cause anxiety.
“There have been many transitions during the pandemic, when once we all had full, busy lives, we were moved to the extreme opposite and spent significant periods stuck indoors and isolated. This transition led to significant reduction in staff overall mental health and wellbeing and many employers were caught off-guard and needed to adapt quickly to provide the support their employees needed.
“Recent research published in medical journal The Lancet investigated the impact of lockdown on healthy individuals compared to those who experience mental health symptoms. Interestingly, the research concluded that overall healthy individuals experienced a decline in mental health while people who already had mental health symptoms prior to lockdown reported their symptoms either stayed the same or in some cases actually improved. As we’re coming out of lockdown, one out of five people are estimated to experience COVID-19 Anxiety Syndrome, a condition where people find it hard to stop worrying about catching COVID-19 and continue avoiding activities.
“So, what does this mean for employers considering a move to hybrid working? The simple answer is there is no one size fits all approach. Every employee is different with different needs.
For example, people with social anxiety may experience extreme apprehension at the idea of returning to an office while other people may need face-to-ace social interaction to remain motivated in their role and engaged with the organisation.
“This means different approaches need to be considered to ensure employees feel supported as our working lives transition again. Here are my top tips for businesses to consider:
- Keep your people connected – During hybrid working, it is important that employees feel connected to the business and their colleagues to ensure they feel supported. Keep employees up to date on the business, organise social gatherings (either face to face or remote), plan lunch and learns, or use an employee networking platform. A comprehensive internal communications plan will be critical to ensure the success of transitioning to hybrid working.
- Provide wellbeing resources – Equip your business with wellbeing tools and resources and remind employees what is available to them. Choose tools that have been developed by clinical, occupational, psychological and public health experts. At Maximus UK, we offer a range of tools to support workplace wellbeing, such as our Revitalised Wellbeing Programme that delivers a strategic, innovative and holistic approach to mental, physical and social wellbeing support.
- Create wellbeing champions – Create and support a network of wellbeing champions, a network of your employees who promote wellbeing activities and initiatives to your workforce. This peer-to-peer approach will ensure wellbeing becomes part of your corporate DNA. The role of a wellbeing champion is to be the ‘eyes, ears and voice’ of your corporate wellbeing strategy. Our Revitalised Wellbeing Programme offers training, support and equips your champions to be experts in all things wellbeing.
- Set ‘flexible boundaries’ – While some employees thrive from a flexible approach to work, others prefer set work times, locations and rules. Provide support to those employees who opt for a more structured way of working by agreeing set days that they are allocated to come into the office and regularly check in with them to review how they are adapting to this new way of working.
- Adapt your office space – Increasingly, I am seeing businesses adapt their office space to facilitate meetings and better collaboration, to provide a space where employees can meet up and exchange ideas. While this is a great initiative, it is also important to consider that choice here is key. Employees will also need access to quiet places to work in the office to get their work done away from the stresses of home life.
“A partial return to the office is a crucial time that requires clear communication strategies and comprehensive wellbeing support for employees. Ultimately, if handled well the move to hybrid working could energise your workforce and get them to embrace the new world of work.”
To find out more about Maximus UK and our Revitalised Wellbeing Programme visit: healthmanagement.co.uk/
Post-Furlough Anxiety: How to Reassure Staff Returning to Work
Almost half (45 per cent) of furloughed workers are anxious about their return to work, according to recruiter Randstad.
A poll of almost 8,000 workers from across the UK highlighted the relationship between post-furlough anxiety and the failure to offer best practice HR. Only 15 per cent of those who had returned and classified their onboarding experience as “very good” were anxious. In contrast, of those workers who had either no onboarding or an experience they regarded as either “poor” or “very poor”, 61 per cent were anxious on their return to work.
Adrian Smith, senior director of operations at Randstad UK said: “Normally the onboarding process would be reserved for introducing newly hired employees into an organisation. But these aren’t normal times and workers who have been furloughed for a year will benefit from some help integrating back into the wider company. It might be arduous for some teams who are spread pretty thin at the moment but while standard onboarding might be expected to last for a couple of weeks to be effective, post-furlough onboarding is much shorter. Done properly, it will help employees feel more confident and competent when they get back on the job. It’s about investing the time to protect well-being and to ensure a productive returning workforce.”
INDUSTRY BREAKDOWN: RAIL BEATS CONSTRUCTION & PROPERTY
Some industries are diligently onboarding furloughed staff returning to work – while others have failed to embrace it. While a third of furloughed employees (34 per cent) receive either no (or very poor) onboarding on their return to work, this rose to 38 per cent of employees in Construction – and 44 per cent of those working in Property. Manufacturing was better (27 per cent) although the best performing sector was Rail – where only 17 per cent said they had no or very poor on boarding.
Adrian Smith said: “It’s worrying that such a high proportion of employees in sectors like property and construction aren’t getting the onboarding attention they deserve. Once construction and property rejoiced in their reputations for being quite old-fashioned. I thought we’d kicked the days of sub-standard HR in the industry into the long grass.”
IMPORTANCE OF CHECK-INS TO EMPLOYEE WELFARE
Equally, only 36 per cent of those workers who had weekly check-ins with their organisations said they were nervous about returning to work, compared 54 per cent who have bimonthly check-ins or 64 per cent who had no check-ins at all.
Adrian Smith said: “The more that staff communicate, the better they work together – accomplishing goals, developing skills, and giving and receiving feedback. While furlough has changed the purpose of the check-in somewhat, the importance of keeping the lines of communication open remains undiminished. While check-ins should appear relatively casual to employees, even in these strange times, managers need to follow a loose structure to ensure the time is used wisely, including preparation and taking notes.”
But the improvements in staff wellbeing driven by more regular check-ins shrank with age. Younger workers (18-35) with monthly check-ins were 13 per cent happier than those with bimonthly check-ins. Middle aged employees were 12 per cent happier. But workers over 68 only saw a 5 per cent uplift.
Adrian Smith said: “While there’s still a strong correlation between the two, the positive impact regular check-ins make on employees’ well-being diminishes with their age. Older workers may be less likely to feel their boss is investing time in them and be more likely to feel their boss is wasting their time. There’s a fine line between checking-in on a valued member of the team – and checking-up on them.”
CHIEF COVID CONCERNS
Seventeen in every twenty (84 per cent) workers in the UK say they have concerns about Covid-19 at work – with fewer concerns in rail (81 per cent) and engineering (83 per cent) and more in manufacturing (85 per cent) and property (90 per cent).
By far the most common concern is catching the virus – with 43 per cent saying they are worried they will catch it at work while 36 per cent are worried for their family’s health as a result. Three in every twenty (14 per cent) say they are worried by its impact on their employer.
While 83 per cent of men have concerns about Covid-19 at work, 86 per cent of women do.
But the least concerned workers are those over 68, a full 22 per cent of whom say they have no concerns about covid at work. At the other end of the spectrum, 87 per cent of 26-35 year olds say they are worried about covid at work.
Adrian Smith said: “Clearly, there is nervousness up and down the country about Covid and workers’ concerns are not limited to whether or not you might catch it. It’s important for employers to make their teams feel safe in their working environment.”
WELLBEING – MENTAL HEALTH AND RESILIENCE TRAINING IS THE SOLUTION
Randstad asked workers what would improve their wellbeing. The most popular solution chosen by employees was training about mental health and resilience – with 60 per cent of workers favouring this option. While stress reduction workshops were also popular (54 per cent of workers favoured these), less popular were the appointment of a workplace wellbeing champion (50 per cent) and mindfulness training (48 per cent).
While employers might be tempted to roll out the yoga mats to improve employee wellbeing, only 43 per cent of workers polled wanted meditation sessions – the least popular possible solution.
When asked, “Would you be interested in having access to meditation sessions?”, those in the Manufacturing, Construction, Property, and Engineering sectors were the least interested of workers across the UK with 62 per cent, 60 per cent, 59 per cent, and 58 per cent respectively saying they didn’t want meditation sessions at work.
Adrian Smith said: “I think we’ve reached peak yoga mat.”
While those working in HR were the most likely to report having access to workplace meditation sessions already, 43 per cent of HR professionals say they would like less meditation in the workplace.
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