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Your questions answered - October 2022

14 November 2022

Each issue, British Safety Council will use this page to answer YOUR questions. Please send any problems, issues or general enquiries about health, safety and wellbeing to policy@britsafe.org and their experts will respond in future issues.

Q: I am worried that working from home may be negatively impacting on my employees’ mental health because of isolation and less social interaction. What can I, as their boss, do to prevent this? 

Preventing isolation among workers is a growing issue now more of us are working from home or remotely since the pandemic. There are some key things you as a manager or leader can do to help.

First, try and send fewer emails. While it’s tempting to push the send button rather than pick up the phone or arrange a virtual meeting, making that extra effort to speak and engage with colleagues turns a one-way form of communications into something much more interactive.

It is vital you remember when you do speak to ask how they are, perhaps start with what they have been doing in their free time and remember what they tell you so you can pick this up again in a later chat. This will help you bond a bit more like being in an office. 

Second, proactively set aside time in the working day for non-work matters, such as online chats. You can also do group activities, such as a quiz or icebreaking sessions together even after work. Occasional team-wide or company-wide virtual meetings also enable employees to connect. 

Finally, do not be afraid of acknowledging you’re aware that isolation and loneliness may be an issue, and that your employees are always welcome to approach you should they have any concerns, need to chat or have any suggestions about future social activities. 

Q: We have a first aid box in the office, and some of my staff have questioned what should be in it. What’s your advice?

If your work is not hazardous, some good basic first-aid items include: individually-wrapped sterile plasters of assorted sizes; sterile eye pads; individually-wrapped triangular bandages, preferably sterile; safety pins; large sterile individually-wrapped unmedicated wound dressings; medium-sized sterile individually-wrapped unmedicated wound dressings; and disposable gloves. You could also include a leaflet giving general guidance on first aid. It is recommended that you do not keep tablets and medicines in the first-aid box.

The HSE has some useful information on its website about what to put in a first aid box and how to go about deciding what is most appropriate for you and your staff’s needs. You can also check British Standard BS 8599-1 which provides information on the contents of workplace first aid kits.

Q: I believe studies show a rise in alcohol use at home since the pandemic, which may be made worse by working from home, and I am concerned some of my staff may be at risk. What can I do to help them sensitively and respectfully, and what measures, if any can be taken in the workplace to try and prevent this before any problems occur? 

You may be reassured to hear that most moderate drinkers did not increase their consumption during the pandemic, and many light drinkers stopped drinking altogether. Alcohol consumption is actually falling in the UK, and people most likely to drink more during the pandemic were already heavy users of alcohol. 

That said, employers can and should help inform their staff about the risks. And worryingly, just a third of employers actively give their workforce information about where they can get support for drug and alcohol-related problems. 

It’s vital to show you are supportive and to give your line managers information so they can help. Preventing someone acquiring a drink problem is not easy, but being vigilant, proactively talking about wellbeing and health in the workplace and having a comprehensive strategy and plan in place to support your staff on all aspects of their wellbeing is ultimately the best way. Having clear support for staff with mental health issues will also enable them to receive help and advice hopefully before their drinking becomes a problem. 

Don’t forget to submit YOUR questions to policy@britsafe.org