• Covid-19 – click here for the latest updates from Forum Events & Media Group Ltd

Occupational Safety and Health Forum Occupational Safety and Health Forum Occupational Safety and Health Forum Occupational Safety and Health Forum Occupational Safety and Health Forum

Posts Tagged :

COVID-19

Only one third of firms embracing full office return post-COVID

While many business leaders are drawn to vaccine passports as a solution to bring their workforces back to the office full-time, Forrester predicts that 70% of US and European companies will pivot to a hybrid work model post-pandemic.

In a hybrid model setup, at least some employees can work anywhere they want for two or more days a week while coming into the office on the remaining workdays. Forrester’s research shows that companies that master this opportunity will accrue both employee experience and business benefits, including higher retention rates and long-term recruitment advantages.

According to Forrester, 55% of US employees say they hope to work from home more often, even after the pandemic ends. Additionally, leaders need to consider overall employee sentiment toward vaccination when planning return-to-office strategies. According to data:

  • 47% of US workers and 54% of European workers believe vaccines will not completely stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
  • Only 39% of US workers and 34% of European workers feel that their employers have a plan in place to provide vaccination.
  • Two-thirds of workers in both regions are not comfortable with employers collecting their personal data specific to the pandemic.

While some C-level executives view anywhere-work with skepticism, this model is now imperative for higher-value talent. To successfully implement this model, however, companies must assess specific anywhere-work readiness elements to determine preparedness. They must also consider refreshing their office spaces, including reconceptualizing desk usage to support hybrid work.

Forrester’s anywhere-work readiness calculator will help companies pursue the benefits of anywhere-work and design an action plan based on their readiness. The calculator assesses several company factors, including the percentage of employees who can potentially work remotely and how technologies stack up in terms of collaboration and security. The calculator will help firms invest in and provide technological, cultural, and leadership resources to support work from any location.

“The pandemic has taught us that organizations play a bigger role in employee wellness than previously understood,” said Keith Johnston, VP and group research director at Forrester. “It also reveals how the future of work will be driven by employees having the ability to work anywhere. By shifting conversations to focus on the working environments that best suit employees’ needs moving forward, organizations can ensure that their employees feel they are being heard and that they have the autonomy and tools to do their jobs effectively.”

COVID Recovery ‘could be prolonged’ if staff aren’t supported

Recovery from Long Covid symptoms could be more prolonged if employees are not supported, according to RedArc Nurses, which is encouraging employers to ensure any staff who are suffering get the right support and are not left to cope alone.

As is becoming evident, Long Covid is not a static condition – it can cause a range of changing neurological, psychiatric and physical symptoms of which there are now over 50 reported. Many areas of the body can be affected such as respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological and manifest in symptoms such as breathlessness, muscle or joint pain, headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety and vertigo. To further complicate matters, individual symptoms can improve and relapse, causing some people to feel that they are suddenly unable to cope. It’s vital that people get the right support as early as possible or symptoms could be more prolonged.

Christine Husbands, Managing Director for RedArc, said: “One of the main issues with Long Covid is that the goalposts keep shifting. Employees can feel quite in control on one day and then a change in the type or severity of symptoms can mean a huge step backwards on another.

“This has huge implications for treatment and support: employees need to be treated as individuals as the symptoms vary so much from person to person – a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t address the very personal nature of the illness, and secondly, the support needs to be agile and adapt to the individual’s condition as it evolves.”

Mental and physical health are intrinsically linked
For some time, the medical profession has acknowledged the significant link between physical and mental health with one directly impacting the other which has led RedArc to have concerns that the mental strain of experiencing a slow and drawn-out recovery from COVID-19 may also take its toll.

Husbands continues:“Over many years of supporting people with physical illnesses, we’ve witnessed individuals struggle mentally when they are not able to live their lives as fully as they once could, particularly when there is no real end date in sight. In addition, in terms of COVID-19 and Long Covid, we’re not only dealing with the mental health impact of the condition itself but also the fact that people have been coping in isolation or with very little social contact which can exacerbate the impact on mental health.”

A new disease
For many, a very frightening aspect of experiencing Long Covid is that it is new and relatively little is known about the condition. There is a significant benefit in having the support of a medical professional with whom to discuss the emotional journey that accompanies it.

Husbands added: “Whether they have severe or milder symptoms, many employees will be battling through without making a fuss believing they are ‘lucky to be alive’. However, if we want to reduce the impact that Long Covid has on individuals’ lives, their workplaces, and the community as a whole, support needs to be offered at the earliest opportunity.

“Support that is too generic however, won’t cut it for Long Covid as everyone is so different, the symptoms are so wide ranging and interlinked, which is why it’s important that support is personalised. For instance, not only do we help people with their specific symptoms but we also help with advice on pacing and rehabilitation, and support in returning to the workplace. By utilising the support available in employer-sponsored health and wellbeing benefits, insurances and via membership organisations, those with Long Covid will get the best possible help in dealing with the after-effects of the virus as well as putting in place early intervention support to recognise and respond to new symptoms as they arise.”

HSE steps up COVID spot checks as lockdown eases

As we continue the roadmap out of lock down and more businesses re-open, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says it’s working with local authorities to carry out spot checks and inspections on local businesses.

The reopening of the economy means that the opportunity for COVID to spread is increased substantially, so the HSE says it’s critical that businesses shouldn’t become complacent, i.e., they still need to have COVID-secure measures in place.

The HSE is calling and visiting all types of businesses, in all areas, to check the measures they’ve put in place to manage the risk from coronavirus, are in line with the current guidance. This includes businesses that have continued to operate throughout the pandemic, those that have recently reopened and those due to open in the coming weeks.

The body is continuing to work closely with local authorities, assisting them in their targeting of premises in the sectors they regulate such as hospitality and retail.

During spot checks and inspections, the HSE provides guidance and advice where required, but where businesses aren’t managing the risk, action will be taken. This can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices and stopping certain work practices until they are made safe. Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.

The COVID-secure measures businesses should have in place include:

  • Risk assessment: every workplace should have a COVID risk assessment. Update it to reflect any changes in legislation or guidance that may impact your work activity.
  • Social distancing: where possible you should keep people two metres apart. If this is not viable, keeping one metre apart with risk mitigation, such as screens, is acceptable.
  • Cleaning, hygiene and handwashing: keeping your workplace clean reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread. It is a critical part of making and keeping your business COVID-secure.
  • Ventilation and air conditioning: can help reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
  • Talk to workers: provide information about providing support and maintaining control measures.
  • Working from home: provide the equipment they need, keep in regular contact and discuss their wellbeing.
  • Vulnerable workers: talk to staff, provide information and consider the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus – putting controls in place to reduce that risk.

Angela Storey, Director of Transformation and Operational Services at HSE, said: “As we come out of lockdown, we are continuing to work with local authorities to check businesses are COVID-secure and providing guidance and advice where needed.

“Our spot checks and inspections support the cross-government work in helping employers and employees that have worked throughout the pandemic and those returning as lockdown measures ease. All workplaces are in scope for spot checks which means businesses of any size, in any sector can receive an unannounced check from HSE or an inspection from the local authority, to check they are COVID-secure.

“If you are contacted by the HSE or your local authority, please engage with us. By checking businesses have measures in place to manage the risks, we can benefit the health of local communities as well as support the local and national UK economy.”

Further information on spot checks and inspections is available on the HSE website.

Mental health driving return to work en mass

The majority (52%) of workers are looking forward to returning to the office for mental health and wellbeing reasons, rising to almost two thirds (64%) amongst 18-34 year olds.

That’s according to research by workspace plant specialist Ambius, which concludes that the appeal of working from home could be waning amongst office workers.

While physical health elements such as social distancing, hygiene, and ventilation are high on the list of priorities amongst workers when returning to the office following the pandemic, the research conducted with 2,000 office workers across the UK also highlights the importance of mental health and wellbeing.

58% of office workers miss being in a space that is more dedicated to work, while two in five (42%) say they don’t have a sufficient workspace at home. The same percentage (42%) say they find their workplace is more creative or inspiring than working from home.

Almost four in five (78%) believe employers should now prioritise health and wellbeing at work, with 47% saying they would consider leaving their current job if their employer did not make changes to help improve health and wellbeing.

Almost two thirds (64%) of office workers believe the design of their workplace affects their wellbeing. They cite indoor air quality (48%), their ability to access outdoor space (37%), natural light (34%), heating or air conditioning (34%) and plants and greenery (16%) as the key design factors that they believe influence their wellbeing in the office.

When asked about the value of adding plants to their workplace, 42% of British office workers believe  it improves the air quality, a third (33%) suggest it improves their mental health and wellbeing, and 30% say it creates a better workplace in general.

Prettpal Somel, UK Marketing Executive, Ambius, said: “Initially many people enjoyed working from home full time because it meant they didn’t have to commute into work or dress up. But, 12 months later the mental health benefits of being in a work environment that is separate to the home is shining through once again.

“While employers quite rightly need to consider pressing elements to make their offices COVID-safe, they must not ignore the mental health benefits that a workplace provides. Air quality is not only one of the key pillars in the fight against Coronavirus, but can also help to boost the sense of wellbeing that employees feel when working in a shared space.

Employers should adopt a dual-pronged approach in this regard, deploying an air purifier that is capable of killing virus particles in the air, such as VIRUSKILLER which is distributed by Rentokil Initial, alongside installing office plants which provide a connection with nature while indoors as well as helping to improve air quality. The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature, and so having living plants and greenery within the workplace is a great way to enhance this connection.”

SMEs ‘must react’ to demand and support staff’s health and wellbeing remotely

The pandemic is specifically affecting SMEs in terms of health and wellbeing benefits and what employers can do to react to employees’ changing requirements, writes Brett Hill, Distribution Director at Towergate Health & Protection…

SMEs are missing out   

SMEs often feel more restricted when it comes to employee benefits in general and healthcare benefits in particular. Whether it is due to budgetary restrictions, lack of options, or scarcity of resources, SMEs may find that they are not able to offer valued employees the rewards they would like. There are, however, options available and SMEs have the advantage of being quick to respond and adapt.

Health and wellbeing behaviours have changed 

The pandemic has resulted in long-term changes in health and wellbeing behaviours, with the issue moving up the agenda for SMEs, as they are less able to cover sick leave and absence due to self-isolation. There has been a sea-change in attitudes regarding how healthcare is accessed, with many people now actively preferring to access care remotely.

The impact of the pandemic

During the pandemic, direct access to GPs has become more difficult, with face-to-face consultations discouraged. Now, and throughout the course of 2021, is a critical time when NHS GP practices across the country will be occupied with the roll out of the UK’s Covid vaccination programme. With all of these factors combined, statistics have shown that employees may be reticent to approach their GP, and many illnesses and conditions are going undiagnosed. For example, Macmillan Cancer Support reports that 50,000 people have missed out on a cancer diagnosis due to the strains put on the NHS by Covid-19.

Healthcare access for beyond the insured workforce 

The pandemic saw the rapid roll out of online GP services to private medical insurance (PMI) customers in the spring of 2020, with many employees discovering the great time- and money-saving benefits of a virtual appointment. However, not all employers can afford to provide every employee with PMI, so there is a need for an affordable way for SMEs to extend their healthcare and online GP access beyond their insured workforce.

Alternative options

There has been a wealth of recent developments in making health and wellbeing benefits more relevant and accessible, particularly for smaller companies. An increasing number of options are becoming available and it is important that SMEs are aware of new developments.

Many smaller companies offer cash plans: insurance policies to help cover the cost of everyday healthcare, like visits to the dentist, optician, or physiotherapist. New advancements now make the value of cash plans go even further and SMEs need to be on top of changes such as preferential rates for remote physiotherapy services, which provide enhanced value for employers and better outcomes for employees.

Online wellbeing support 

Many SMEs offer access to support via an employee assistance programme (EAP), which may be linked to PMI, group insurance or on a standalone basis. Remote clinical services are growing in terms of popularity and possibilities. As demand for mental health support has surged during the pandemic, so has the availability of online counselling sessions, which are now frequently conducted via video link, and can help improve the employee experience.

Remote clinical services

Likewise support for physical wellbeing is also now possible on screen. Even treatments as physical as physiotherapy are available to employees online. Remote private GP services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, enabling employees to receive unlimited advice, reassurance and, where appropriate, diagnosis, private prescriptions, and open referrals, from a practising doctor from wherever they are at the time they need help, even if travelling abroad.

One of the benefits of working for an SME is the close working bond that employees can have, and this is reflected in how owners and managers look after their staff, often keen to extend support to family members and dependants. Online GP services help with this, as fast access to primary care can be extended to employees’ families.

Such a service has traditionally only been available to those employees insured on PMI or group risk insurance policies, but standalone options enable companies to extend this to the whole workforce.

British Safety Council repeats call for Government to enforce COVID-19 workplace safety rules

Recent figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show higher COVID-19 deaths amongst health and social care workers – and the British Safety Council says government needs to more to help bring numbers down.

The body says it is ‘disturbing’ to see that the ‘forgotten’ people who also can’t work from home like machine operators and those working in construction and on production lines, or those employed as drivers and workers in customer-facing roles are also more likely to die.

The British Safety Council says it’s appalled by these figures and is strongly reinforcing its call for a Government health campaign urging employers to improve workplace controls and for enforcement of COVID-19 workplace safety rules, such as ensuring all employers are conducting a risk assessment. People clearly mix in workplaces which increases the potential to catch and transmit the virus.

Mike Robinson, Chief Executive at the British Safety Council, said: “These statistics are alarming and highlight the urgent need for greater Government action to reduce the spread of the virus in workplaces. Employers must follow the rules on making the workplace safe; this will have a greater impact on reducing both the spread of the virus and the number of deaths. While infection rates are coming down in the current national lockdown, they still remain high.”

“Everyone should be safe at work and employers owe a duty of care to their workers to take the steps necessary to remove them from harm’s way.

“More can also be done to protect workers, including more Government support for vulnerable workers as well as for lower paid workers so they can to afford to self-isolate.”

Coronavirus deaths by occupation revealed in ONS data

7,961 deaths involving the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the working age population (those aged 20 to 64 years) of England and Wales were registered between 9 March and 28 December 2020, according to the ONS.

Nearly two-thirds of these deaths were among men (5,128 deaths), with the age-standardised mortality rate of death involving COVID-19 being statistically significantly higher in men, at 31.4 deaths per 100,000 men aged 20 to 64 years compared with 16.8 deaths per 100,000 women (2,833 deaths).

When looking at broad groups of occupations, men who worked in elementary occupations (699 deaths) or caring, leisure and other service occupations (258 deaths) had the highest rates of death involving COVID-19, with 66.3 and 64.1 deaths per 100,000 males, respectively.

In women, process, plant and machine operatives (57 deaths) and caring, leisure and other service occupations (460 deaths) had the highest rates of death involving COVID-19 when looking at broad occupational groups, with 33.7 and 27.3 deaths per 100,000 females, respectively.

Men (79.0 deaths per 100,000 males; 150 deaths) and women (35.9 deaths per 100,000 females; 319 deaths) who worked in social care occupations had statistically significantly higher rates of death involving COVID-19 when compared with rates of death involving COVID-19 in the population among those of the same age and sex.

Almost three in four of the deaths involving COVID-19 in social care occupations (347 out of 469 deaths; 74.0%) were in care workers and home carers, with 109.9 deaths per 100,000 males (107 deaths) and 47.1 deaths per 100,000 females (240 deaths).

Men who worked in healthcare occupations had a statistically higher rate of death involving COVID-19 (44.9 deaths per 100,000 males; 190 deaths) when compared with the rate of COVID-19 among men of the same age in the population; the rate among women who worked in healthcare occupations (17.3 deaths per 100,000 females; 224 deaths) was statistically similar to the rate in the population.

Looking at specific healthcare occupations, nurses had statistically significantly higher rates of death involving COVID-19 when compared with the rate of COVID-19 among those of the same age and sex in the population, with 79.1 deaths per 100,000 males (47 deaths) and 24.5 deaths per 100,000 females (110 deaths); nursing auxiliaries and assistants also had elevated rates of death involving COVID-19.

Rates of death involving COVID-19 in men and women who worked as teaching and educational professionals, such as secondary school teachers, were not statistically significantly raised when compared with the rates seen in the population among those of the same age and sex.

The ONC says, however, that its analysis does not prove conclusively that the observed rates of death involving COVID-19 are necessarily caused by differences in occupational exposure; we adjusted for age, but not other factors such as ethnic group and place of residence.

“Today’s analysis shows that jobs with regular exposure to COVID-19 and those working in close proximity to others continue to have higher COVID-19 death rates when compared with the rest of the working age population. Men continue to have higher rates of death than women, making up nearly two thirds of these deaths,” said Ben Humberstone, Head of Health Analysis and Life Events at the ONS.

“As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most. There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death; from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions. Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving COVID-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure.”

C-Suite execs experiencing more mental health challenges than their employees

Mental health challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted workers differently depending on their seniority, generation, and location.

That’s according to a new report by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, which studied more than 12,000 employees, managers, HR leaders and C-Suite executive across 11 countries.

It found that C-suite executives struggled to adapt more than their employees, younger generations experienced the most burnout, and that India, UAE, China and the U.S. had the most workers reporting the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health.

C-Suite Executives See the Biggest Challenges in Remote Work

C-level executives have struggled the most with adapting to remote work realities and report they are suffering from mental health issues more than their employees, but they are also the most open to finding help in AI.

  • C-Suite execs (53 percent) have struggled with mental health issues in the workplace more than their employees (45 percent).
  • C-Suite execs also had the hardest time adapting to virtual lifestyles with 85 percent reporting significant remote work challenges including collaborating with teams virtually (39 percent), managing increased stress and anxiety (35 percent), and lacking workplace culture (34 percent).
  • C-Suite execs were also 29 percent more likely to experience difficulties learning new technologies for remote work than employees; once they adjusted to the new normal, C-Suite execs were 26 percent more likely to find increased productivity than employees
  • C-Suite execs are the most open to using AI for help with mental health: 73 percent would prefer to talk to a robot (i.e. chatbots and digital assistants) about their mental health over a human compared to 61 percent of employees.
  • C-Suite execs are 23 percent more likely to see AI benefits than employees; 80 percent of C-Suite leaders noted AI has already helped their mental health at work.

Gen Z and Millennials are Hustlin’ Harder, Suffering More, and Seeking AI Relief

Younger workers are feeling the most burnout due to the mental health effects of the pandemic and are more open to asking AI for relief.

  • Gen Z is more likely to be negatively impacted by the pandemic than any other generation. Nearly 90 percent of Gen Z workers said COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health and 94 percent noted workplace stress impacts their home life as well.
  • Gen Z workers are 2X more likely than Baby Boomers to work extra hours during the pandemic, and Millennials are 130 percent more likely to have experienced burnout than Baby Boomers.
  • Younger generations are the most likely to turn to robots for support: Gen Z workers are 105 percent more likely to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work than Baby Boomers. 84 percent of Gen Z and 77 percent of Millennials prefer robots over humans to help with their mental health.
  • Gen Z workers are 73 percent more likely than Baby Boomers to benefit from AI at work: 90 percent of Gen Z say AI has helped their mental health at work and 93 percent want their companies to provide technology to support their mental health.

Employees in Different Countries are Experiencing Very Different Realities

Just like COVID-19, the mental health crisis has impacted people differently across the world. People in India and China are being hit the hardest and are the most open to AI support, while workers in Italy, Germany, and Japan are seeing less of an impact.

  • India (89 percent), UAE (86 percent), China (83 percent) and the U.S. (81 percent) had the most workers reporting the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. Workers in China (43 percent) and India (32 percent) are also the most burned out from overwork as a result of COVID-19.
  • Italy reported the lowest number of people experiencing a negative impact on their mental health from the pandemic (65 percent). Workers in Germany were the least likely to report that 2020 was the most stressful year at work ever (52 percent).
  • 29 percent of people in Japan say they have not experienced many difficulties at all working remotely or collaborating with teams virtually. In contrast, 96 percent of people in India admit it has been challenging to keep up with the pace of technology at work.
  • People in China (97 percent) and India (92 percent) are the most open to having a robot as a therapist or counsellor. People in France (68 percent) and the UK (69 percent) were the most hesitant.
  • People in India and China are 33 percent more likely to talk to a robot than their peers in other countries: 91 percent of Indian workers and 91 percent of Chinese workers would prefer a robot over their manager to talk about stress and anxiety at work.

Despite Demographics, People Need Help from Their Employers. It’s Time to Step Up

Despite seniority, generation and geographic differences, people all over the world agree: The pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health of the global workforce—and they want help.

  • 78 percent of workers say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.
  • 76 percent of people believe their company should be doing more to protect their mental health.
  • 83 percent would like their company to provide technology to support their mental health.

“Diving deep into the differences between demographic and regional groups highlights the significant impact of the pandemic on the mental health for employees in various age groups, roles and regions,” said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner, Workplace Intelligence. “Amidst the challenges of the pandemic, companies can use this moment as a catalyst for positive change in their organizations. While the pandemic raised the urgency for companies to start protecting the mental health of their employees, the efforts they put in now will continue to create happier, healthier and more engaged workforces in the decades to come.”

“The pandemic put employee mental health in the global spotlight, but these findings also showed that it created growing support for solutions from employers including technologies like AI,” said Emily He, senior vice president, Oracle Cloud HCM. “The way the pandemic changed our work routines makes burnout, stress and other mental health issues all too easy. Everyone has been affected in different ways and the solutions each company puts in place need to reflect the unique challenges of employees. But overall, these findings demonstrate that implementing technology to improve the mental health of employees needs to be a priority for every business.”

Learn more about this global study and download the new report here.

Sage report finds businesses response to COVID 19 ‘a catalyst for driving increased HR value’

Sage has released the first in a series of reports sharing how recent events have impacted the role, expectations, and perceptions of HR and People leaders.

The “HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR” report, which spoke to more than 1500 global HR leaders, business executives and employees, found that 87% of c-suite executives say the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR, with the function having greater influence.

Further to that, 72% of HR leaders say the crisis has increased their value and wider understanding of their role across the business, while 59% feel they are now playing a more influential role in the company.

Recent events have placed huge pressure on companies and business leaders to pivot and adapt to rapidly changing priorities as a result of the ongoing disruption caused by the pandemic—and HR and People leaders have been at the forefront of this transformation.

In this research report, Sage uncovered how HR leaders have fared—and compared these opinions with those of the c-suite and employees. Sage also examined how the role of technology, changing skillsets, and priorities have shifted for HR leaders. The result is a contemporary, 360-degree view of HR in today’s rapidly changing world of work. 

HR and People leaders have become more visible and influential in organisations as a result of the pandemic – but this has come at the expense of bigger workloads. 65% of HR leaders said their teams have had a leading role to play in organisations’ response to the pandemic, driving change, enabling remote working, and supporting wellbeing. However, 60% also experienced an increase in both admin and strategic tasks, as a consequence of the new HR agenda. 

73% of HR leaders say the crisis has helped them demonstrate their value and increased understanding of HR’s role, as HR and People teams around the globe stepped up, leaned in, and seized the opportunity to be more flexible, responsive, and build more resilient and agile organisations as a result. 

The hard work and greater influence of HR teams have clearly been recognised by the c-suite. 58% of c-suite executives believe they have developed more appreciation for HR during the pandemic. This is vital, considering 84% of HR leaders feel that others in the organisation were previously unclear on the value HR teams brought.

Furthermore, 87% of the c-suite say the pandemic has accelerated changes in HR, although 88% of the c-suite do recognise that this is a longer-term change that started up to five years ago. There are disconnects however, with the c-suite underestimating HR leaders’ workload, and still seeing HR as too admin-focused. Despite HR leaders stating overwhelmingly that the pandemic has increased workloads, over three quarters (76%) of the c-suite don’t think HR’s workload is unmanageable.

Just like the c-suite, 60% of employees have noticed a change in HR’s role, such as being more involved in driving change and people-related decisions. 57% of employees also recognise the pandemic as a catalyst for these changes. 

Even more importantly, more than a third of employees—even more so than the c-suite—have recognised the ability of HR teams to adapt and become more responsive as a result of the pandemic, as HR and People teams responded to constant change. Whether it’s enacting workplace safety procedures, introducing new flexible and remote working policies, placing employee wellbeing at the top of the workplace agenda, or recognising the crucial importance of managing employee experiences for a remote workforce during a time of heightened stress, HR has responded and flexed like never before. As a result of all of this, 54% of employees also say they now have improved knowledge and understanding of HR’s role and value.

The pandemic placed a heightened focus on technology and digital transformation – but there is a lack of confidence amongst HR leaders about skills, the research also revealed. 

59% of c-suite leaders said HR is even more focused on digital transformation, and 67% of HR leaders said they wanted to invest more in HR tech in the future. However, a third of HR leaders said a lack of tech (31%) and investment (36%) is holding them back from bringing their organisation into the new world of work. Worryingly, only half (53%) of HR leaders believe they have the right skills and tools for what lies ahead, demonstrating the paramount importance in investing in HR digital skills today and in the future. 

“HR has taken on more responsibilities and helped guide the business through ongoing disruption and accelerated digital transformation,” said Paul Burrin, Vice President of Product, Sage People. “However, this has often created additional workloads which automation can help manage, increasing HR productivity, while enabling organisations to become more agile and resilient.

“2020 marked a year where HR’s leaders became champions of change and both executives and employees alike have realised the greater role that HR has taken on. HR and People leaders can capitalize on this and use this opportunity to cast aside older, more cumbersome ways of working to focus instead on quicker, iterative cycles of work. In this way—with the help of automation, cloud technology, and self-service—HR can focus on maintaining influence and building a more resilient workforce that is more prepared for future challenges ahead.”

To view Sage’s full report, HR in the moment: Changing expectations and perceptions of HR,” please click here.

‘Greater focus needed’ on fleet driver mental health during pandemic

Fleets need to be aware of the growing impact of the pandemic on mental health and any subsequent safety risks to drivers, FleetCheck is warning.

Peter Golding, Managing Director at the fleet software specialist, pointed to a new poll that showed 40% of people believed their mental health had become worse during the crisis.

He said: “This is just the latest in a series of polls and pieces of research showing how the last nine months have had a very negative effect on the mental health of many, many people.

“We know that mental health problems of all kinds can have an impact on driver performance on the road. With people saying that feelings of anxiety, stress and depression are particularly apparent, there is a genuine case for fleets to take action.

“Essentially, employers should be fulfilling their basic requirement of checking that drivers are fit to drive and of course, their mental wellbeing should arguably be as much part of this assessment as if they had a physical problem.

“It should be taken as a given that anyone who feels that their mental health has deteriorated to a point where they should not be driving should be taken seriously, and employers should also make it clear that such situations will be dealt with sympathetically.

“Probably the starting point for most fleets would be to seek professional human resources and medical guidance in order to ask drivers a few questions regularly in order to flag up any immediate issues that need attention.”

Golding added that FleetCheck was examining the introduction of basic mental health tools into its Vehicle Inspection App, which included not just daily walkaround safety checks but also incorporated questions about the driver’s health.

“We modified the app last year to cover coronavirus symptoms and now seems like a good moment to add further questions about mental health. We are taking advice and hope to be able to do this soon.”