Jersey Covid-19 Update: Employer Considerations on Latest Restrictions

Updated guidance continues to unfold in relation to the Jersey government’s reaction to managing the spread of Covid-19 in Jersey, with the introduction of a number of measures over the last couple of weeks that will continue throughout December and possibly in the New Year.  This has, and will continue to impact Jersey businesses and their workforce in all sectors, with the severity of impact dependent on what it means for a business to implement required restrictions. For some, it will mean temporary closure of its operations.

Businesses have already had to adapt, flex and change their working regimes over the last few months in response to the pandemic.  Working families have had to juggle child-care, home schooling and have difficult conversations with their children to limit day to day activities such as play-dates and birthday parties/activities, and for many it has meant the separation of loved ones – both on and off island, alongside ongoing travel restrictions.

At a time of the year intended to be filled with joy and celebration, where public spending is often at an all-time high, going into the Christmas season will be particularly difficult for many of us.  Alongside the requirement to work from home where-ever possible, there is need to adapt to the wider impacts with Christmas parties and celebrations needing to be cancelled and ongoing limitations to social gatherings – both inside and outside of the home. Hospitality has been severely impacted again through the introduction of the ‘Hospitality circuit breaker’ which came into effect at 00.01 hours on Friday 4th December 2020, which means that all licensed restaurants and bars are needing to close their doors for the second time.   All of this, combined with the onset of Winter and the changes in weather we experience at this time of year, means there is an increased focus and recommendation for everyone to ‘stay at home’ as  much as possible to help limit/stop the spread of the virus.  It is anticipated that there will be further impact to both the retail and health & beauty industries as many islanders will refrain from going outside, preferring to utilise online shopping or reverting to home remedy (and potentially bad haircuts!).

What does this mean for employers?

It continues to be vital for employers to consider the ongoing impacts of these restrictions for their employees, ensuring they take responsible actions, provide support and maintain communication. Whilst working from home may have its advantages for some, it does not play to everyone’s strengths, therefore there is an onus on employers to ensure that their staff remain connected and feel supported throughout this period.

In April, Focus provided a number of recommendations for employers to consider which still hold true for today, which are summarized below:

Establish a routine – Encourage your employees to keep to an established routine. Getting ready for the day as if they were going into the office – this will create a mindset that they are at work.

Agree ways of working – Make sure every team member is clear about how you will work together remotely, how you keep each other updated, and how frequently. Remind the team about how their work fits into the big picture. If they can’t perform their normal role remotely, consider what skills they have which other teams might find useful. Be clear about expectations and trust your team to get on without micromanaging. Focus on results rather than activity.

Set up a workspace – Wherever possible, encourage a work area which is separate from sleeping areas as this helps prepare for work mode and makes it easier to switch off at the end of the day. Clear the area of clutter and set up equipment to avoid physical strain. Do a self-check using the guidance provided by the NHS.

Maintain work-life balance – Encourage employees to put away their work devices and log off when they have worked their contracted hours each day. This is vital to maintain a work-life balance and helps employees keep to their normal working hours.

Get moving – Encourage employees to continue to take regular exercise and where possible – fresh air!  Movement will help maintain physical and mental health. People will feel more awake and alert and concentration and sleep will improve. If employees are missing their regular gym class encourage them to check out all the various apps and classes which are available online.

Get connected – Keep communication with your team open and frequent. Consider video calls instead of emailing. Be mindful that people can be more sensitive when they are feeling isolated or anxious so tailor your communications accordingly. Have short check-in and check-out calls between managers and teams either at the start or end of the workday. Make sure colleagues can dial in and chat through with somebody any concerns they may have about working from home. Keep that virtual door open. Turn your morning or afternoon coffee break into a virtual coffee break and make it a social conversation – don’t discuss work!

Offer support – Make sure people have the support and technology equipment they need. Be prepared to do some training if some employees are struggling with the remote technology. Encourage employees to keep in touch with their family and friends. Make sure they look after themselves and signpost them to websites which offer support such as:

Consider if your company has a trained Mental Health First Aider or Champion and make their contact details available. They can use their skills to support anyone who is struggling by directing them to appropriate support both in and outside the workplace. Encourage them to talk to HR or if you have an Employee Assistance Programme provide them with the details. Mental health helplines are also available. The Samaritans offer free, confidential support 24 hours a day on 116 123.

Focus HR can also provide support through their experienced consultants and have a trained Mental Health First aider available to help navigate this challenging landscape and provide any ongoing support and guidance.

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