As the UK lockdown continues to ease, Jan- Hein Hemke, Managing Director of Facilicom UK & Ireland, urges company owners to focus on employee wellbeing to ensure the returning workforce is happy and healthy.

The new decade began quite tumultuously. In January, we began to hear of a coronavirus that was making its way across the globe, risking peoples’ health and stealing lives. As COVID-19 stories emerged from Wuhan in late December, I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was about to follow in the subsequent months.

We’re now half way through 2020 and the impact of COVID-19 has been felt by everyone; from those who have suffered with or lost loved ones to the virus, to the key workers who have been on the frontline throughout. Furloughed employees have, in some cases, lost 20% of their pay packet, whilst those working from home have struggled to manage family life, childcare and work-life balance during lockdown.

The pandemic has changed the face of our society beyond recognition and its impact on our wellbeing is hardly surprising. In fact, a recent study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies has revealed that mental health has been hard hit by lockdown, with a quarter of respondents reporting at least one concern since restrictions came into force.

There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Some industries, such as construction, retail and hospitality, have been given the green light to ‘go back to work’, provided they follow government guidance on how to work safely, and people are able to move around more freely. However, although this is welcome news, there are also some reservations. According to recent research, more than two-fifths of UK workers are anxious about the prospect of returning to the workplace.

Over the past few months, many of my colleagues at Facilicom have had their world turned upside down due to the pandemic and we have been doing all we can to take extra care of them.


As an employer that has always placed the wellbeing of our colleagues at the heart of our business, we already had many procedures in place to help them feel reassured and valued. Our Employee Assistance Programme, for example, has been in place for many years, offering 24/7 access to a trusted, compassionate health and wellbeing counselling service. We know that this service can really make a difference to those that are struggling, either with workplace stress or pressures at home, and we continue to urge all of our teams to take full advantage of this provision during these difficult times.

Our ‘mental health first-aiders’ have been keeping in touch with our colleagues that aren’t currently working on-site, contacting them once a week to ensure they still feel part of the company. We’re consistently checking how they are coping and discussing ways we can support them, from offering reassurance about their position to motivating them to support their local community through volunteering.

We have also tried to ease the financial burden that furlough brings, by trying to bridge the gap between the government funding and their usual wage. We do not underestimate the impact that losing 20% to 30% income overnight can have, which is why we have put provisions in place to ensure that, where possible, almost all of our colleagues still receive 100% pay whilst on this leave of absence.

These are just a few things we have been doing during lockdown to support our colleagues, but we must maintain these efforts in the coming months as the pandemic continues to evolve. It’s at times of such uncertainty that we must all come together and look out for each other. Now is the time to really be there for your teams and show them that their health is a consistent priority, during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

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