Staff Wellbeing: COVID-19
During the current COVID-19 outbreak, we are being asked to work from home and stay at home as much as possible. The health and wellbeing of our staff and students is our priority at this time and so the Occupational Health Department would like to share the following advice and information. These tips will help staff stay safe and well whilst working from home.
Wellbeing Whilst Remote Working
Returning to Campus
Useful Links and Information
Support for Specific Concerns
Tips for staying well whilst remote working
Keep in contact with colleagues
Working from home may help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off from you colleagues and the larger operation. Agree with colleagues how you will stay in contact with them whilst you are not in the office (e.g., email, phone calls, skype meetings). If you are aware of people working on solo projects or those that live alone, make sure that they are receiving regular contact. You could have a buddy system where you agree to check in with a colleague every other day even if you don’t need to be in contact about work matters, just to see how they are. This is especially important during the current situation where people may be anxious about what will happen. Looking after each other in this way can help reduce these worries.
Choose a dedicated workspace and try to ensure it is as comfortable as possible
Choose a dedicated workspace that will be free from distractions. Whilst you are working at home, it is still important to consider your workstation set up to avoid aches and pains and long term injuries. It is especially important to consider this when using a laptop or portable device. There is lots of information regarding the safe use of Display Screen Equipment on the Occupational Health website.
Maintain regular hours
Set a schedule for the working day, just as you would if you were in the office. Having clear guidelines for when you will be working will help you to maintain your work-life balance. You should try to keep to your regular office hours as much as possible, as late night working can disrupt sleep patterns.
Schedule regular breaks
Make sure you take aregular lunchbreak and get away from your workstation for the duration of your break, ideally to another room. Try to switch off from work during this time and refrain from checking emails etc.
Talk about how you are feeling
Talk openly and freely with friends, family and colleagues about how you are feeling. This is especially important during the current situation where people may be anxious about what will happen. It is a good idea to schedule in a regular virtual meetings (e.g., on zoom) to keep in touch with colleagues. Whilst working at home, you may be missing out on social connections that you would usually have in the office and this can have an impact on emotional wellbeing. So make sure you include some social chat during your meetings (you could introduce your colleagues to your pets or take them on a tour of your garden!). Keeping this social contact can help reduce uncertainty and stress.
Share your coping mechanisms
If something has worked for you why not share it. It might benefit someone you care about and in the meantime it might help you take your focus off your own challenges. For example, you may have found a great breathing exercise on youtube that you could share with your team for times when they feel overwhelmed.
Support others who may be stressed and anxious
This is an uncertain situation that we are in and it is likely to contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety, but we are all in it together so treat others with compassion and empathy. Keep checking in to see how your colleagues are coping at home, and if they are having any difficulties that you may be able to help with.
Look after yourself
Remember to look after yourself. Make time to relax or do something that you enjoy. Self-care will be different for everyone. Whilst one person may feel better after a meditation session, another may relax by hitting a punchbag in the garden, or even looking at funny social distancing based memes on the web!
Don’t forget to eat well and exercise
Working from home can mean that it is harder to keep active as you may be missing out on your daily walk/cycle into work. But keeping active, even if just some simple stretches or low impact movement, really does have a positive effect on emotional health and wellbeing. Sport England has pulled together exercise ideas for keeping active in and around the home. Teamhud are also helping staff stay active by posting ’Workout of the Week’. Find out how you can get involved here.
- You can access SilverCloud from home, which offers secure, immediate access to online CBT programmes for issues such as Stress, Anxiety, Depression and Body Image.
- We have a dedicated network of skilled Mental Health First Aiders who can still be contacted, most easily by email. They will be able to signpost you to further support. Find out who the Mental Health First Aiders in your area here.
- The Education Support Partnership provides mental health and wellbeing support services to all education staff and organisations. They can provide telephone support and counselling.
- The mental health charity, Mind, and Every Mind Matters have also published specific guidance for the COVID-19 virus.
Returning to Campus
Preparations are under way for some staff to safely return to campus in September, with all the necessary precautions being taken in buildings, spaces and operations. Although this is a really positive step and many staff will welcome this after months of being at home, the prospect of returning to campus may also bring up some worries, which is natural.
Although you may be excited about getting back to a more ‘normal’ way of working and seeing colleagues again (in the flesh!), you may also be concerned about things like the use of public transport, continuing social distancing on campus or using shared facilities. Below are some tips to help you look after yourself and make a smooth transition back to campus.
Familiarise yourself with the precautions being taken on campus
The University is a Covid-19 secure campus and all the necessary precautions are in place to ensure that the return to campus is safe for staff and students. Familiarising yourself with these measures will help you feel more confident about returning to campus. You can read about the measures being taken here (under ‘Your safety, campus access and services), at the bottom of the same page is a short video on Staying Safe on Campus.
Share your feelings
Whether you are feeling excited and/or nervous, it is likely that your colleagues are feeling the same way as you, so this is a great time to support each other and discuss how you are feeling. Don’t be embarrassed to speak up about your concerns, as you may be able to help somebody else who is secretly feeling the same way. If you have specific concerns, you can also discuss these with your line manager as soon as possible, as there may be practical ways they can help.
Whilst remote working, some of us may have slipped out of our regular routines. So, in the week leading up to going back to the office, go to sleep at the time you usually would before travelling to campus, and set your alarm for the time that you would normally need to get up if you were travelling into the office. This will help you get adequate sleep to prepare for your return, and rather than the early alarm being a shock on that first morning, you are more likely to wake up refreshed and ready for your first day back!
Be kind to yourself
Taking time out each day to look after your wellbeing is a really positive thing to do. Self-care looks different for everyone but finding what works for you can have many benefits. This may be a getting out for a walk, listening to your favourite music on the commute, playing your favourite video game or simply doing a five-minute breathing exercise on the walk back to your car at the end of the day. It can feel a bit self-indulgent sometimes but doing this consistently can be really beneficial to your mental wellbeing.
Learn to recognise unhelpful thinking patterns
Whilst we continue to adapt to the changes to our normal everyday lives it is still a worrying time for some and many of the anxieties we may feel about returning to campus are understandable, we can fall into negative thinking patterns and let these worries become overwhelming. Distorted thinking patterns include (but are not limited to) catastrophising (anticipating the worst and most disastrous outcome from a situation), mind reading (assuming you know what other people are thinking) and filtering (only focusing on the negative aspects of a situation and ignoring the positives). Once you learn to recognise these negative thinking patterns, you can start to challenge them to ensure your thinking is balanced and realistic, and that negative thoughts don’t become overwhelming.
The University’s employee assistance programme SilverCloud has a programme specifically aimed at anxiety. The programme will teach you about the different types of distorted thinking, enable you to recognise them in your day-to-day thoughts, and also how to effectively challenge these thoughts. All staff have access to the SilverCloud programme, which also has modules for Depression, Stress and Positive Body Image. Follow this link to make an anonymous account and get started.
Useful links and information
Support for Specific Concerns
We offer our sincere condolences to anyone who has suffered a bereavement through COVID-19, or under any circumstance during this time.
- Cruse Bereavement Care have a dedicated webpage on dealing with bereavement and grief during the pandemic.
- The Good Grief Trust also have a dedicated webpage, including information about a dedicated NHS helpline to provide guidance, support and advice to those experiencing grief at this time.
- Also see our dedicated Bereavement webpage for more sources of information and support.
If you are worried bout your relationship with food and would like support for this, BEAT is an eating disorder support charity which has downloadbale resources, a helpline, online support groups and on-to-one support with advisors. If you are struggling, please reach out and access this support.
In order to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced drastic changes to our daily lives, and have been asked to stay at home as much as possible. Although this is essential to enable us to tackle the virus, being asked to stay at home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. There is never an excuse for domestic abuse, no matter what the circumstances, and we want to ensure that any member of staff feeling at risk during this time knows where they can turn for support.
Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include, but is not limited to, coercive control and ‘gaslighting’, economic abuse, online abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.
If you feel at risk, or are worried about somebody else who may be at risk, it is important to remember that the police and support services are still available to help and direct you to sources of support during this challenging time. If you believe you are being abused, or worried you may commit domestic abuse, remember you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence. Please use the information and links below to find support.
If you or someone else is in immediate danger:
- Please call 999 and ask for the police. If speaking would put you or somebody else in danger, you can make a silent call– use the Silent Solution system and call 999 and then press 55 when prompted.
Sources of support if you are not in immediate danger:
- Refuge provide advice and support on their website, and have a freephone 24 hour domestic abuse helpline (0808 2000 247)
- The Pennine Domestic Abuse Partnership also provide advice and support, can provide safe accommodation and has a 24 hour helpline (0800 0527 222)
- Karma Nirvana provide support to victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage and have a confidential freephone support helpline open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm (0800 5999 247)
- Men's advice line is a confidential helpline (0808 801 0327) for men experiencing domestic abuse from a partner or ex-partner (or from other family members).
- The None in Three Centre here at the University has a Help and Support page which lists many other sources of support including both national and regional organisations.
Managers supporting those at risk:
- Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse - a guide for employers from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and CIPD.
- This briefing from Universities UK includes some information which may be helpful in supporting staff and students at greater risk due to the lockdown period relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you are concerned that you may commit abuse:
- You can call the RESPECT phoneline (0808 8024040) and a friendly Helpline Advisor will listen to you without judgement and give you honest advice.
To report incidents of domestic abuse:
- To report an incidence of domestic abuse, you can use this online form to report to West Yorkshire Police
- You can also report incidents at your local police station or you can contact CrimeStoppers online or on the phone by calling 0800 555 111 anonymously
As we experience changes to the way we work and our life at home due to lockdown, we may find we are drinking more than before. In times of uncertainty and stress we can find ourselves drinking more often or more heavily, or relying on alcohol to deal with our feelings. Some of us may also be concerned about a loved ones use of alcohol during this time. If you are worried about yours or a loved ones drinking, or just feel that now is a good time to make some changes, below are some sources of information and support.
- Drinkaware is here to support you through this unprecedented and often stressful time. Stay safe with the crucial facts, information and practical advice about alcohol and isolation.
- Alcohol Change UK have a dedicated webpage with sources of support for alcohol with alcohol intake during the pandemic.
- Alcohol and Covid-19 factsheet: What you need to know (WHO)
- Low Risk Drinking Advice (NHS)
Although financial difficulties can occur at any point thoughout our lives, the current situation has made finances even more difficult for many people. Some staff may have family members who have lost their jobs or are having to manage on a reduced income. This can add to the stress and anxiety of an already difficult time. Below are some sources of information and support for financial worries during this time.
- The National Debtline has created a factsheet to help people understand what help is available, including the help available to anybody with bills or debts that they cannot afford to pay because of the outbreak.
- Citizens Advice has published useful advice on managing the potential disruption to your day-to-day finances.
- Money Saving Expert have also produced a guide about your finances in light on the outbreak.
For any queries, ideas or suggestions please email firstname.lastname@example.org
As our normal social interactions are restricted during what is already a difficult time, many of us will be feeling the effects of feeling cut off from our family and friends. If you are feeling lonely at this time, continue to reach out to your loved ones via alternative methods such as the telephone and video calls. If you are struggling with loneliness, see below for sources of support.
- The British Red Cross provide support and information on loneliness, and have a Coronavirus SupportLine if you are feeling lonely and want to speak to someone between 10am and 6pm every day 0808 196 3651
- The Mental Health Foundation have information and tips for what to do if you are feeling lonely or want to help somebody else who is feeling lonely.
- NHS Every Mind Matters have practical tips to help you if you are feeling lonely, and information on Wellbeing Audio Guides, online communities and peer-support groups.