The government has recently announced the implementation of Covid Plan B. This means new rules for everyone, employees and businesses alike. But what are these new rules, and how will they impact your staff?
The biggest change in the rules is the advice to work from home where you can, which comes into force on Monday 13th December. From Wednesday 15th December, people will need an NHS Covid Pass to gain entry to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues and any venue with more than 10,000 people. There are also more rules surrounding international travel, anyone travelling to the UK has to take a PCR or LFT no more than 48 hours before their departure, and a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival in the UK, self-isolating until they test negative. There are also specific rules for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, and the BBC have made a handy explainer that breaks down the rules for each country – have a read here.
But what does all this mean for HR and workplace mental health? Well, the biggest change that will affect most people is the advice to work from home. This means a return to the remote working that has defined most of our working lives for the past couple of years. This will be tough for some, as the return to isolation and increased loneliness can lead to a decline in mental health. There is now the increased challenge for HR when it comes to looking after staff, as the return of remote working makes it harder to check up on employees. There is also a sense of frustration for those businesses that have put thought, effort and money into making their workplaces Covid-safe, only for employees to be told to work from home.
For those businesses that cannot comply with the new remote working rules, there is now an added sense of anxiety. Many industries were finally getting back on their feet financially after the initial Covid lockdowns, and the added restrictions can certainly be seen as a step backwards when it comes to financial recovery. For employees there is also the added anxiety when it comes to staying safe and Covid-free. With cases on the rise due to Omicron, those engaging in face-to-face work will definitely be feeling anxious in the workplace. This anxiety also extends to personal financial situations, with thoughts of furlough and money worries still fresh in most people’s minds.
All of this underscores the need for employers to provide proactive and compassionate mental health resources for their staff. Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen referrals to both private and public mental health services skyrocket, and these trends have been following the implementation of stricter Covid rules. It is very likely that, as a result of Plan B, these trends will continue. It is up to employers maintain the mental health of staff, which in turn will help maintain productivity and workplace cohesion. Plan B shows how far we are when it comes to getting through the pandemic, and businesses must adapt if they are to continue supporting their staff.