With over 9 million employees put on the furlough scheme at the peak of the pandemic, and many still on the scheme 12 months later, it’s no wonder that there’s an increase in anxiety about returning back to the workplace.
With some employees seeming less than enthusiastic about returning to the workplace, it may be concerning for an employer about how they address this anxiety and what to do if faced with this situation.
From the many Occupational Health consultations we’ve had this past year, we’ve learnt first-hand and also through our clients about the transition back into the workplace for both employees and employers. We’ve been able to get a good picture of the main issues people have been facing and what the underlying cause for the anxiety can be.
As with any anxiety, the cause can be a singular concern or a combination of concerns and when investigating further, each person should be treated as an individual to fully understand their concerns.
A discussion with an empathetic leader is a great place to start. Sometimes, however, a review by an independent occupational health clinician from a SEQOHS-accredited clinic, like Fleet Street Clinic, is required to work out if the employee is fit to continue working, if any adaptations for working are suggested and some circumstances, what medical help is required.
Here are some of the main concerns and issues that have come up time and time again from both employee and employer and how these can be mitigated:
Lack of confidence:
Many furloughed returnees may come back wondering if they can still do their job as well as before, which can manifest into a lack of confidence. With not being at work for a long period of time, certain skill sets may have started to feel ‘rusty’. Worries and concerns about returning to full-time hours from the get go, and having to perform at the same level they were at before they went on furlough are just some examples.
What can help with this?
Early engagement between the employer and the returning employee is important to discuss any specific anxieties and to work out a ‘return plan’ which can really make a difference. ACAS advises employers to think about those returning from furlough as if they have been on maternity or long term sick leave. Using similar ‘check ins’ (as you would for maternity/ sick leave) prior to their return to work allows for real-time conversations to cover the practicalities, potentially a staggered return to build up confidence, as well as an opportunity to discuss any anxieties and concerns.
Concerns over workplace safety:
Two of the most common themes found in consultations with Fleet Street’s Occupational Health Department were employees worried about safety, and whether going back into the office ‘would be the same’.
What can help with this?
To help reduce such anxiety, employers have been encouraged to share with those returning their ‘Covid compliant workplace risk assessments’. HSE made these mandatory last year, although officially they do not have to publish their results internally unless there are over 50 employees. Sharing such information on an individual basis would allow the furloughed employee to see what changes and controls have been put in place, giving them reassurance and peace of mind. It also demonstrates to them that the employer is prioritising their health and safety.
Employers should also consider setting up a ‘virtual tour’ of the amended workplace, to enable those returning to see and understand what their new workplace will look like. Changes such as one-way pathways around the building, socially distanced workstations, extra cleaning of communal areas and bathrooms are just some of the more visual changes. Employers should also take the time to discuss changes in policies such as obligatory wearing of masks, flexible office/home working (if feasible) and other benefits that may have been introduced. Logistical concerns about childcare is one of the major blockers for those returning, and this is another example of how the employer can have open discussion with the returnee to formulate a reasonable solution, preferably weeks ahead of the return to work date.
Concerns over leaving the home:
Returning employees may have concerns about leaving the home and what impact this may have on their health. Other factors employers had to think about were those who were shielding (classified as extremely vulnerable by the Government) and for those living in a household with someone shielding.
What can help with this?
To mitigate this, employers may have chosen to use Occupational Health to contact the employees returning to identify any risk factors or health concerns. Although any medical information would be classified as strictly confidential, the employee and Occupational Health professional discuss the outcome of the assessment which is then simply fed back to HR as ‘fit to return into the office workplace with no adjustments, or with adjustments (then outlined). In the rare circumstance of an employee being assessed as not fit to return to work, a management referral would be indicated. Fleet Street Occupational Health did this for various businesses, and found that many of the employees contacted were appreciative of having been asked about their health in relation to Covid. In a small number of cases, simple and feasible adjustments were recommended – mostly around avoiding a busy commute (flexible working hours were recommended in this instance). Employers fed back confirming the transition for those returning were certainly smoothened by this process.
Mental health may have been affected for all employees for many different reasons, these include bereavement, stress from being at home with home schooling, fear of uncertainty etc. It is important that employers recognise this decline in mental health and look to support their employers.
What can help with this?
Employers should consider making sure that all employees are aware of what counselling services are available, or to train up ‘mental health first aiders’ to carry out weekly group check ins or a ‘return to work’ support group. If the employer would like independent advice from an Occupational Health clinician about where the employee is fit to work, then you may want to consider a management referral. They are primarily designed to support the referring manager in their decision making when dealing with an employee’s health-related issue and to determine the employee’s ongoing fitness to work, this includes mental health concerns.
How can the employer support the return back to the office in general?
Employers might consider a ‘phased return to work’ plan, to allow the furloughed employee to steadily get back into work. Both the employer and the employee want the same thing – to be at their best at work, and so allowing a gradual step up in days and hours (again as if returning from long term sick leave as an example) would be one way of enabling this.
Another thing that might help smoothen the transition back for those returning is a ‘buddy’ system. This is where a returnee is matched up with an employee who has not been on furlough to have them work together for the first few weeks. Not only would this help the returnee to navigate any new changes in the workplace, but it can enable collaborative working and remove the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome from both sides. Some examples of known sentiments include furloughed employees wondering if they’ll have a job to go back to, what it will be like, and a vulnerability about losing their skills etc. Those who remained at work may feel that those on furlough had the ‘easier option’ or feel resentment at not having been given the same option to go on furlough. These are just two sentiments raised from employees during our conducted Occupational Health consultations.
Our list of examples and scenarios outlined are not exhaustive; and we understand that as people we all have specific needs which may be different to others.
We hope that you found the suggestions we have outlined useful, especially in ensuring a smooth transition for those returning, and ultimately an emphatic and supportive working environment for all.
If you require support from our Occupational Health department, you can find more information here.
Or to make an enquiry, please email us at email@example.com.
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a Mental Health problem.
Unfortunately, how we cope with mental health problems, in general, seems to be getting worse.
Leading to an increased number of self-harm and suicide victims. Spotting early warning signs in the workplace and helping those who may be experiencing workplace problems is an extremely important part in reducing the number of deaths by mental ill health each year.
Stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence in our society. At Fleet Street Clinic, we believe in creating safe, healthy workplaces where mental health and physical health of employees are valued equally. Therefore, we believe that investing in mental health first aid training, much like physical first aid training should be part of everyone’s corporate wellbeing strategy.
The Fleet Street Clinic will be running a two-day Mental Health First Aid course delivered by Leigh Mckay. This course is designed for all employees, line managers, HR professionals, OH workers and senior leaders alike who wish to become a qualified mental health first aider. By training your staff you’ll be joining a global movement of over 3 million trained Mental Health First Aiders across 25 countries.
Leigh is a quality assured MHFA instructor accredited by the Royal Society of Public Health. She has a particular interest in psychology and emotional resilience. Leigh has a wealth of experience in delivering the MHFA courses in corporate companies. Plus, she advocates that a workplace and community that promotes wellbeing can have a positive impact on everyone’s physical, mental and emotional health.
What is Mental Health First Aid?
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an Internationally-recognised training course. It teaches people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health. MHFA won’t teach you to be a therapist, however, just like physical first aid training, it will teach you to listen, reassure and respond, even in a crisis.
A quality assured instructor will deliver the adult MHFA courses, which are for everyone aged 16 upwards. All instructors attend an Instructor Training programme accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health. Therefore, they are specifically trained to keep people safe and supported whilst they study this course.
What will I learn?
Learning will take place through a mix of group activities, presentations and discussions. Throughout the course, you will gain practical skills and awareness about mental health.
- A deeper understanding of mental health and the factors that can affect people’s wellbeing, including your own
- Practical skills to spot the triggers and signs of mental health issues
- Confidence to step in, reassure and support a person in distress
- Enhanced interpersonal skills such as non-judgemental listening
- Knowledge to help someone recover their health by guiding them to appropriate support
How will attending an MHFA course help?
There are many benefits to taking part in an MHFA course. Firstly, research and evaluation have shown this course raises awareness of mental health literacy. The more understanding and knowledge about mental disorders lead to better recognition, management and prevention. Secondly, this reduces the stigma attached to ill mental health, especially in the workplace. Further, this course champions its students to increase their confidence in handling mental health issues. But, most importantly, it promotes early intervention. Above all, becoming a Mental Health First Aider can enable the recovery of a sufferer and even save lives.
Date: Thursday 26th & Friday 27th September, 2019
Location: 29 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1AA
Cost: £350 per person
Spaces are limited.
To book yourself and/or a colleague on to the Mental Health First Aid course, please email to our Corporate Manager, Caroline McKenzie here.
We are very sorry to hear that Interhealth is ceasing to trade. As a hugely respected health practice, it is a great loss for Travel Medicine in the UK.
Fleet Street Clinic is in contact with Interhealth to offer support and provide continuity of medical care for existing individual and corporate Interhealth clients as required.
If you are looking for continuity with Interhealth services as an individual, or if you require corporate services such as Occupational Health and Travel Healthcare including travel vaccinations, please get in touch.
The Fleet Street Clinic is pleased to advise that it is has been awarded SEQOHS Accreditation by the Royal College of Physicians, a quality mark endorsing the provision of Safe Effective Quality Occupational Health Services.
We undertake a full range of Occupational Health Services:
- Management Referrals, Fitness to Work and Absence Management
- Pre-Placement Assessments (formerly Pre-Employment Assessments)
- Pre Deployment Medicals and certificated fitness for deployment
- Post Deployment Medicals
- Ergonomic Assessments
- Immunisations & blood tests
- Health Clearance Services for healthcare workers
If you would like further information about our occupational health services or wish to discuss your company’s needs, our OH Administrator can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7353 5678.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. In small doses, stress can actually be quite useful; motivating us to achieve our goals. But for some, stress is chronic. Meaning it is debilitating and negatively impacts their mood, their health and wellbeing, their relationships and their work.
Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can also lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout. It is, therefore, easy to see why reducing stress across all areas of your life would be important. Stress management tips are a good place to start.
Learning how to manage your stress takes practice and time.
Here are our top 10 ways on managing and reducing stress.
10 TIPS TO REDUCE STRESS:
Prioritise your health
– make decisions which will benefit your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. For example, go alcohol-free a few nights each week or allow yourself time for a hobby you enjoy. These small steps for a healthier lifestyle will help in reducing stress levels.
Get a good night’s sleep (regularly)
– research clearly shows that sleep deprivation amplifies the symptoms associated with stress. Aim for between 7-9 hours of good quality sleep every night.
Practice deep breathing
– when our bodies are stressed, the muscles that help us breathe tighten. By focussing on taking several deep breaths we can quickly and effectively relieve physical symptoms associated with feeling stressed or anxious. Try to do this regularly throughout the day.
Drink enough water
– being dehydrated (however mild) causes our cortisol levels to rise, which automatically makes us feel stressed. Your body is already dehydrated if you’re feeling thirsty. So try to avoid reaching this point by hydrating yourself regularly. Aim for 2-3 litres per day, more in hot weather or when exercising.
Eat a balanced diet
– dieticians stress how certain foods have stress-relieving properties. For example, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, whilst avocados and oily fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids (both of which are proven to help lower anxiety levels).
– physical activity causes our brains to release mood-improving chemicals called endorphins. These help us to cope with potentially challenging situations. Both Public Health England and the World Health Organisation recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Choose activities you enjoy to achieve maximum benefit for the mind as well as the body.
Adopt a positive mindset
– research suggests that making a conscious effort to think positively can help protect us against a whole host of physical and mental issues, including stress.
Manage your time and tasks effectively
– by giving ourselves enough time in which to complete a given task, and by making sure that we don’t try and accomplish too many stressful things at once, we can reduce the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed.
Spend less time online
– many studies have found a strong positive correlation between internet usage and stress levels. Spending less time on our computers and phones is a simple way to practice self-care. Having screen-free time for at least an hour before bedtime has also been shown to improve sleep.
Learn to say no
– in a culture that demands we take on more and more responsibilities, having the confidence to say “no” will only become more important. This final tip takes us back to the start, by reiterating the importance of prioritising our health above unrealistic social pressures, and brings us onto developing an essential tool – resilience.
If you are interested in how Fleet Street Clinic can assist your workplace with stress management and resilience training, get in touch.
Or if you are an individual who needs help managing stress, you can book a GP appointment online. Our doctors will be able to talk through your thoughts, symptoms and emotions and set you on the right path to diagnosis. They will also be able to recommend relevant support services for stress, if appropriate.
FLEET STREET CLINIC – NATIONAL PERFORMERS LIST
At Fleet Street Clinic, we specialise in providing vaccinations and occupational health, often working with medical staff to make sure they have all vaccines, tests and ‘fitness for work’ checks needed to work for agencies supplying the NHS.
We offer services to Medical, Dental and Ophthalmic performers requiring occupational health clearance to join the National Performers List.
WHAT IS THE NATIONAL PERFORMERS LIST?
There are three lists of National Performers, which are maintained for dentists, GPs and opticians. Managed by NHS England, these National Performers Lists “provide an extra layer of reassurance for the public that GPs, Dentists and Opticians practicing in the NHS are suitably qualified, have up to date training, have appropriate English language skills and have passed other relevant checks such as with the Disclosure and Barring Service and the NHS Litigation Authority.”
These checks include occupational health screening to check the practitioner is fit to work and has had the necessary tests and immunisations required for their role.
WHY CHOOSE FLEET STREET CLINIC
Dentists, GPs and opticians applying to join the National Performers List must obtain their Occupational Health Clearance from a SEQOHS-accredited occupational health provider, which Fleet Street Clinic has. We have vast experience in providing occupational health clearance in accordance with Department of Health guidance. Immunisation requirements can sometimes be complex and Fleet Street Clinic provides a personal service with clear, informed and helpful advice.
HOW CAN I APPLY FOR OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH CLEARANCE TO JOIN THE NATIONAL PERFORMERS LIST?
If you need health clearance to join the National Performers List, contact the clinic or occupational health team prior to making an appointment.
Read on for 5 excellent ways the Fleet Street Clinic’s occupational health services can benefit employee health and well being:
- Recruiting a new employee? Arrange a pre-placement assessment. Why? The OH nurse or doctor can check whether the employee is fit to undertake the role. If any health concerns are identified, s/he can make recommendations, where appropriate, to promote the employee’s well being and health at work.
- Staff reporting back problems? Arrange an ergonomic assessment. Why? It could be that your employee’s workplace arrangement is causing or contributing to the problem. Our ergonomics consultant can assess their workplace in relation to the problem(s) reported/diagnosed and provide advice and recommendations on how to reduce symptoms.
- A staff member returning to work after illness? Arrange a Fitness Assessment. Why? Employees and employers can benefit from advice and recommendations on how best for the employee to enter back into work to minimise risk of relapse and aid a successful and healthy return to work.
- Assigning one of your employees to a project abroad? Arrange a pre-deployment medical. Why? Depending on the assignment and location, working abroad can increase stresses on the individual and often with limited access to medical care. A pre-deployment medical can assess whether the employee is fit to undertake the post, provide advice and recommendations to promote their health while away and advise on any travel precautions to prevent illness.
You can find out more about our occupational health services here.
Do you often find yourself trawling through Instagram just before going to bed? Waking up and checking your emails before you even have a shower or a coffee? Former Facebook chief marketing officer Randi Zuckerberg hit the nail on the head when she said that people need to understand that while “the phone is an amazing tool, we own our devices, they don’t own us.” It’s time for your digital detox.
The average smartphone user checks their phone 221 times a day. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a digital detox as “a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world.”
By periodically unplugging, you can start reclaiming real life experiences rather than living in a virtual world. So how can we get this started?
Appreciate the silence – We have become so accustomed to filling every spare moment with digital noise. Try hitting reset on your brain from time to time and take a few moments to just let your mind wander. Be comfortable with silence, slow down and be present in the moment without the glow of a screen.
Kick technology out of the bedroom – Give yourself a technology curfew and when you say “lights out” actually mean it. Harvard researchers have found that technological devices such as phones, tablets and laptops can disrupt melatonin production, sleep quality and mood. To avoid temptation, banish your devices from the bedroom and try using an old fashioned alarm clock!
Socialise in the real world – Let’s face it, how many of the people you follow on your social media are actually your close friends? At 1am when you are struggling to sleep, do you really need to look at pictures of what they ate for lunch? Whilst social media can have its uses and be a positive influence, it can have a negative effect on our wellbeing as a result of comparing our lives to those carefully edited for show.
Hit the pause button – Be conscious of how often you check your phone – next time you go to reach for technology, hit the metaphorical pause button. Take a breath and think about what you are going to get out of it. Is there a more meaningful and productive way to spend your time, such as going for a walk and getting some fresh air and movement instead?
We get 525,600 precious minutes a year, how you choose to spend them is up to you.
“If it doesn’t add to your life it doesn’t belong in your life”
2016 Swine Flu Update
Rates of ‘swine flu’ (H1N1) infection have spiked within the EU and is spreading rapidly across eastern Europe and the Middle East. If you have any plans to travel it is advisable to be vaccinated prior to departure.
Influenza is starting to spread across the UK. Currently the impact so far this winter has been smaller than last winter, however a hospital in Leicester has stopped admitting new patients due to a number of patients contracting the H1N1 virus which is a serious strain of the virus. H1N1 tends to affect children, pregnant women and adults with long-term health conditions that place them in the “at risk” category.
Flu Vaccinations Available Now in London
The 2015 – 16 flu vaccine, available now at The Fleet Street Clinic, for the northern hemisphere protects against H1N1, H3N2 and one or two of the B virus strains, which is well matched to the strains circulating currently. The vaccine is therefore expected to provide very good protection against swine flu.
It’s not too late for people to get the vaccine, this remains important now that flu is circulating. You don’t even need to make an appointment, just pop into see us on your lunch break and we can have you vaccinated and on your way in under ten minutes.
For more information head to head to Medscape.com for all the latest info and updates.