Kenneth Lawrie our Chief Executive recently said "Now more than ever we have to work together as one council to protect the health and wellbeing of our citizens". We will not be able to do that unless we protect the health and wellbeing of our employees. This guidance offers some advice and options to manage service delivery and support employees during this difficult period.
Employee counselling service
We have an Employee Assistance programme supplied by Wellbeing Solutions Management.
Employee mental wellbeing
The mental wellbeing of our employees is significant particularly in times of major upheaval and stress. There are numerous tools and techniques to support employees with this. The more you are aware of, use and share them the more likely your employees will be healthy.
Here are some of the ways you can support your employees:
- ensure employees are aware of where support is available, to help with good mental wellbeing:
- Falkirk Services Directory Mental Health & Wellbeing Support Services
- encourage employees to be aware of the things that can have a positive impact on mental wellbeing and the activities and resources that make them feel better. Employees should try to do things to stay mentally and physically active outside of their working hours. This might include things like cooking, exercise, watching their favourite TV programmes or other hobbies.
- ensure employees still take annual leave. Many employees didn't take annual leave when they couldn't leave the house and do normal activities. There is a strong case though for taking leave at this time. For some of our workforce this is a particularly stressful time and employees need to take time away from the workplace to maintain resilience.
- ensure employees know to take regular comfort breaks as they will be working in ways that are not normal. Refreshed and relaxed employees perform better. There are benefits to the employee and the organisation in employees looking after themselves. Also ask employees to ensure they maintain reasonable working hours and get breaks from work each day.
One of the biggest factors in wellbeing and feeling good about ourselves is keeping fit. This is more difficult at the moment however there are still ways to maintain or improve our fitness. Below are listed some of the ways:
- We have in the Falkirk Council area one of the biggest percentage of pathway networks in the whole of Scotland. If your employees live outside the Council area encourage them to find new places to walk safely which are local to their home.
- In line with Scottish Government guidelines, gyms are open with restrictions in place - so is it now time to consider renewing your membership? Local gym or fitness instructors may also have online classes – look out for these on social medial platforms, eg Facebook. Encourage your employees to do the same.
- There are some really good ways on staying fit in these links:
- Below are links to a number of exercises that can be completed by disabled people with varying abilities, so they can achieve a long-term goal to get fitter, or simply keep active.
We are looking after our employees' financial welfare as much as we can, however there will be some employees who may have less paid hours during this time. If this is the case you can direct them to the support detailed on our financial difficulty page.
Making working from home work
Given the measures in place by the Government to help limit social contact, many Council employees are now working from home. This presents practical challenges for managers. This guidance is intended to assist managers in supporting employees to look after their wellbeing whilst working from home.
- maintain regular contact with employees and encourage them to have regular contact with colleagues. This might involve new ways of working, for example, using video or conference calling technology. Contact IT to explore options available to your team.
- be aware of those who live alone and working from home – they may need some additional contact during this period
- encourage employees to take regular breaks
- avoid employees being 'always on' by ensuring that they identify non-working time plan workloads and ensure that employees have enough work to remain occupied (see Work planning below).
- Work planning
- ask employees to ensure that they are following guidance in relation to their use of IT equipment at home Coronavirus advice - Working from home.
- ensure employees are aware of who they should contact if they have any problems or their circumstances change.
How to spot when someone may be feeling isolated
It can be easy to feel isolated when working remotely. With many more of us having to isolate ourselves from friends, family and work colleagues at this challenging time, it's up to all of us to support each other and keep an eye on one another.
Here are some things to look out for in yourself or in your colleagues, which may be a sign they are struggling and could do with some extra support:
- Late starting work, joining meetings, or hitting deadlines.
- Harder to contact than normal.
- Changes in behaviour, such as being distracted or short-tempered during tele-conferencing or video conferencing meetings, which are currently the norm.
- Only talking about business when speaking one-to-one.
- Lack of interest in work or new projects.
What do you do if you suspect that someone may be feeling isolated?
First, it is crucial to realise that this is an unprecedented situation - one for which not all employees will be well suited. Role modelling healthy behaviours, having a positive outlook, and sharing how you are feeling can all help.
Regular, open communication is key. With so much uncertainty, it falls to leaders to be the calm voice of reason and reassure employees, remembering that how you communicate is just as important as what you communicate.
The best way to combat loneliness during this time is to maintain connection with your colleagues. For the sake of employee mental health, an open door policy has never made more sense. Leaders need to ensure they are accessible - probably more so than usual. They should also aim to respond to people as quickly as possible. This could mean setting up one-to-ones and small team chats, by telephone or by video conferencing and making sure it becomes part of the weekly routine.
It's easy to become stressed and if you're a manager, acknowledge to the team, that there's additional stress and difficulty at this time. Regular communication will also make space for people to be open when they are struggling. A text-based 'one-word check-in' via email or a WhatsApp group allows managers to ask, "how are you feeling?" each morning and get a quick update from everyone.
This provides a quick way to establish who in your team needs to be prioritised in terms of their wellbeing. This can result in leaving those who feel ‘focused' to get on with their day and following up privately with anyone who might be overwhelmed. The more effort you put into communicating with colleagues, the better chance you have of helping them avoid feelings of isolation, which can lead to mental health problems.
This is especially important for employees who live alone and who might be feeling more isolated than employees who have friends or family close by. Solutions to this include as much face-to-face interaction online as possible through video calls, and regular manager check-ins. There doesn't have to be a business agenda, to make contact and a social call may go a long way towards keeping their morale levels high. Currently, your job is to be a cheerleader for the team.
It does no harm to also signpost employees to the mental wellbeing page where self-care techniques, such as mindfulness practice and relaxation techniques are discussed. Information on specialist mental health wellbeing support is also available.
Work Place Chaplaincy Scotland (WPCS) is offering support to our employees. If appropriate you may wish to give out the contact details. Support includes:
- Talking with a Chaplain about various wellbeing concerns and life issues from bereavement to trauma to stress and depression, whether you are a person of faith or not, as means of comfort and support
- providing virtual Chaplaincy support to anyone in the workplace at this time - either by phone, email or video link (Zoom). Contact Paul Wilson using the details below
Terms & Conditions that can support essential services
We need to continue to provide our essential services, some of which are more critical and in more demand during this difficult period. Reducing staff numbers in teams can put added pressure on others and service delivery working hours and days may also require to be extended. To reduce the demand on individual employees or groups, managers should consider alternative arrangements to reduce the impact and support longer term resilience of the team.
- Standby/Call Out - Review your current standby/callout arrangements:
- Acting Up/Higher Duties – given higher absence levels across some groups, consider whether acting up/higher duties arrangements are required to ensure that employees receive appropriate support. During this period, additional management capacity may be required.
- Acting Up Secondments Policy
- Casual Workers – Do you have an existing pool of casual workers? Can workers from your casual pool be used to help deliver your services or be utilised in other areas of essential service delivery?
- If employees from other areas of the Council are working with you to deliver essential services, be aware of any hours that they continue to work in their substantive role to ensure that they are not working excessive hours and are taking appropriate breaks.
- Overtime – whilst current employees may work additional hours to help maintain service delivery, you need to ensure that this is managed appropriately to ensure employee wellbeing and avoid excessive hours. You need to ensure that employees take appropriate breaks. Consider a rota for additional hours, where possible, to avoid the burden of additional hours falling on the same employees.
- Shifts - You also need to be cautious of having too many employees in the one workplace at the one time, consider staggering start times or working days, having A and B teams so fewer people are in the workplace at any one time to reduce the risk of infection. See Terms & Conditions of Service - Allowances.
- Working Hours – consider flexibility in terms of start and finish times to allow employees, who travel on public transport, to travel at less busy times. Some employees will have carer responsibilities and consideration may be given to allowing them to work flexibly to help keep them working whilst managing their caring responsibilities.
- Regular Breaks – Consider your normal arrangements for staff breaks. It may be necessary to increase breaks particularly where employees are working longer hours. You will also need to factor in additional breaks for employees to regularly wash their hands.
Coaching and mentoring
Managers and employees are facing circumstances that none of us have ever faced before. It is okay to admit that we find it all very daunting.
We have a number of experienced managers in our Council who would make great mentors during this difficult period. If that experienced manager is you and you are interested in finding out more about becoming a mentor email:
If you know you can carry out your duties but would like to talk through your approach with someone independent then again please email Organisational Development and we will match you up with a suitable qualified coach.