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Psychologists release advice for employers to support staff who have been shielding

14 September 2020

As workers gradually begin to return to offices across the country, the British Psychological Society has released new guidance for employers about supporting those who have been shielding.

The document makes practical recommendations for employers to ensure staff can meaningfully contribute while feeling safe and supported, whether working back in the office or from home, and ensure positive outcomes for staff, employers, and businesses.  

For those who have been shielding the pandemic has taken its toll, with various social, psychological and physical health impacts, including: isolation and social exclusion, disrupted access to healthcare, decreased fitness levels, uncertainty and disruption to work routine and job insecurity and financial pressures.

Dr Roman Raczka, chair-elect of the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology said:

“For those who have been shielding, the last few months will have been very tough. It is important that employers recognise each person as an individual when supporting them at work.

Employers need flexible policies that put people at their heart and which can change and adapt with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Having clear and consistent communication is vital, staff need to feel they can raise any concerns or ask questions and they will be supported when they do so.”

It is important that employers follow four key principles when supporting those who have been shielding - Communicate, Acknowledge, Respond, Evaluate (CARE).

  • Communicate
    - offer regular contact with consistent communication and provide clear channels where staff and unions can raise any concerns.

  • Acknowledge
    - respect the differing concerns of each individual and the fact some staff may not feel willing to explain lots of personal details about their lives to colleagues. Consider the impact of returning to work on family life and within team dynamics.

  • Respond
    - make it clear that the workplace is compliant with Covid-19 safety regulations and offer flexible working options, ensure individuals feel supported if working from home. Ensure Occupational Health services are psychologically informed and staff have access to wellbeing support and appropriate Employee Assistance Programmes

  • Evaluate
    - complete and regularly review individual assessments to plan a safe return to work; include discussions about physical and mental health and wellbeing support in these.

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