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Q&A: Covid-19 - Returning to the Workplace

Q&A: Covid-19 - Returning to the Workplace

We interviewed Melin Homes last month about their award-winning employee wellbeing initiative and thought it would be interesting to have another chat with their Communications Officer Fiona Williams about how they’re dealing with the effects of Covid-19 in the workplace.

How has Covid‐19 and lockdown impacted Melin Homes?

At Melin we have always been really proud of our agile working policy. In 2017 we won an award for ‘workplace transformation project of the year’ at the UK IT Industry Awards in London. We were shortlisted against companies such as BT, Heathrow Airport, HMRC, Lloyds Bank and Virgin Media, and won for our innovative agile working projects.

We were passionate about ensuring that our staff would be able to do their jobs from anywhere. Front-line staff were given tablets, using integrated software to remove the need to visit the office every day, our board went completely paperless, and staff were able to work from home or any other agile site. Obviously this was before the unprecedented lockdown, but it allowed us to make the transition for all staff to work from home with ease.

We have still maintained emergency appointments, and are still at 100% for gas servicing, which is amazing in these difficult times and a credit to the teams working tirelessly to ensure residents remain safe.

Have all your employees been able to work from home during this period?

Our IT have been amazing during lockdown, ensuring all staff can work from home. The support they have offered resonates with our motto ‘together we can’. We still have a proportion of the workforce such as gas engineers who are field based, however they are still able to carry out their roles without visiting the office due to their integrated mobile working systems.

The government recently encouraged people to return to work if they cannot work from home. Have any staff members started to return to work and if so how have you managed the transition? 

We are governed by advice from the Welsh Government and have been closely monitoring their advice and guidance. We re-opened our offices at the beginning of June but our message to staff is if you can still work from home then please do so.

Some teams require visits to the offices, but this has been carefully monitored and the first week has been a success with as little as 12 people a day in our two offices.  We consulted our staff on how they felt about going back to the office, which is totally down to personal preference, and is closely managed by each line manager.

We have put guidance in place for anyone working in the office: hand sanitiser, signage and markers have been installed by our fabulous Health and Safety team to ensure the upmost of safe working practices. The feedback from staff has been 100% positive. The safety and wellbeing of our staff is our highest priority and we will continue to monitor the situation.

Have you taken any extra steps for employees who are in a vulnerable group or live with someone who is? 

Any staff who fall into a vulnerable group or live with someone who does can continue to work from home. We are here to support our staff and ensure that their safety and wellbeing is always our top priority. Any staff affected by this have been liaising with our occupational health provider to ensure that they receive the proper advice and support around continuing and returning to work in a safe manner.

What measures have you put in place to ensure that your employees will be safe at work?

We have a rota for our Senior Management team to be in the office and each individual team is managed to ensure numbers are kept low. We have additional cleaning of the offices, hand sanitiser, cleaning stations, signage reminding staff of symptoms and the 2-meter social distancing rules, and we have taped off certain areas. All health and safety precautions have been taken, and our Health and Safety team are continually making sure we are doing everything we can.

Have you implemented any new measures to support your staff’s health and wellbeing during this period? 

At Melin our staff’s health and wellbeing has always been our highest priority and that has not changed during these times – please see our recent Q&A here.

In addition to all the great things we talked about previously, we have also introduced weekly meditation for staff and encouraged staff to take time out with our new activity challenge. We all know exercise is good for the mind, body and soul, so with this in mind we have 13 teams of four competing to be the most active over the next four weeks. We are in our first week and staff are already saying how much better they feel, and the challenge has encouraged them to be more active.

We have encouraged our teams and colleagues to keep in touch with each other as much as possible. We use Zoom and Microsoft Teams for team meetings and have even arranged virtual breakfasts. We cannot underestimate the impact that just talking to other people has on people’s mental wellbeing so we encourage this as much as possible, whether they are in the office or not.

Thanks to Fiona Williams at Melin Homes for taking part in this Q&A. Find out more about Melin Homes here.

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