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How to Ease Return-to-Office Anxiety

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Dan Matthews

Businesses have been returning to their offices post-pandemic for some time now, albeit to a ‘new normal.’ With such significant ongoing change and unprecedented concerns, returning to the office is understandably evoking some anxieties for both staff and employers. 

As an employer, it can be challenging to navigate these transitions while keeping staff anxieties down and productivity high. Here are some strategies to help manage employee anxiety when returning to office life.

Take the time to understand their anxieties

We can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge. So, before you attempt to support returning employees’ anxieties, it’s important to first understand what exactly they are feeling anxious about.

There can be a number of reasons why an employee may feel anxious about returning to the office environment; it could be a social anxiety after so long working from home, concerns about adapting back to the faster pace of office life, fear of feeling unsafe – the list goes on.

It can also sometimes be difficult for the employee themselves to pinpoint what they are feeling concerned about, so it’s essential to take the time to talk it through with them in an understanding way. In some instances, it can be helpful to create an anonymous form of reporting their worries, allowing them to feel more comfortable to share what they are feeling, and giving you a deeper insight as to what needs to be addressed. 

Provide tools and strategies to manage anxiety

It’s important to take a proactive approach to supporting your employees through this transition (as opposed to simply talking it out). 

Invest some time and resources into educating your staff on subjects such as stress and panic attacks, and provide them with a variety of coping strategy information. Encourage a judgment-free environment in which employees can feel comfortable practicing breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques at their desk, or request for some time-out to get some fresh air. 

This is also a great time to implement some general, ongoing wellness-related resources, such as wellbeing check-in apps and perks such as discounts on local yoga classes. It is important to also implement security technology that not only secures your employees in a physical and cyber space but also conveniently.

A type of technology that can help reduce anxiety about forgetting employee badges to gain access to buildings are keyless commercial access control systems, which leverage mobile phones as credentials instead of physical cards and fobs.

Stay open and flexible

When the pandemic hit, businesses (and everyone) had to adapt to being far more mentally flexible – virtually everything about our daily lives had to be recalibrated to fit into the chaos as best as possible.

This level of ongoing disruption brought about some changes that have not disappeared alongside the gradual quieting of Covid. Remote working might have been hard for some to adapt to, but once it became the norm, many workers have experienced the advantages and don’t want to return to the former working model.

According to a 2021 survey by FlexJobs, 98% of those who became remote workers during the pandemic either want to remain so (65%), or at least wish for ongoing flexible, hybrid work options (33%) post-Covid. Even more telling, is that 60% of respondents reported that they would seek new employment if their current position refused to allow ongoing remote working options. 

Unless your business will experience significant negative impacts from facilitating ongoing flexible work options, it’s in your best interests to remain flexible with your staff and be willing to reimagine how this new normal could look. 

Prioritize clear and meaningful communication

Staff resistant to returning to ‘normal’ office life may feel agitated and even confused as to why it’s necessary to do so. Left unaddressed, these feelings of confusion can lead to resentment, inevitably impacting working relations and productivity.

If returning to the physical office, either full or part-time, is unavoidable, then make sure you communicate clearly and openly with your staff. Make sure they understand the reasons behind your decision and why it’s so important to the running of the business.

Be willing to answer any questions or concerns, and also be open to hearing their opinion and ideas regarding how best to move forward; if you don’t agree, that’s fine, but at least you have heard them out and demonstrated your willingness to consider their point of view.

Outline all Covid-related protocols clearly 

As we know, the Covid-19 vaccination doesn’t fully protect us from contracting the virus, or passing it on to others. Some workers may be understandably concerned about the elevated risks of returning to the office, especially if they live with or care for vulnerable people. 

Make sure you adhere to all necessary Covid-19 protocols and keep your staff fully informed of all policies and requirements. Giving your staff the reassurance that all appropriate measures are being taken can help them to feel more comfortable about the return to office – some may be more concerned than others, and you will have to take this on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that you provide adequate consideration and understanding to their position. 

Meet your employees where they are at

Ultimately, your employees are all individuals with their own unique feelings, needs and concerns, and treating them as such will help to address any return-to-office anxieties. Investing in your employees should always be a priority, but all the more when there are so many changes afoot.

In many cases, people just need a little reassurance and a sense that their concerns are validated, so meet them where they are at and do what you can to meet their needs.

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness by Dan Matthews.


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A Man Won a Lawsuit for an Unwanted Office Birthday Party: What it Means for Workplace Discrimination

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Madeline Messa

Like the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit, this is one of those cases that leaves an absurd first impression but earns sympathy when its details are explored.

In April, a jury awarded a man $450,000 after he sued his former employer for throwing him a birthday party at work. 

However, there is more to the story. The man, Kevin Berling, asked his employer, Gravity Diagnostics, not to throw him a party as they usually did for their employees’ birthdays. He had an anxiety disorder, and he explained he feared his “bad memories” associated with his birthday would trigger a panic attack.

Disregarding his request, the employer threw a party anyway. 

Berling had a panic attack, and his employer fired him shortly after for “workplace violence.” Berling then sued Gravity Diagnostics for disability discrimination.

Despite the clickbait-sounding headlines this case made for, it is realistically about disability discrimination in the workplace. It should serve to remind employers they are obligated to make accommodations for disabled employees, including those whose disabilities are related to mental health. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title I requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations to perform their jobs and enjoy the same access and benefits as their coworkers. 

In this case, the jury sided with Berling, finding his request to not have a birthday party was a reasonable accommodation for his disabling anxiety disorder. His employer did not deny the accommodation because of any undue hardship, but simply because they did not take the request seriously. Further, the employer fired Berling due to his panic attacks, creating a relatively clear-cut case for disability discrimination.

When people think of discrimination, they often think of race or gender and overlook disabilities. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that people with disabilities were far more likely to be unemployed than people without disabilities, regardless of age or education. Disabled people were also more likely to be self-employed than people without disabilities.

Accommodations are meant to close these gaps by providing disabled employees with tools and modified work environments needed to perform their jobs successfully. Accommodations can include allowing a cashier with chronic pain to sit at their register rather than stand all day, a sign language interpreter for a deaf job applicant — or respecting the request to not throw a birthday party for an employee who made it known it could give them a panic attack.

Accommodations are flexible, and not all disabilities call for the same accommodations. Employees should be able to comfortably ask their employer for an accommodation for their disability without fear of retaliation. 

Workplaces that are ignorant to disability law and unwilling to grant reasonable accommodations reinforce the unemployment disparity between people with and without disabilities, marginalizing disabled employees. 

Mental health is valid, and work is on the rise as a major source of stress for many people. In response to a Harvard Business Review survey, 76% of people suffered from at least one negative mental health symptom. Employers who deny reasonable accommodations to mitigate disabling anxiety only exacerbate the issue. 

Employers need to acknowledge the law and be receptive to disabled employees and job applicants. Putting up motivational posters in the break room to encourage overwhelmed employees to count to ten and imagine they are in a happier place is not going to cut it. 

This blog was published with permission.

About the Author: Madeline Messa is a law student at Syracuse University with a BA in journalism from Penn State. She is currently working as a legal and communications intern for Workplace Fairness.


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The Importance of Providing Mental Health Days for Your Team

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With nearly 1 in 5 American adults being diagnosed with a mental health condition each year, introducing Mental Health Days in the workplace could, in theory, benefit around 20% of your employees.  

Although most workplaces agree that employee wellbeing is essential, there is still some uncertainty around the concept of ‘Mental Health Days’; from employers granting and embracing them, to employees feeling ashamed or embarrassed to request them. 

For some, managers and assistants alike, bringing up the topic of mental health may seem like a difficult conversation to have at work. But, changing mindsets and reframing mental health days will begin to break down stigmas and overall create a more open dialogue and a more productive and healthy work environment. 

Providing, and even encouraging, regular Mental Health Days could decrease extended periods of leave for employees, in particular Executives and Senior Managers. “Executives face unique stressors,” says Kayla Gill, Content Director at LuxuryRehabs.com. “With so many people depending on you, […] many executives feel like they don’t have the time or freedom to step away from work in order to begin recovery.” 

Granting regular Mental Health Day’s could alleviate some of the pressure that leads executives to seek recovery help from work-related stress. This can result in many serious problems, such as anxiety disorders and even substance abuse and addiction.

In this article, we will define what a Mental Health Day is, discuss why they are so important and how they can help to reduce work-based stress and anxiety, and ultimately help to reduce burnout.  

What is a Mental Health Day 

Much like a traditionally accepted ‘sick day’, a Mental Health Day is taking a day off to recover. Having a cold, sickness bug or another physical sickness may seem easier to ‘prove’ as there are obvious visible symptoms. But, struggling with mental health is often harder to explain as many of the side effects are invisible to others, though felt strongly by the sufferer. 

Mental Health Days could be scheduled in advance. For example, if employees are working towards a deadline, encouraging them to take a Mental Health Day after this has passed, to recuperate and de-stress following their hard work could see them returning refreshed. 

However, mental health isn’t always something that can be pre-planned or prepared for. Sometimes severe anxiety or other mental health disorders can come on suddenly, and employees may need to request a Mental Health Day in the morning for that day. 

Being accepting of all Mental Health Day requests is important to changing attitudes towards mental health in the workplace. Ensuring employees, of all levels, are aware of how to request them, in a safe space, will encourage uptake, contributing to employee wellbeing and overall company culture. 

Why Mental Health Days are Important

While having just one day off may not seem revolutionary, and it certainly won’t make stress or anxiety disappear, it is an important step in avoiding complete burnout. 

It encourages employees to recognize signs of stress before they become larger problems or contribute to developing anxiety disorders. But it is equally important for employers to look out for early signs of stress 

If multiple employees in the workplace and working remotely are requesting Mental Health Days, or there is a noticeable increase of them within a team or coinciding with a project, it could be a sign that workload is too much, deadlines are too tight, or overall stressors need to be addressed. 

How to reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace. 

Mental Health Days could be counterproductive for staff if met with negativity or suspicion. Staff could be hesitant to request Mental Health Days through fear of how they will be perceived or feelings of guilt for prioritizing their mental wellbeing. This leads to them not being able to fully relax and focus on self-care on their requested day. Here it is vital that there is a company-wide positive approach to Mental Health Days, and a united mission to reduce stress across the board. 

Although not all mental health days are impacted by work-related stress, it is still worth finding ways to reduce stressors for employees. Overwhelm and pressure are two key factors that contribute to stress and anxiety and could be a cause for staff to request mental health leave. 

Managing tasks, good communication and regular check-ins will help gauge team morale and present a space for issues to be aired in an accepting space.  

High performers and Executives are at a higher risk of burnout and more likely to experience workplace stress, finding it hard to say no at work and often having to manage multiple projects, teams and tasks. Noticing early signs of stress in these members, and all staff, will help to indicate where Mental Health Days could benefit, and where workload needs to be shifted. 

Final Thoughts 

With 40% of American workers finding their jobs stressful, implementing processes to alleviate stress in combination with scheduling Mental Health Days could have a huge impact on overall employee wellbeing and productivity. 

Recognizing signs of stress in staff, opening conversations about mental health, and encouraging scheduled Mental Health Days, especially after high-pressure projects can positively impact stress levels. 

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Gemma Hart is a HR and Recruitment Specialist based in the South of England. Since graduating from Sussex University in 2016, Gemma has developed her skill set and knowledge around the future of recruitment and graduate education.


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It’s Time For Mandated Maternity and Paternity Leave

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Ask any parent and they’ll tell you that having a child changes everything. It shifts your priorities. It changes the way you look at life, the world, and your place in it. 

Unfortunately, though, not all employers are willing to accommodate the many profound transformations that occur when an employee becomes a parent — and that has led to some pretty egregious oversights that U.S. labor laws have yet to sufficiently redress. 

For example, despite proclaiming itself the leader of the free world, the great, shining example of human rights across the globe, the U.S. remains the only industrialized country not to guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers. That said, if America is to retain its moral standing in the international community, then mandated maternity and paternity leave for all workers in the U.S. must be instituted immediately.

Why It Matters

Despite opponents’ claims to the contrary, paid leave for new parents is not a mere luxury, or a desirable, but optional, perk to be offered by employers who can afford it. Rather, mandated leave is an attribute of the human right to enjoy safe and healthy work environments and conditions. 

Simply put, paid leave supports the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of all concerned. Women who have just given birth, for instance, face numerous physical and psychological challenges in the postpartum months, from physical pain and fatigue to postpartum depression. New mothers need time at home to recover not only from the pregnancy and childbirth, but also from the physical demands of caring for a newborn and infant.

However, it’s not only about giving a new mother time to recover in mind and body from having a baby, it’s also about giving new parents the time and space to bond with their child. This is why mandated leave needs to apply both to new biological mothers and also to fathers, adoptive parents, and domestic partners. 

Infants need ample time with their parents because it’s in these first formative months of life that essential foundations for learning and socialization are built. 

New parents who are able to stay home with their infant without fear of losing their income or their job can focus their entire attention on nurturing and teaching their little one. This paves the path to healthy future development. 

For instance, children begin to hone their communication and socialization skills in preschool and this positions them to advance and thrive in their primary and secondary schooling, which, in turn, fosters the transition to higher education. 

But success in preschool often begins in the nursery, with engaged, attentive, affectionate parents who have the time and resources to shower their infant with love and care in the critical first weeks and months of life.

Without paid leave, however, not only are far too many infants deprived of much of this bonding time with their parents, but our nation as whole risks perpetuating the social and economic inequities which currently plague it. For example, studies show that 81% of new moms without a high school diploma are not given paid maternity leave. 

In other words, the issue is often one of class. More affluent and educated parents often have greater bargaining power when it comes to securing a job or negotiating for benefits. But poor and working-class parents, especially those without an education, often must take what work they can get. It’s not only the parents and children who suffer but also entire communities who must endure the consequences of an entire generation of children growing up without the strong foundations they should have enjoyed in infancy.

The Takeaway

Mandated maternal and paternal leave is not a choice but a necessity. If the United States is to retain its status of moral, political, and economic leader of the free world, then it must join all other industrialized nations in guaranteeing this right to its workers and the children who are our nation’s future.

This blog was printed with permission.

About the Author: Dan Matthews is a writer, content consultant, and conservationist. While Dan writes on a variety of topics, he loves to focus on the topics that look inward on mankind that help to make the surrounding world a better place to reside. When Dan isn’t working on new content, you can find him with a coffee cup in one hand and searching for new music in the other.


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3 Ways Employers Can Support Worker’s Mental Health When Working Remotely

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As millions of people around the world have discovered in recent years, working remotely can pose all sorts of challenges in both our professional and personal lives. Not only have workers had to contend with a new schedule and environment, but also the mental health impacts that have arisen as a result of this alien approach to working. In fact, one guide revealed that 82% of remote employees suffered some symptoms of burnout whilst working remotely. 

While there are many things individuals can do to help keep on top of their mental wellbeing, employers can also play their part in supporting their workforce, even when that workforce is operating remotely. 

In general, companies are looking to do their bit to support the wellbeing of their employees. Research shows that 96% of employers have actively adapted HR policies in recent years to provide more mental health resources for their staff. But, only one in six people felt fully supported by these measures. 

So, what more can management do to better support their employees?

Establish effective communication channels 

With hallway meetings and water cooler catch-ups no longer a feature of day-to-day office life, it has become easier for employees to feel alienated from the company. Perhaps it’s unclear what is being expected of them, or maybe it’s just the lack of face-to-face interaction that causes this feeling. 

As an employer, it is important to establish and maintain healthy channels of communication. When working from home, this can be achieved through regular video calls and meetings, or simply through instant messaging apps. If possible, schedule in regular catch-ups which give employees the opportunity to talk about anything else but work, giving them a chance to switch off from professional duties with their peers. 

Keeping in touch with the wider team will help to create a feeling of inclusion and give employees a greater sense of purpose and direction when completing their daily tasks. 

Organize regular social events 

Spontaneous after-work drinks and  similar  activities were removed from our routines in the midst of the pandemic but with the leisure and hospitality sector up and running once more, scheduling regular out-of-work social events can be invaluable to not only individuals’ mental health, but also the team morale as a whole. 

If lots of your staff live close by to one another, why not suggest starting a walking group to get people out and about and mingling once again on a regular basis? Exercise-based incentives will not only help to reduce feelings of isolation, but it will also fight against other mental health issues, with exercise proven to boost your mood and alleviate feelings of depression. 

Consider individual’s needs when working from home  

When the entire workforce is operating from the office, everyone will stick to similar working routines and have similar needs throughout the day. However, when working from home, different factors and commitments will make it more difficult to enforce rigid policies which may not take into account every individual’s needs. 

It could be a case of allowing for flexible start and finish times for remote staff, or simply being mindful that homelife can get in the way during the work day. 

What’s more, when working in an office environment, all of the necessary equipment needed to carry out professional duties will likely be available within the office. This may not be the case for everybody when working from home, so it can be valuable to implement a work from home budget, which will help staff to feel more comfortable and also aid productivity in the process. 

All in all, it’s important to consider the needs and mindsets of workers during such an unprecedented time in history. With small changes like the ones mentioned above, your team could thrive more than ever before, while deepening their interest and commitment to their role and a company that has their back.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: I am a freelance writer with a particular interest in employee welfare, and have created content for established companies based all around the world. I have a degree in creative writing, and am always eager to expand my knowledge around different subjects.


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Mental Health at Work and Appropriate Adjustments Managers Should Make

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Mental health in the workplace has, in recent years, become a priority for employers. Many organizations are fighting the stigmas of mental health through training programs and reasonable adjustments in the workplace, ensuring those struggling with their mental health receive the required support. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with their mental health. Symptoms of mental health and the numerous struggles people face as a result don’t just affect the lives of individuals; they can also impact the businesses they work for. 

Your Responsibility as an Employer 

As an employer, you cannot ignore the seriousness of mental health and the impact this can have in the workplace. It is a fact that there are people in your workforce struggling with mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that around half of the US workforce suffer from mental health issues. 

Just as you would make adjustments for an employee with a physical illness or disability, employers should make reasonable adjustments within the workplace for those with mental health struggles. Below are some of the adjustments you can make. 

Flexible Working Hours 

For someone struggling with mental health, sometimes the smallest changes can make all the difference for them in managing their symptoms. One of the best reasonable adjustments you can make as an employer is to provide opportunities for flexible working. Whether you allow for later start times, remote working, or part-time options, flexible work opportunities can relieve some of the pressure on struggling employees. 

So, whether they need to attend counseling sessions, take time off for medical appointments, book a holiday, or just need to feel more in control of their schedule, allowing for flexible working hours is a reasonable option for employers keen to support their workers. 

Create Support Systems 

Mental health can be extremely isolating. Most sufferers feel embarrassed to speak up about their struggles out of fear that others might judge them. As Adam Nesenoff, an expert working in mental health recovery at Tikvah Lake Recovery states, “one of the worst effects of suffering from any mental health problem is that it often leaves people feeling alone. This is frequently made worse because there is a tendency to start isolating.” Isolation often causes symptoms to worsen. 

Support systems (otherwise known as buddy systems) help employees create connections with their colleagues, find people they can talk to, and feel more comfortable in the workplace. These support systems can be created formally or informally but they are an excellent way to support someone dealing with mental health issues. 

Introduce a Phased Return to Work 

Sometimes, employees need to request an extended period of time off work so they can receive professional support. As an employer, you should support this as much as possible. Seeking support is a huge step out of a comfort zone for many people and it is something that should be commended. 

However, after an extended period of time away from work, many returning employees can feel anxious (whether they struggle with mental health problems or not). So, it can be helpful to introduce a phased return to work. This will help employees to return to their previous duties at a pace that works for them. 

You might consider asking them to come in for a few hours or days each week at first and then building up from there. If you are unsure what is best, just speak to the individual and ask them what they would like to do. 

Address Discrimination and Fight Stigmas 

Unfortunately, there are numerous stigmas surrounding mental health. Sufferers are often faced with questions like, “isn’t it all in your head?” or “things can’t be that bad?” These kinds of responses are unhelpful and, ultimately, damaging to individuals, regularly causing mental health symptoms to worsen.  

One of the critical challenges of tackling mental health in the workplace involves confronting the stigmas and the best way to do this is through addressing the discriminations and educating your workforce. 

Despite the fact you may feel powerless to support every employee in the way they need, one of the best steps you can take is fighting stigmas. Provide mental health training for your employees, address stigmas head-on and let perpetrators know that such behavior will not be tolerated. Creating an understanding and inclusive work culture can transform the health and happiness of your employees. 

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure all your employees are cared for and supported in the workplace.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.


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Working at Home Accidents – Who is Liable?

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In many countries, the number of people working from home has doubled since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. While many businesses take reasonable care and responsibility for their employees’ safety in the workplace, many are asking what the regulations are for remote workers. 

In this article, we will be discussing accidents when working at home and who is liable.

Your Employer’s Duty of Care

Whether you’re working in the office or from home, your employer is required to protect your health, safety and welfare while you are working for them. 

Just like in-house employees, remote workers expect and are owed the same duty of care from their employers. This duty of care covers everything from the physical working environment of the individual and extends to their mental health needs.

How to Create Safe Work Environments at Home

Unlike offices, where the environment can be controlled and safety measures can be put in place to protect employees, everyone’s home environment differs. From the layout to the furnishing, creating a safe work environment at home means something different for everyone.

Despite this, governments are asking employers to be vigilant about protecting the health and safety of their remote workers, according to Health and Safety Law

Whether employees are working part-time, full-time or on an ad hoc basis, if they are ‘at work’ employers must ensure that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent any accidents they may otherwise be liable for. McCarthy + Co. Solicitors state the scope of an employer’s duty of care falls under four principal headings, with an employer being obliged to provide his workforce with:

  • Competent co-workers
  • A safe place of work
  • Proper equipment which is fit for purpose
  • A safe system of work

Below are some of the most effective ways employers can support the health and safety of remote workers.

Provide Risk Assessments and Guideline Advice

Often, workplace risk assessments will highlight areas of concern within a workspace, whether that’s in-house or remote. These issues are then raised with the employer and appropriate action is taken to reduce any risk to the employee.

Despite so many people working from home, very few have a suitable working space that isn’t the dining room or kitchen table. As such, accidents can happen – the most common being back pain and injury caused by insufficient working set-ups. 

All employers have a responsibility to ensure the working environments for their employees are suitable for remote working on a long-term basis. Advice should also be provided that helps employees carry out their own basic risk assessment at home and share their findings with employers so that suitable adjustments can be made.

Display Screen Equipment

This includes the use of smartphones, tablets and desktops in the home that allow employees to do their job. All equipment used for work must be provided and properly maintained by the employer. A few steps employees can take to reduce the likelihood of injury whilst working from home include:

  • Regularly changing their working position.
  • Taking short breaks every 10-20 minutes away from the screen.
  • Breaking up long periods of screen time with 5-minute rest breaks every hour.
  • Stretching regularly to avoid stiff joints.

Identifying and Reducing Hazards

Most slips and trips in the office are caused by uneven floors, obstructions in walkways, or inappropriate flooring. Unsurprisingly, these factors also come into play around the home. So, a risk assessment will consider the hazards around your home to ensure any necessary changes are made before remote working commences.

Manual Handling Training and Precautions

If part of your job involves the manual handling of products or the packing of boxes, precautions must be taken to avoid injury. A risk assessment will take these factors into consideration and highlight any areas of concern. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide the necessary training to ensure all manual handling is carried out safely and for the avoidance of any injury.

Mental Health Support

Employers have a duty to protect the mental health and wellbeing of their remote employees. Mental health conditions are classed as disabilities when they have a long-term effect on the everyday functioning of an individual and, as such it is against the law for employers to discriminate against employees with mental health struggles. As such, employers are expected and legally required to provide mental health support for their workers.

The type of support that is provided will depend on each person and their individual needs. However, providing support such as paid-for therapy sessions, online consultations, space to talk, and even the provision of specialist equipment or adjustments to the duties of the job itself are all necessary steps to protect employee mental health.

Equipment Provision

One of the most common injuries suffered by remote workers is because of a chair that is not fit for purpose. Employers are required to provide guidance and advice about the ideal chair and screen positioning to reduce potential injuries.  

Employers must check that remote workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively and that said equipment is in good working order. Employers must also provide remote workers with any personal protective equipment, as necessary.

Who is Liable if You Have an Accident?

Many remote workers are concerned about whether their employer would be liable if they had an accident while working at home. Your employer would only be responsible if you suffered an injury whilst working from home due to some negligence on their part.

As we have already stated in this article, employers are predominantly responsible for carrying out a risk assessment of your working environment and ensuring you have suitable and working equipment available to do your job well. Therefore, unless they neglected to provide suitable training or equipment to you and you had a work-related accident as a result of this, it is unlikely your employer would be liable.

However, it is always important to provide all the facts of your injury and your working environment to a solicitor so they can advise you on your case. The sooner you report your injury and make a claim, the better. Whether you win your case or not, raising the issue will provide useful for your employer and hopefully encourage them to act and improve on any areas of negligence within their company so that future work-related accidents are prevented.

Final Words

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, whether they work in-house or from home. This duty of care requires that employers do everything within their power to ensure their employees are supported, both physically and mentally, to carry out their jobs safely. 

As the number of remote workers around the world continues to increase, employers must continue taking positive action to ensure the health and safety of their employees. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.


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Addressing Mental Health in the Workforce

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Johanna G. Zelman

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. After fifteen months of the COVID-19 pandemic – which has placed unprecedented stress on Americans dealing with isolation and fear, while juggling closed schools and businesses, homeschooling children, working from home, and economic uncertainty, including ensuring basic necessities – Americans are struggling to recover. One study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a finding that almost 41 percent of adults reported a mental health issue or increased substance use. Other studies published more recently in 2021 reflect similar results. For employers, who rely on a healthy workforce to be successful, this has direct repercussions on productivity, work quality and, in some cases, legal liability.

Despite this, mental health remains highly stigmatized, and employees are often uncomfortable speaking about their troubles at work. But there are things employers can do to encourage their employees to ask for help.

  • Talk to Your Employees. Have your managers and supervisors check in on your employees and ask them how they are doing or if they need anything. Make sure they communicate to employees that as their employer, you are there for them. Employees feel more comfortable speaking to their employers when they know that the subject of mental health is not taboo.
  • Let Employees Know that is Okay Not to be Okay. Many employees believe that they must always put on their best face while at work. This leads to the illusion that they are always happy and that their lives are perfect, discouraging others from coming forward with concerns. Tell employees that they don’t have to always be okay, and encourage them to talk about their concerns. It is okay to not be okay.
  • Make EAP Available and Accessible. Having an Employee Assistance Plan available and easily accessible is a great way to bring mental health care to your employees. Send an email to your employees identifying your EAP provider and providing instructions on how to access it. Put these instructions on your company intranet. Consider giving your employees a few free sessions per year as part of their benefits. Make sure employees understand that the use of EAP services generally will be anonymous unless they are told otherwise.
  • Publish a List of Resources. Every community has mental health and substance abuse resources available. Put together a list of these resources and provide it to your employees, either through email or by making it available on your company intranet, or both.
  • Make Sure Mental Health Care is Covered by Your Health Plan. Many health insurers still do not cover treatment for mental health care. Make sure that the health insurance plan you choose for your employees covers mental health treatment.
  • Encourage Employees to Take Time for Themselves. Rest and relaxation increase productivity. During COVID, many employees gave up their vacations because travel was not possible. Now that it is, encourage your employees to take vacation time, even if it means taking a staycation.
  • Create Opportunities for Employees to Socialize. Bring in donuts on Fridays, and encourage employees to socialize (with or without masks) in the breakroom for a few minutes. Hold a happy hour once a month. Sponsor a cookie competition during the holidays. Social events tend to make for a happier workforce, increasing employee productivity and decreasing the sense of isolation and other factors that lead to mental health issues.
  • Train Your Employees. Providing training to employees about mental health and ways to manage it will let your employees know you are open to hearing their concerns.
  • Ensure All Employees Understand How to Request an Accommodation. Federal law, most state laws, and some local laws require that an employer provide reasonable accommodations to its disabled employees. A mental health condition may qualify as a disability under these laws. A “reasonable accommodation” is any adjustment that can be made to working conditions that allows an employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job, although essential functions need not be eliminated, and the employee’s requested accommodation need not be granted so long as the accommodation provided is reasonable. Tell your employees how to make such a request, and make sure they understand that there will be no retaliation if they do need an accommodation. In some instances, a leave of absence may even be necessary. Again, make sure your employees know it is okay.

Mental illness is often labeled a “silent” disability because, in most cases, it is not apparent. It is, however, no less serious than any physical disability, and, left untreated, can be more harmful. One of the leading causes of employer losses is due to mental health conditions. Employers, therefore, benefit by ensuring that they have a workforce that is healthy, both physically and mentally. Encouraging employees to come forward and seek help for mental health concerns or illness will create loyalty and an overall happier and more satisfying work environment.

This blog originally appeared at FordHarrison on May 26, 2021. Reprinted with permission.

About this Author: Johanna Zelman has represented a wide variety of employers from various industries, but Johanna has a specific strength in matters arising in the municipal employment setting and in public schools and universities.


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Mental Health at the Workplace – What You Need to

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The stigma that has once surrounded mental health issues is slowly beginning to lift. Fortunately, celebrities and online influencers continue to step out and speak up about their experiences with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.

But what of the people who are working at jobs that are not exposed to the media? What do they need to know about mental health at their workplace?

Let’s look at some important facts and statistics.

Mental Health Issues Significantly Affect Businesses

Mental health challenges and issues, as well as heightened stress, can lead to poor job performance and a drop in productivity, less engagement at work, and communication issues between employees and employers. They will inevitably impact a business’s bottom line.

As little as one night of poor sleep can significantly impact performance – and considering how mental health challenges affect sleep patterns, the downward spiral is easy to spot.

Employees Have Mental Health Rights

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an employee cannot be fired or forced to stop working based on a mental health issue, and the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for any mental health condition.

Some employers provide employee assistance programs, too. These are completely confidential and provide assistance to an employee without disclosing any information to the company.

Employees are also allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to deal with a mental health crisis.

Mental Health Issues Are More Common Than You Think

Unless it’s happening to us, we are mostly unaware of how widely spread mental health issues are. Most people still don’t talk about their own challenges with their mental health.

But the fact of the matter is that one in five Americans will experience a mental health illness every year. This means that there is most likely at least one person in every office suffering from some kind of mental health challenge, be it mild or severe.

Mental Health Issues Are Most Often Treatable

Even when they seem incredibly frightening and isolating to the person affected by them, mental health issues are often treatable. In most cases, they can be solved with regular treatment – whether that be therapy, medication, or simply a specific daily practice someone exercises.

The sooner the person suffering from a mental illness seeks treatment, the greater their chances of solving the issue successfully.

What Can You Do to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

The best way to battle mental health issues in the workplace is to advocate, speak up, and establish procedures for times of crisis. Here are some of the ways you can get involved and practices you can advocate for in your office:

  • De-stigmatization – One of the most challenging issues we face in the realm of mental health and mental health advocacy is ignorance and stigmatization. Educating coworkers, managers, and employees about mental health (their own as well as other people’s) is the first step to take.
  • A clear line of communication without repercussions – It’s vital to open a line of communication between employees and managers on the subject of mental health. An employee needs to be able to step forward and confide to their manager about their challenges and triggers. In exchange, solutions and processes need to be put in place to help them overcome these issues.
  • Personal mental health practices – We can all do a lot to take care of our own mental health. Getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and spending time outdoors will significantly help our mental state. Furthermore, it’s crucial for our mental health that we find the time for friends, family, and hobbies. Even when an employer is unable to provide mental health support, the things we do for ourselves can help significantly.
  • Watching out for each other – When someone is suffering from a mental health disorder, they may not be able to see it clearly. Speaking up when you notice someone’s odd behavior or irritability and offering support can be the spark they need to help them start getting better.

Final Thoughts

Mental health in the workplace will take more spotlight as the workplace itself evolves and shifts. For the time being, it’s up to the employees to advocate for this cause. They have to fight for the processes and procedures that can protect them. Hopefully, these facts can help open up that conversation.

About the author: Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.


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Raising the minimum wage prevents suicides, but Republicans won’t do it

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third study in less than a year has found that raising the minimum wage would prevent suicides. The latest study, in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, adds the finding that a higher minimum wage would be an especially strong suicide prevention measure during times of high unemployment.

The researchers used states with minimum wages above the federal level to analyze the years from 1990 to 2015, writing that “We estimated a 6% reduction in suicide for every dollar increase in the minimum wage among adults aged 18–64 years with ?high school education.” Accounting for other factors lowers it to a 3.5% reduction in some cases. There’s no effect for people with a college education—a finding that both supports the result for people with a high school diploma or less and one “suggesting that minimum wage increases may reduce disparities in mental health and mortality between socioeconomic groups.”

We’re talking about 27,000 lives that could have been saved by raising the minimum wage by $1.

Currently, 29 states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour. The House, controlled by Democrats, has passed a $15 minimum wage bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republicans have blocked even a vote.

This article was originally published at Daily Kos on January 10, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.

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