The heads of Health and Safety for some of the UK’s biggest firms have shared their personal reflections on the progress of the pandemic and there are some common themes emerging.
Let’s start with the positives:
Getting used to meeting virtually
This has mostly been a success. It has helped to accelerate the mindset of people that preferred office working and face to face meetings. We are seeing people putting more energy into making virtual get togethers work.
Better prepared this time
Some leaders noticed that compliance seems to have improved since the start of the crisis. There is more awareness about working safely and what ‘at risk’ behaviour is.
The way businesses have dealt with the challenges of COVID has proved that they can make decisions with pace. It’s leading to a more flexible / can do mindset in other areas of the business.
Focus on mental health
It’s now top of the radar for senior leaders. There are more conversations going on about wellbeing.
However, we’ve also heard about a stream of issues that are hitting businesses now… the most common are:
Emotional exhaustion, especially leaders
Everyone is feeling the strain of relentlessly carrying on regardless. Managing and motivating a disparate, increasingly disengaged or ‘flat’ workforce, and operating in crisis mode for months is taking its toll. Many people commented that they are experiencing more extreme reactions than normal.
With so many people working from home, individuals are silo working. Decision making isn’t always shared – there is a cross-over of projects and limited good collaboration. For some this is leading to frustration and increasing disengagement.
Signs of complacency
With limited visible leadership and a reduction in safety auditing, there is a perception that there is less focus on safety. For some, it’s causing complacency and a more relaxed attitude to risk with a spike in near misses.
As businesses will be under increasing pressure to reduce budgets, there is a fear that this will lead to compromised safety decision making. Is the health and safety balanced agenda slipping?
In general, people are seeing more cases of people suffering with mental health problems. Although everyone wants to do the “right thing,” most people are ill equipped at the best of times, to ask the right questions and deal with the answers. Working virtually vastly increases this human shortcoming.