As noted previously, through the COVID-19 pandemic 74% of staff have experienced changes to their job role or work environment. The most mentioned change was around working from home more than normal (42% of those who experienced change).
Working from Home
Many staff working from home have found the experience positive, with 9% of staff answering the open question, saying it has been an aspect of support for them. For others it has brought challenges, with 12% of staff answering the open question saying it has been a cause of worry for them. As well as practical challenges around space and quiet areas to work at home, staff also mention missing human interaction and some talk of loneliness and isolation.
The IT support required for working from home is mentioned by staff as a positive for some and a source of worry for others. 2% of staff answering the open question, talk about the role of MS Teams and other technical support in enabling teams to still meet and for those meetings to be not just work, but also a chance to interact more socially. However, 14% of staff responding to the open question, mention IT challenges as a worry area, often associated with setting up to work from home, internet connections and maintaining virtual contact with colleagues.
The two stories below illustrate the positive value of virtual connections across dispersed teams:
Occupational Therapy Team
"NHS Western Isles Occupational Therapy Team saw lockdown open up opportunities to access learning that was never available before. It also allowed us to join meetings with colleagues nationally with the use of Webinars and Teams where travel would have previously restricted this access. To connect, prioritise work and support each other as a team, Zoom and Microsoft Teams were utilised to connect with one another in Occupational Therapy Huddles."
NHS Western Isles
eHealth Department – Above & Beyond
"A huge effort was achieved by the staff with the rapid acceleration of products and services, e.g. MS Teams, an increase in remote access, the deployment of laptops to enable home working and additional telephony, whilst maintaining business as usual activities."
Flexible working arrangements, where possible to implement, have clearly helped staff to balance their work commitment and greater family demands, often because of shielding and/or children not at school. 6% of staff responding to the open question about support, refer to flexible working arrangements and the positive impact that has had on their work-life balance.
Feeling COVID-19 Safe at Work
Both for those remaining at their place of work through the COVID-19 pandemic and those looking towards returning to their workplace, there are worries for staff.
12% of staff answering the open question, have worries around feeling COVID-19 safe at their place of work. Most often mentioned are worries relating to social distancing, particularly around the difficulties of being able to effectively social distance due to lack of space, for example in communal areas or through the volume of people in those areas. Staff also express concerns around whether other people (staff or patients/clients) will observe the social distancing rules.
Other topics mentioned in this theme are around the level of cleaning and sanitising that is being done and some mentions of the need for screens in certain areas, for example, at reception desks.
Similar concerns are expressed by those who have been working from home as they look towards returning to the workplace. 11% of staff answering the open question, reference worries about returning to the workplace and many of these staff express a desire to continue with some flexibility to work from home in the future. There are some heightened concerns mentioned by staff working in the community around their need to visit patient's/client's homes and other locations where COVID-19 measures may not be fully implemented.
One consideration for Health and Social Care, though something that is beyond the organisation's direct control, is staff worry over the use of public transport. 1% of staff answering the open question on their current worries, raise concerns about the need to travel by public transport. This adds an additional level of worry for staff returning to the workplace and continues to be relevant to those who have been in their workplace throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A story from the Health Protection Team at NHS Forth Valley shows how, through working with other community organisations, a transport solution was found, that may also have a wider positive well-being impact:
Supporting staff and patients to cycle throughout COVID
"Local Active Travel Hubs (collectively part of Forth Environment Link) made a very kind and generous offer to staff to borrow their eBikes to work during lockdown.
All bikes were quickly taken up and a huge waiting list formed, so the team applied for funding with support from FEL. Two bids worth a total of £55,000 for bikes, bike vouchers and D locks were successful.
The team now have another brilliant opportunity of free TACTRAN cycling training available to staff, family, friends, patients and their family and friends. This is currently being promoted to staff."
Alongside this initiative the Health Promotion Officer also developed a “Physical Activity for All During COVID e-bulletin".
NHS Forth Valley
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