By now, we are all getting used to the strange new world that the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on us. It’s not that long ago when we all suddenly found ourselves in a more uncertain world where toilet rolls became collectors’ items, going for one short walk each day was a concession and where you could be arrested or fined for meeting with your friends. It was a steep learning curve, but we all learned over time how COVID-19 could be transmitted, and what we could all do to reduce the risk of catching and becoming ill from the virus. Risk assessments became a hot topic and personal protective equipment made the news every day, both elements that are normal considerations for a business like ours but new territory for the vast majority of the general public.
However, people and businesses are inherently resourceful and businesses around the world quickly found new and often more efficient ways to work whilst maintaining the all-important social distancing requirements. As with many other businesses, Skype, ZOOM and Microsoft Teams became the new way to communicate with our colleagues, friends, clients and suppliers, and whilst these systems and technologies have existed in one form or another for quite some time, many of us hadn’t grasped the real potential of these tools to provide a highly effective mechanism for collaborative working and effective communication.
Even before the formal lockdown, PM PROjEN, our clients and sub-contract organisations were working hard to establish the protocols that would permit site based construction activities to continue where safe to do so. Inspiration for these protocols and procedures was gained from the Construction Leadership Council, who issued excellent guidance for the Construction Sector titled ‘Site Operating Procedures’, which supported the philosophy that COVID-19 was just one of many hazards to consider in the workplace and that established risk assessment and method statement philosophies were still applicable to this unusual and new hazard.
We would strongly recommend that anyone going through the process of returning to their workplace check out the following sources of valuable information and support :-
- Construction site – SOP Protecting your workforce during Coronavirus, (now version 5):- https://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Site-Operating-Procedures-Version-5.pdf
- UK Government guidance on social distancing measures :- https://www.gov.uk/guidance/social-distancing-in-the-workplace-during-coronavirus-covid-19-sector-guidance#construction
As England moves from the ‘Stay at Home’ message to the ‘Stay Alert’ message, the associated relaxation of the rules is gradually allowing people to leave their homes and tentatively enjoy some elements of normality. Given that restrictions are being eased, we have now taken the decision to execute a carefully managed and gradual return to our Daresbury Park office. Whilst the physical measures required to ensure that hygiene and social distancing measures can be applied in a practical and pragmatic fashion are well understood, it is important to recognise that COVID-19 will leave an indelible mark on so many aspects of our lives and it is vital that we don’t underestimate the stress and concern that this pandemic has imposed on many people.
In putting our ‘return to the office/workplace’ measures in place we must all take time to consider the mental health of our friends, colleagues, suppliers and clients alike. It has never been more important to take the time to ask how people are feeling and offer to help where you can. It is also important to be open with people on how you are feeling, because without an open dialogue then people could be left feeling that they cannot call on the help of others for fear of embarrassment. As a business we are lucky to have access to our own Employee Assistance Programme that gives direct support to our staff if and when required, nonetheless we recognise that not everyone has the luxury of this service and we would therefore recommended that anyone feeling anxious or worried should visit:-
This site contains a wealth of resources designed to help people during this difficult period.
Many of us have been through the most turbulent and uncertain times in our lives so far and however robust your mental constitution is, it is hard to think that anyone has come through the last few months without some impact on their mental health, even if that has only manifested itself as feelings of mild concern. Unfortunately, the expression ‘mental health’ still has negative connotations in a way that general or physical health issues don’t. So please do not be shy if you are feeling anxious or concerned, it is perfectly natural, the important thing is to seek help and guidance through resources like the one outlined above or by talking to a trusted friend or colleague.
Finally, here are a few poignant quotes associated with mental health:-
“What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation.” – Glenn Close
“One small crack does not mean that you are broken, it means that you were put to the test and you didn’t fall apart.” – Linda Poindexte
“You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared and anxious. Having feelings doesn’t make you a negative person. It makes you human.” – Lori Deschene
Keep safe and well.