· News

Rising covid infections force HR to prepare

The UK is averaging 351,000 daily infections of covid, the highest number recorded since the 350,000 daily infections in March 2022.

The Zoe Covid study found Covid cases have increased 13% since the start of the month.

Some workplaces, such as Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals in Northmptonshire, have reintroduced mask wearing to stop the spread of infection.

Current government guidelines say face coverings are no longer required by law.

The impact of Covid on the workplace: 

What does ‘living with Covid’ mean for business?

Two years since coronavirus lockdown: what has HR learned?

Long covid recognised as disability in landmark tribunal

Jamie Styles, director of people and culture at Koa Health, said that the rise in infections could lead to a larger mental health issue across the country.

He told HR magazine: “With covid infection levels on the rise, it’s likely that remote work will increase, with employees opting to work from a remote work environment rather than head into the office.

"The current economic and political circumstances combined with rising infection rates will create a unique mental health crisis in the UK. The stress, anxiety and depression from Covid-19 are far from behind us."

The emphasis will be on HR to remain in contact with employees if they work remotely more often, Styles added.

He said: "HR should encourage managers to keep in touch with staff and think creatively about the ways they check in with individuals and teams.

"The technology that transformed all of our working lives during various lockdown periods; Zoom and Slack make it easy for employees to stay at home if they want to avoid the risk of Covid, but it’s essential to acknowledge that the same channels that facilitate work have made it harder to switch off."

Neil Davidson, regional vice president EMEA and APAC at software company Deltek, said that companies can build on previous experiences to deal with rising infections.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "Businesses large and small should be acutely aware of rising Covid cases, preparing for potential business disruptions. But, it’s important to remember that we’ve done this before.

"British businesses have proven resilient and have already undertaken much of the required transformation to place a renewed focus on data and people."

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the number of Covid-related deaths in the UK has surpassed 200,000, with a quarter of those occurring since last summer.

Davidson added that managing resources would be key to limiting the impact of another wave of Covid. 

He said: "To mitigate the impact this time around, businesses embracing collaboration and prioritising resource management can minimise disruption to their operations. Employees are a business's biggest asset, so using technology to monitor capacity and workload, will enable businesses to maintain productivity.

"The pandemic created a variety of new challenges in what was already a fast-changing world. As we have seen over the last few years, technology plays an important role, not only by supporting workforces through periods of disruption, but also by helping to ensure good working practices and efficiency through calmer times."