Blog: HR in Hospitality – 5 Steps for a healthy return to work

By KRaynes

Blog: HR in Hospitality - 5 Steps for a healthy return to work

Superwellness & Inspired Ergonomics Webinar 17th June 2020 by Esther O’Halloran


This was the second in our webinar series during lockdown and it has been great to be able to offer informative and interactive events in this format.


As many of us return to work, employers are investing extensively in adapting workplaces to maximise the safety of employees. We are in a great position to take lessons learnt from other countries and research that has been ongoing since the pandemic began, to understand the significant risk factors aside from our environment that is involved in a return to work. Two big aspects of this is the mental and physical side of being ready to reopen and welcome our guests and employees back into our workplaces.


One of the biggest changes aside from furlough has been homeworking is it here to stay and what are the implications for employee health?

Posture & Movement: So many of us have been working from home so we are moving less or using poor seating or desk areas. This increases back pain which has arisen due to; bad posture, less exercise, poor eating, using our dining tables, ironing boards or coffee tables as a desk which are either too high or low. How many of your team are working in this way? It is not ideal and cannot be prolonged if you are thinking of continuing with a higher percentage of working from home.  Your team could be storing up issues for the future so check and make sure early interventions are happening.


Think about when they come back to work in the office, will you go back to the same set up or is this an opportunity to make improvements for where people sit and work? Small adjustments such as; monitors at eye level height straight in front of people, using a mouse on a laptop, sitting back in your chair. All of this will help stop the constant build-up of pain and will help reduce sick leave (stress and back pain are the biggest reasons for sickness absence). Look up the HSE working from home set up advice and ensure you follow this under your duty of care, what have you done to look after your staff whilst they continue to work from home, do they have the right equipment they need?


Unhealthy eating at home.  How to stop yourself eating all day long is really hard, even more difficult if you have school age children also at home. So put some structure in your day and support employees to change their eating behaviour. Get them to look at the environment around them, is it conducive to healthy habits (healthy snacks in reach not sugary ones). Changing behaviours through guidance is often not enough during times of disruption, so set competitions with your teams to post healthy recipes and food they have made.


Conditioning our health in the face of Covid-19

Idea: You may want to take each of these 5 points and practical tips as a topic of discussion with your teams focusing on one area each week.

  1. Metabolic health – reducing the impact of high BMI and blood sugar fluctuations. High BMi over 30 doubles the need for hospital treatment with Covid, diabetes is a major factor also. These can be influenced with diet and lifestyle, set yourself a 10 day sugar challenge, simple steps such as half your sugar in coffee, or swap milk for dark chocolate so your taste buds renew themselves. It only takes 10 days for them to change and it becomes easier.


  1. Back health – addressing posture and movement. Key in back pain recovery is to reduce the inflammation and our bodies can naturally help us heal. Lack of oxygen in muscles and tissues is often a cause, any motion or movement is helpful so we need to be more proactive with exercise and moving around when sitting for long periods at home. We can no longer wander over to a colleague to chat about an idea or move around to deal with a customer, so If you are sitting a lot take regular breaks every 30-40 minutes or an hour at the most. The tip is to vary your position even just standing up to boost the oxygen nutrients can help, variety is key and break it up during the day. Most of us in hospitality are used to standing all day so to get ready for when you go back whether it is from homeworking or being on furlough get your teams moving around a lot more again.


  1. Immune health – fascinating new facts about Vitamin D and Covid, creating a healthy work space based on new guidance. Role of vitamin D can be easily addressed and has a massive impact on how Covid can develop. Lots of studies to correlate vitamin D levels and mortality, adequate levels could cut your risk in half. Fortified food and supplements can help you if you are not able to be out in the sunshine as much (when we have sunshine of course), to help you modulate your immune system. Get a vitamin D check you can order kits on line that are cost effective, also increase anti-inflammatory foods and reduce  processed foods, fats and sugars. Think of the Mediterranean diet wonderful tasty food that is rich in oily fish, veg, olive oil eaten on an 80-20 basis can be very effective.


  1. Mental health – ‘Corona-anxiety’ and how to support your employees  - mental health has been a big challenge unsurprisingly burnout and feeling anxious are high at the moment with people having to juggle many things. Tips such as going for a short walk in nature (close by park or green) and sunlight as often as possible helps, so resume your lunchtime walking groups or encourage them to start it is possible even with social distancing to do this. When sunlight hits the retina it starts the release of serotonin and this is good for mental wellbeing. Make sure you have good structures and routines in place to rebuild elements of control people feel in their workplace, re-educate them on any changes you have made. Food is also a good opportunity to plan and put structure around such as meal times as this ensures regular breaks. Take time out and diarise a balance of social and work activity. Ergonomics impact on mental health is also important, so make postural changes, tips such as; extend your spine, sit up straight, breathe, hold hands behind your head and open your shoulders (simple yoga poses really) all can help balance the mind and how we are feeling.


  1. Sleep and recovery – top tips from ‘strategic pillows’ to Epsom salt baths. There has been a lot more corona anxiety and vivid dreams during this crisis and we know that sleep underpins all 4 areas above. Sleep has an impact on our metabolism, appetite and the way we feel, lack of it can deplete the immune system and disrupt our stress hormones or moods. We all know that we should minimise screen time at least an hour before bed as (blue light) disrupts our body clock and stops the melatonin production (maybe avoid the 10 o’clock news). For a physical good night’s sleep think pillows, mattress, stretching before bed all these can all help make a difference.


A recording of this webinar is available below and the slide deck will be available on our website under Resources.


Esther O’Halloran, Chair of HR in Hospitality