We’re many months into the coronavirus pandemic and a return to office life as we knew it still seems a long way off, if it comes at all. When settling in for the long-term “new normal”, there’s a question every employer needs to be asking their staff: “are you sitting comfortably?” Employees can begin by asking themselves the same question and taking a look at their home working set-up.

Incorrect equipment and bad posture can lead to musculoskeletal issues and, in the short-term, aches and pains. As working from home looks less like a short-term adjustment and more like a reality of working life, employees need to take this into account and let their employer know if they need support. We can show you how.

DSE, Equipment and Posture

Not everyone will have access to a separate home office. But it can help to have a dedicated “working space” – even if it’s a corner of a room that is not used for anything else. This makes it easier to set up display screen equipment in the right way.

Correctly set up DSE will have a huge effect on a worker’s physical health and wellbeing. Crouching over a laptop might not do too much damage immediately (aside from some neck ache, perhaps!) but over weeks, it can add up to a serious issue. It can also make existing conditions worse.

You need to make sure you’re sitting in the right position. Make sure your back is straight, your arms are supported and your feet are touching the ground. Regularly check this so you’re not falling into a slouching position or sitting in exactly the same position for hours at a time.

Stretch and Move

It can be easy to get engrossed in work and suddenly realise several hours have passed without getting up and moving! Set up a timer if needed and make sure you get up and about at least every hour – even if it’s just to pop downstairs and get a drink.

Our Spinal Awareness short course explores some of the stretching exercises that you can do at your desk or in your workspace. They can help to prevent many health problems and, apart from the physical effects, it’s psychologically beneficial.

Here are some other ideas for keeping active:

  • Take a lunch time walk. It’s a great way to keep active at a regular time and breaks up the day. When working from home, it can be easy to go entire days without leaving the house; lunch time brisk walks help to counter this.
  • Have a pre-work workout. One for the morning people, perhaps! Why not use some of the time you used to use commuting on an exercise regime? You’ll certainly feel awake after that…
  • Mix up your workspace. If you’re sick of sitting in the same place, why not move to another room and work in the kitchen for a bit? This has to be balanced with the need to have properly set-up DSE – but for a brief respite, if you can, it can help to mix it up a bit.

You don’t need to do a full-blown fitness regime to keep active throughout the day. Just a couple of minor breaks and a lunch-time walk can make a world of difference to your physical and mental wellbeing.

Our physical wellbeing at work is in the spotlight like never before. We are still in the midst of one of the biggest shifts in working culture in living memory, with the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath set to change everything from the amount we work from home to the layouts of our offices.

With workplace health and safety in the headlines, in July the HSE released its annual report into workplace fatality figures. (They don’t include deaths directly resulting from COVID-19.) The good news is that they are lower than before – 111 in 2019/20, a drop from 147 the previous year. This might be due to the break in many physical jobs the pandemic caused and the rise of homeworking for many, but though every workplace death is a tragedy, a fall is a good sign no matter what the cause. The long-term trend shows a steady decline in deaths.

Delving deeper into the figures, they tell an interesting story about the risks across industries – and how workplace health and safety still has a way to go before we get the fatality figures down to zero.

Construction and Other High-Risk Industries

The HSE website includes a breakdown by industry of the workplace fatalities. This shows construction had twice the amount of workplace deaths as the next highest industry, agriculture.

In many ways, the industries most likely to suffer tragedies like workplace deaths are no surprise: they are often more physical in their day to day work and involve work in difficult conditions, such as on buildings in need of repair or using machinery. There are more opportunities in these lines of work to fall victim to the most common causes of workplace deaths: falls from height, being struck by a moving vehicle and being struck by a moving object. This underlines the need for robust risk assessments and safety measures in place to protect all workers and members of the public.

New Challenges

Recently it’s been almost impossible to avoid the phrase “the new normal”. Used to describe everything from new workplace layouts to socialising over Zoom, the phrase covers both the challenges and opportunities ahead. Unfortunately, nobody can agree exactly what “the new normal” will mean at this point.

Health and safety will need to stay front-and-centre of companies’ minds for the foreseeable future. Training will be even more important for all employees, including those working from home, and engaging employees in this learning will be vital.

The challenge facing employers in the future, especially in high-risk industries, is how to protect people from COVID-19 whilst not neglecting their traditional health and safety arrangements. All previous protections and control measures must be in place, even if they have to be adapted to meet the new guidelines.

It remains to be seen how COVID-19 and the associated changes to workplaces will affect the workplace fatality figures in the years to come. With appropriate training and keeping the focus on all aspects of workers’ health and safety, employers can play their part in bringing that figure lower and lower.

If you’ve returned to your workplace or are planning to soon, no doubt health and safety has been at the forefront of your mind. But there’s one aspect you might not have considered yet: your water systems.

Water systems and air conditioners might have been sitting unused since March. Unfortunately, this can make them a key breeding ground for Legionella bacteria. The HSE have released a set of guidelines on handling the issue – but how does it relate to workplaces?

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a type of bacteria that can spread in water and heating systems. There are many different types of Legionella bacteria. Some of the most dangerous cause potentially fatal diseases such as Legionnaires’ disease.

Legionella can appear in either man-made or natural water systems. It is most at risk of appearing and multiplying where the water is stagnant and the temperature provides the perfect breeding ground for it. Thankfully, in most workplaces, the temperature and flow of water can be controlled to minimise the risk of Legionella and its associated health risks.

Air Conditioners

Many of us will be returning to our workplaces, either full or part-time, when there is still a chance of hot weather. For people who have been living through the mini-heatwaves while working from home, a return to an air-conditioned environment might be welcome!

Lots of air conditioning systems will be entirely safe. The HSE guidance provides more information on which systems are at risk and which will require a thorough cleaning before being used again.

Checking Water Systems

Water systems should be checked for Legionella risk and flushed and cleaned if necessary. This includes hot and cold water systems, cooling towers and commercial spas. If they have been used less often during the coronavirus crisis (or not used at all), it is likely they need to be cleaned and checked.

Make sure this work is carried out by someone competent to do so, wearing the correct PPE. If the coronavirus crisis makes it hard to get a competent person to complete this work, it could be safer to not use the water systems – it is better not to take the risk.

One of the most common ways of protecting water systems from Legionella and other bacteria is temperature control.

Training on Legionella and Water Safety

We offer two courses on Legionella:

Legionella and Water Safety provides an overview of the risks of Legionella.

Advanced Legionella covers the subject in more depth and builds on the knowledge gained in the first course.

The workforce is split like never before. While thousands continue to work from home, perhaps indefinitely, others are finding their workplace closed entirely. Some, however, are planning to get back to something resembling normality – at least for some of the time. With lockdown easing throughout the country, it’s likely more people will be returning to their place of work within the next few months.

The focus will overwhelmingly be on getting work spaces COVID-secure, and rightly so. But we shouldn’t neglect general health and safety concerns either. Employers that take this opportunity to review general health and safety arrangements will be ahead of the game.

Water and Electrics

If you have been working from home since lockdown began, it’s likely your water and electrical appliances could do with a check.

Anything dangerous or complex should, of course, be checked by somebody qualified to do the work. In terms of general electrical safety, make sure everything has been tested in advance of the return to work.

Water safety is an often-forgotten focus of health and safety but neglecting it can be deadly. Water systems will have been unused for months in many cases and this creates the perfect breeding ground for Legionella bacteria.


Fire Safety

Your workplace will likely will have a different layout to comply with coronavirus safety rules. This will have an effect on fire safety as it will change the evacuation procedures.

Make sure all staff are aware of any new fire safety arrangements. This will need to be factored in alongside social distancing rules.


Preventing the Spread of Infection

Remember the first weeks back at school after the summer or the dreaded university “freshers’ flu”? When groups of people come together after a break, infections often follow and spread quickly.

Many of the steps you have taken to become COVID-secure will minimise the spread of other viruses too, but it always helps to be prepared and cautious. Make sure cleaning standards are high at all times.


Returning to work can be an anxious time, especially under unprecedented circumstances such as the aftermath of the pandemic lockdown. Employers can take one worry off their employees’ shoulders by making sure they have taken every reasonable step to protect their health and safety when they return.

Legionella is a bacterium that can cause legionnaire’s disease, among other health problems. It can multiply in water systems, especially those which are not properly maintained. It is a vital responsibility to keep people safety from the effects of Legionella exposure.

With so many slowly returning to their workplaces after the coronavirus lockdown, it is more important than ever to be knowledgeable about water safety. Many water systems will have been lying unused since March, increasing the risk of stagnant water and bacteria. Though the focus is mostly on making businesses Covid-secure, employers cannot afford to ignore this potentially fatal risk to health.

Our new Advanced Legionella online course joins our Legionella and Water Safety course to provide a thorough understanding of this key health and safety topic. It is designed for people who have completed the original course and need more information on the subject. It is especially useful for people whose job role makes them a “dutyholder” or “responsible person”, such as landlords, employers and premises managers.

See our new Advanced Legionella eLearning course here.

Our original Legionella and Water Safety course can be found here.

It’s something we’re hearing daily: businesses and employees will have to adapt to a post-coronavirus “new normal”.

It seems clear that the life we return to, if and when restrictions are lifted, will not be the world we left when lockdown began in March. It’s possible the full extent of the changes prompted by this crisis won’t be clear until years after the fact. But as governments around the world start to plan a route back to something like normality, we can see some likely themes emerging as “the new normal” takes shape.

The Death of Open Plan?

In the short-term at least, offices will need to change. Until we have an effective vaccine for Covid-19 and the threat level has reduced to zero, going back to our close-knit collaborative offices doesn’t seem to be an option.

This may spell the end of open plan office layouts. Nobody knows how long social distancing measures will need to be in place and until we know, keeping employees at a physical distance from one another is a must. This could mean staggered working times, part-time working from home where possible, and physical re-designs of the office space to make more room.

Communal areas like kitchens may need to be closed and one-way systems brought in to avoid breaking social distancing rules. Even if only some of these measures are necessary, this will be enough to make it a very different office space than we were used to.

Working From Home?

Home working was long predicted to be the future of work but progress was fairly slow. The coronavirus crisis has accelerated adoption of this model, with millions of businesses adjusting to widespread home working – but will it last?

Businesses that have adapted well to the change might find they want to make it permanent, at least for part of the time. If their business can continue to be productive without a central office hub, they might find it cheaper to do without a permanent office altogether. Likewise, employees who never got the chance to work from home before might have found it suits them better, helping their work/life balance and improving their overall happiness levels.

Between the extremes of companies going straight back to their old working model and those allowing unlimited home working, there will be many organisations who settle somewhere between the two – perhaps allowing staff to work up to 3 days a week at home, for example, but asking them to return to the office for key (albeit socially distanced) meetings.

Whatever happens, it appears highly likely that home working will be far more widespread than before and the days of commuting to the office for 5 days a week may well be over.

Culture Changes?

Coronavirus has had an effect on everyone in society. Within a few weeks, it changed the way we worked, socialised, enjoyed time with our loved ones and our hobbies. It seems unlikely this won’t spill over into working culture long-term.

Even when coronavirus becomes less of a threat (if this is indeed how events play out), presenteeism may be more frowned upon. Every worker is likely to have seen people struggle into work while coughing and spluttering but with the new awareness of how we can easily infect each other, this might be more strongly discouraged.

Employees that have worked from home for several months and proved it can be done may expect more flexibility from their employers. Should home working become more normal as predicted, there will be an uptick in use of videoconferencing technology. Collaborating with team members based remotely will seem more casual – even with teams on different continents!

Coronavirus has changed our working lives on many levels. Whatever “the new normal” entails, we’ll all have to adjust to a post-coronavirus world – and find a way that improves working lives for employees and employers alike.

This Mental Health Awareness Week, many of us will be giving our mental health more thought than ever before.

With COVID-19 bringing unexpected bereavement, health anxiety and worries about our physical and financial wellbeing well into the future, it can seem we’re being bombarded with stress from all angles. At the same time, many of the activities, hobbies and relationships we relied on to calm us down are no longer available due to the restrictions.

In this series of blogs we’re exploring the most common mental health issues, including something many people will be struggling with in these uncertain times: stress.

What does stress feel like?

Stress can be defined as “the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable”.

COVID-19 and the lockdown have made many people’s lives considerably more stressful. Alongside the associated health anxieties, there has been a loss of physical contact with our wider networks of loved ones who can support us. Many of us are caring for children and juggling that with full-time work. It’s natural to feel stressed at this time – but how do you know when stress is becoming a mental health issue?

Signs that stress may be getting out of control include:

  • Physical problems: If you’re getting minor illnesses such as colds more often, that can be a sign of stress wearing you down. Headaches and muscle pains may also suggest you’re under stress, especially if they’re happening more often than usual.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions: When we’re overwhelmed, it can feel impossible to function at our normal levels. If you’re anxious, struggling with motivation and finding it hard to continue your day-to-day tasks, your stress levels could be getting out of hand.
  • Coping mechanisms: Most people use coping mechanisms of one kind or another to get through the harder parts of life. These can be healthy, such as exercise or a creative hobby. They can also be destructive, like drinking to excess regularly. With many of the usual routes to de-stress taken away because of the coronavirus, many are finding it harder to handle their stress.

The NHS website has a list of the signs of stress. It can be helpful to look out for these signs in ourselves and also in our loved ones. Stress can increase gradually so it can be quite severe before we even realise there’s a problem.

What helps with stress?

Even with extreme cases of stress, there are things you can do to control it. They won’t magically make the stress disappear (and it’s important to get medical attention if you think your stress is beyond your ability to cope with it), but they might make it easier to manage.

During this pandemic, self-care can seem like a luxury with all the other demands on our time. But it is in fact a necessity: we can’t look after others if we’re burnt out ourselves. Making time for yourself should be a priority, whether that’s taking time to read, indulge in a hobby or just to relax alone.

Keeping active is always a good antidote to stress. If you’re strapped for time, even a half hour walk can be beneficial. Reaching out to loved ones virtually, while not as good as the real thing, can be a great way to de-stress and take your mind off the causes. Likewise, there has never been such a need for volunteers. If it’s physically safe to do so, there may be opportunities to drop off supplies for local people in need who are self-isolating. The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is kindness and spreading some kindness around in the form of volunteering can help our own mental health immensely.

Remember that if you’re stressed, you’re far from alone. In a 2018 study, 74% of people said they had felt so stressed they felt unable to cope in the previous year. Opening up to someone you trust can be the first step towards feeling better – and what better time than Mental Health Awareness Week?

Getting help

Please note that the information provided is for reference only and does not constitute medical advice. If you or someone you know is in crisis please visit this page for guidance.



Telephone: 116 123

Shout UK (Crisis Text Line)


Text Shout to 85258

Mind – the mental health charity


Your Mind Plan – interactive quiz with tailored suggestions from Every Mind Matters


NHS – Mental Health and Wellbeing information


The Mental Health Foundation – your mental health – information


It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and it has never felt so timely.

COVID-19 has had a huge effect on people’s mental health. There are people struggling with unexpected bereavement, worries over their own health and anxiety about the wellbeing of their loved ones. The usual coping mechanisms many relied on – spending time with friends, playing team sports or attending a place of worship – became unavailable just at the point when many needed them. Though of course physical health had to come first during a pandemic like this, mental health should not be forgotten.

In this series of blogs we’re exploring the most common mental health issues, beginning with the most widely reported mental health condition worldwide: depression.

What does depression feel like?

“I was so depressed when it rained on my holiday.” “I don’t like that film – it’s depressing.” We hear terms relating to depression every day but sadly, the inaccurate way they’re used contributes to misconceptions about what depression actually is.

There’s a huge difference between feeling temporarily “down” – which happens to everyone – and depression, which is a medical condition requiring treatment. People with depression can’t “snap out of it” or think themselves better. Their condition is the result of a complex mixture of circumstances and genetics, though even the most severe cases can be treated. Depression can affect anyone of any age, gender, race or nationality.

Depression can manifest in different ways for each person but some common symptoms are:

  • Loss of interest in fun things: Activities that used to bring you pleasure or give you a sense of achievement no longer seem worthwhile. This can lead to guilt, which feeds the depression further. If you’re no longer getting any joy out of hobbies you used to love, this could be a sign of depression.
  • Feeling low, sad or anxious: When most of us think of depression, the first sign we think of is of a persistent low mood. However, this is not always visible to others, as people who seem outwardly very cheerful can be masking their real feelings.
  • Withdrawal: Avoiding friends and family can be a key signal of depression, especially if it’s out of character. Likewise, sleeping or eating significantly more or less than usual can be a warning sign. Unfortunately, this can add to the vicious cycle of depression, since self-care and good nutrition are great ways to combat depression.

A comprehensive list of depression symptoms can be found on the NHS website. Though we should avoid self-diagnosing or putting a label on our loved ones due to their behaviour, these can be signs that someone’s mental health is suffering. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, the weeks of isolation may well have caused some to develop depression or for their existing depression to get worse, so we need to look out for each other’s mental health.

If you ever find yourself having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, seek medical help immediately. A list of crisis services can be found here.

About depression

If you have depression, you’re not alone. In fact, it is the predominant mental health problem worldwide. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.

Some people only suffer a single bout of depression, perhaps brought about by bereavement or another difficult event. For others, it can reoccur multiple times over their life, sometimes for no clear reason. It’s important to remember depression is a treatable condition and full recovery is possible.

With the enforced solitary lifestyle of COVID-19 and its lockdown, some people may be experiencing a worsening of their symptoms. Conversely, others may be finding the slower pace of life, homeworking or increased time with immediate family has helped their condition. We’re all individuals and depression affects people in different ways.

This year, the topic of Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness. With the impact of the virus and lockdown on mental health still to be fully understood, we can all practice kindness by reaching out (virtually) to loved ones and making sure we watch out for each other’s mental health.

Getting help

Please note that the information provided is for reference only and does not constitute medical advice. If you or someone you know is in crisis please visit this page for guidance.



Telephone: 116 123

Shout UK (Crisis Text Line)


Text Shout to 85258

Mind – the mental health charity


Your Mind Plan – interactive quiz with tailored suggestions from Every Mind Matters


NHS – Mental Health and Wellbeing information


The Mental Health Foundation – your mental health – information