With the shift in Government advice in respect of managing COVID-19 – Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives; the Occupational Therapists at Rehab Jigsaw are very aware that although the drive to return to work has begun wherever it is safe to do so, there will be many workers with underlying health conditions who have been, or will need to continue to work from home.

We have all become familiar with the implications of lockdown in daily life, but to assist workers with health conditions, we have developed the following brief advice, bearing in mind that the Health and Safety responsibilities of businesses remain with the employer, as does the duty to accommodate issues arising from the result of disability.

Occupational Therapists are very aware that each individual’s circumstances vary tremendously and we can work with businesses to risk assess and find solutions to facilitate an employee’s return to work activities.

Occupational Therapists understand the intrinsic links between the person with health needs and the occupations (or activities of daily living, including work) that matter to them. We recognise that people may be limited in their ability to fully participate in work related activities due to health issues, the need to sheild or self-isolate from COVID-19 and concerns about safe working environments. We understand the barriers to function across work tasks, the impact upon personal and domestic daily living tasks and the ability to engage in social and leisure activities.

People who are able to work from home, and perhaps have been doing for several weeks, are likely to have sedentary job demands – their work is largely completed using computers and telephones. Companies and staff have faced techical and technological challenges in making systems work – staff have faced new distracting challenges including the sharing work/home/family space, and home schooling children.

If a person working from home also has health challenges, it may be that their individual requirements can easily be accommodated in the more usual office environment, but how can we help them to work safely from home? Can their equipment from the office be used at home? Can their work space at home be set up so as not exacerbate current health difficulties?

Occupational Therapists can undertake remote ergonomic assessments to explore the issues and provide appropriate clinical advice. This may include assessing the physical use of laptops, keyboards, mouse and headset. If stress and anxiety, or other psychological symptoms are impacting upon work performance, we can provide a remote assessment and subsequenlty offer practical, clinical advice on self-management strategies, such as developing effective work/life routines and managing the impact on emotional well-being of being isolated from colleagues, friends and familes.

As Occupational Therapists, we analyse what the essential job demands are vs. the health and environmental barriers, to offer practical solutions to enable a greater independence and well-being. We are experts in helping people to engage in meaningful and purposeful occupations, including self-care, work, physical and psychological activities, to promote wellbeing and to reduce and manage symptoms of ill health.

Occupational Therapists can consider all of these issues, including how the person’s needs might change over time and within different environments, to enable effective longer-term planning.