The measures ordered by the Federal Council to combat COVID-19 are a balancing act between containing the second wave of the epidemic and maintaining economic and social life. In order to counteract an escalation of the situation and at the same time avoid further restrictions, the Kaufmännischer Verband calls for consistent implementation of the operational and external protection concepts. Emphasis must also be placed on strengthening the mental health of employees.
The Kaufmännische Verband [Swiss Commercial Employees Association] can understand the intention of the Federal Council to prevent a second national lockdown if possible. The negative consequences of the first corona wave are still considerable (cf. KOF) and the socio-economic consequences of a second lockdown would be profound: renewed rise in unemployment, deterioration in working conditions, further bankruptcies, etc. Not to mention the psychological consequences of isolation for broad sections of the population and of the insecurity associated with COVID-19, which are likely to worsen during the winter months. In order to reduce the number of cases in the long term and yet avoid a second national lockdown, the Kaufmännischer Verband therefore calls for a consistent implementation of the protection concepts – in the company as well as in the home office (cf. Chang, S., Pierson, E., Koh, P. W. et al.) and actively supports employees with appropriate offers. In addition to the physical health of the employees, mental health must also be brought to the fore.
Better implementing and monitoring protection concepts
The measures ordered by the Federal Council mainly provide restrictions of recommendatory nature, but hardly any bans. The latter are mainly provided in connection with large gatherings of people, whether at events or at school. In addition, there are sometimes divergent regulations at cantonal level. “It is imperative that the measures ordered by the Federal Council and the cantons are better known, understood and consistently implemented,” says Caroline Schubiger, Head of Occupation and Advice at the Kaufmännische Verband. Although most of the measures are not new and most of them have already been tried and tested, there are still many uncertainties, particularly in the world of work, between the protection concepts ordered by the authorities and those drawn up by companies (see Corona-FAQ). It is also essential that any resulting loss of wages have to be financed. “It is not clear to the employees what actually applies and how they should act in case of doubt.”
The Kaufmännische Verband recommends that companies communicate clearly and transparently about all their protective measures and define internal contact persons who actively assist both the company in compliance with the measures as well as the employees. “It is important that employees have contact persons in the company to whom they can report their concerns and who respond to the respective fears,” explains Schubiger. “This role can be played, for example, by safety officers or occupational health management specialists. Also the route via the HR is possible, or the staff commissions or the Kaufmännische Verband as social partner”. If there are indications that protection concepts are not being implemented or adhered to correctly, the Kaufmännische Verband recommends to document deficiencies and to report them immediately. If necessary, the control mechanisms of the regional labour inspectorates should also be strengthened.
Do not neglect mental health
But clear protection concepts are not only needed in the field and in the office. Professionals in the home office as well as those who are on short-time work and have been unable to work for weeks in some cases also require adapted (if not personalised) health protection. Psychosocial risks must be given adequate consideration, especially in view of the coming winter months. “Unlike the first national lockdown, we cannot currently benefit from long summer nights. There are also restrictions on switching to outdoor activities as an alternative to fitness and culture. For this very reason, companies must also pay attention to the well-being of their employees, so that employees can develop a balance between their own resources and burdens,” Schubiger emphasises. This balance largely influences motivation and state of health.
The commercial association recommends that employees test a new daily rhythm for working in the home office and take enough time for personal activities (see guidelines for mobile working). In this way, new energy can be replenished regularly and long-term health can be strengthened. In collaboration with its partner SWICA, the Kaufmännische Verband has therefore developed concrete tips on how to deal with self-management, mindfulness and ergonomics at the workplace. These are formulated in its new guide “Health at Work”. Psychological counselling, as offered by the Kaufmännische Verband, can also be valuable in order to obtain good solutions in the fight against the winter or corona blues and to professionally deal with fears or frustrations.
Engagement in times of crisis
Both, on the political and social partnership level, as well as towards its members, the Kaufmännische Verband will continue to do its best to find good solutions during the Corona crisis. It actively supports employees, employers, and learners at the KV as well as professional and practical trainers. In its Corona-FAQ, the Kaufmännische Verband answers the most important labour law questions in connection with the corona virus: What can employees expect from their employer and their supervisor if they have to continue working on site in the company? What do they have to bear in mind in the home office or during short-time working? How can learner training also be provided remotely? The Corona-FAQ is available free of charge to members and non-members of the association. •
* The Kaufmännische Verband [Swiss Commercial Employees Association] is the largest Swiss professional organisation for office and sales staff and related professions. At national level, the Kaufmännische Verband represents the interests of 48,000 members. It is represented in all three language regions and in all parts of Switzerland and is active in 29 sections. (Wikipedia)
For more than 140 years the Kaufmännische Verband has been the centre of competence for education and training in the commercial and business environment. We advise and inform our members on questions concerning their professional careers and are committed to strengthening their employability. We also represent employees from office, sales, trade and industry in more than 40 collective labour agreements. Through our schools – primary and secondary commercial schools, the University of Applied Sciences (HWZ), the Swiss Institute of Business Administration (SIB) – we offer practical training and further education. We are the sponsor or co-sponsor of various professional and specialist examinations. More at kfmv.ch.
Further information: Kommunikation Kaufmännischer Verband Schweiz, phone +41 44 2834513, Kommunikation@kfmv.ch, Caroline Schubiger, Head of Profession and Consulting, phone +41 44 2834553, Caroline.Schubiger@kfmv.ch, Media Corner, kfmv.ch/mediacorner
(Translation Current Concerns)
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