What the Government’s Plan Means Work Wise

Last week it was announced Ireland has moved from a short-term emergency response approach to a medium-term approach to managing risk. 

  • Level 1 is work from home and attend work for specific business requirements and on a staggered attendance basis.
  • Level 2 is work from home if possible. If you can work from home, you are advised to only attend work for essential on-site meetings, inductions and training. 
  • Level 3 is work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person.
  • Level 4 is only essential or other designated workers should go to work.
  • Level 5 is work from home unless it is for working in health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home.

We now know that remote working will remain an intrinsic part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and employers have to support the occupational health needs of their workforce. As part of our Well at Work series, Professor John Gallagher, Chief Medical Officer and Founder of Cognate Health, has compiled his top tips for managing a remote workforce. 


Social isolation is one of the biggest hidden health risks of this pandemic. We are seeing more and more workers  struggling with loneliness. There are a lot of studies about loneliness, and most indicate that it rivals obesity and diabetes as a health risk. Keep a watch for it, and look to manage it immediately once identified.  


Employers need to listen to their staff, and build scheduled communications into a working week. This can be formal or more casual check-ins, or preferably, a mixture of both. Also, look to do as many of these via video. 

In particular, I am concerned about the very high risk group — those who are unable to return to the workplace due to health reasons. These people are often being left behind, and I would advise to keep conference video calls going, to ensure no one feels isolated and left in the dark. 


It is so important that employees are set up for the longer term in safe and efficient remote working. Health and Safety Authority’s Risk Assessment Form for Individual Computer Work Station, which you can find HERE, is an excellent worksheet that can assist. 


Working times need to be agreed with staff in advance, making sure you aren’t in breach of legislation. Employers phoning or emailing at 7pm or 9pm is best avoided. Keep communications to the working day and maintain boundaries. We also advise that employees should set their own boundaries — work your working day and structure your day so that you don’t lose focus. 


If you notice someone struggling, reach out, and get advice for them. Typically this is done by referral. Early intervention on sickness absence is key in supporting employees back to work quickly and safely, ensuring the best outcome for both the worker and the employer. Working with organisations nationwide, our unique DayOne+ early intervention occupational health service offers support from the first day of absenteeism. This is made possible through our secure remote video and phone occupational health consultations. 

If you would like more information on how Cognate Health can assist your business with its occupational health needs, email Denis Weir at denis@cognatehealth.ie.

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