What will your post-covid teams look like? How are you going to keep them engaged if you are managing a split office/home workplace longer term? We aim to help you answer these questions, give you some great advice on best practices, useful links to research articles and helpful websites to share with your people. So, please read on….I’m sure we need all the help we can get during this crazy time!
With some lockdown restrictions predicted to stay in place well into 2021, organisations are faced with a sudden cultural shift in the way they work. Royal Bank of Scotland’s recent decision to allow 50,000 staff to work from home, recommending employees work from home into early 2021, demonstrates we are experiencing a real change in the world of work. Company culture is focussing more on people, society and environmental impact.
To return or not? – That is the (work) question!
The PM Coronavirus update on 17th July, stated: Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.
Working from home doesn’t suit everyone. Levels of anxiety in the population have fallen since the initial March peak. As lockdown eases and the economic effects begin to be felt, anxiety has started to rise again, climbing to 33% by 5 July (source ONS). Employees in shared accommodation may be gagging to get back to the office while others who are lucky enough to have a spare room or home office with a garden, maybe not so much.
If you are considering a phased approach to returning to the workplace, how flexible are you going to be? A recent survey by Goodman Masson found 41% of organisations in the industry & commerce sector are anticipating people will be working an average of 3 days per week from home post COVID-19 lockdown measures.
Managing Communications to alleviate fear and uncertainty
If you are managing (or will be managing) a split office/home workplace; frequent, open communication with your staff has never been so vital to survival. One of the simplest ways to minimise fear and worries in what is a very uncertain situation, is for the CEO to work with HR to establish or improve effective two-way communication channels. This will give employees a safe route to speak up and air their concerns, in a supportive manner. It is also really good practice for organisations to continuously and consistently emphasise the importance of speaking up to ensure safety in the workplace and good organisational health.
To bed this in, the CEO’s and HR’s role will be to explain what is happening and reassure employees that managers will listen and engage. Below are the key areas where the focus should be:
There are psychological advantages and disadvantages to working from home. While there’s no doubt that home working reduces the stress of commuting and improves work-life balance. It’s also fair to say that people can feel isolated even with the boon of online communication. This isolation might discourage employees from raising concerns.
There a lots of ways to counter this problem, with technology again coming to the rescue. Online employee surveys are a quick and effective way of taking the temperature of staff motivation and wellbeing. These will help you understand in real-time how to support your workforce and identify areas of concern.
Mental health has also become a big issue, whether staff are on furlough, working from home or back in the office. ACAS’ guidance on mental health during Covid 19 is a great starting point.
If you have staff on furlough, they probably need extra attention in terms of their mental health. The City Mental Health Alliance reports that people on furlough might have extra concerns about job security, their value to the company and their sense of purpose. With all those worries, it’s no wonder that their mental health is impacted. However, this can be supported via:
- regular promotion of the company’s employee assistance programme (if you have one)
- clear signposting to mental health charities (MIND’s website in particular has a wide variety of resources on its website)
- user-friendly technology that allows employees to contact each other and to raise concerns anonymously (check out our free ebooks on setting up safe routes for employees to speak up).
Companies need to be mindful of their health and safety obligations to home workers, and to be briefing staff properly on any transitions back to the business premises. It has never been more crucial for corporate communications to be a two-way process; discussion boards are a great way to facilitate feedback from staff on company proposals on home and office working.
That point on transitioning back to ‘normal’ is vital. The media has been full of reports of people who are simply scared to go back to work after months of dramatic health and crises messaging. The GMB union published results of a survey, conducted in May 2020, revealing that 60% of workers were worried about being pressurised to return to work and that almost 95% were worried about catching coronavirus.
For managing a split office/home workplace or implementing a full return to the office working plan, the key is: Ask, Listen, Ask, Listen and Repeat as often as is necessary to give employees the confidence to come with you. Make sure that your communications are flexible and responsive by giving people the chance to respond through surveys, Q&A portals and discussion boards.
Keep things positive. Giving employees an online platform that they can use from any device will let your workforce know that you are there for them 24/7 – no matter where they are.
Employee recruitment (or the show must go on)
The pandemic might have slowed down the need to recruit new employees, but it certainly hasn’t gone away. Companies have adapted by organising virtual interviews or creating appropriate spaces within workplaces to allow recruitment and induction exercises to go ahead.
Obviously, the more that you can do online during these processes, the better. Now is a good opportunity to utilise your online platforms to introduce new recruits to company information. Show them all of the ways that they can keep in touch with colleagues and their managers. In fact, demonstrating your overall employee communications platform as soon as someone onboards is the ideal way of embedding your company culture and your commitment to listening and responding to your employees.
WorkInConfidence offers a suite of facilities on its digital communications platform that are designed to give employees an easy route to have their say. During times of uncertainty, it’s even more important that companies can offer reassurance and comfort – and keeping the workforce connected and engaged can achieve that. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you to support employees during Covid 19 and beyond.