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As the government has confirmed another three-week lockdown period, remote working is set to stay for many workers across the UK. For employers, the mass adoption of working from home due to coronavirus brings with it the key challenge of managing and engaging a remote workforce.

Whilst technology can drive connectivity and many businesses will be well prepared, 45 per cent of employers who have responded to our UK Reward Management Survey report saying that they fear that employee morale will decrease. Here are five ways to keep engagement levels high within your workforce during this uncertain time and ensure that employees feel supported.

1. Facilitate respectful and continuous dialogue

Social media has driven an important focus on the impact of a lack of mindfulness online and the effect of criticism and trolling. The #BeKind campaign shone the spotlight on the impact of harsh words aimed at people with little thought about the lasting effect. With remote workforces, this poses a key challenge for HR to ensure that employees are respectful to one another during a stressful period. Ensuring that employees are remaining courteous and polite in dealing with one another is important. Supporting line managers and making sure they remain alert to how their team is working collegiately will drive wellbeing throughout the workforce.

2. Monitor staff experiencing stressful customer interactions

Employers must ensure that employees are equipped to deal with continued customer interactions, either online or for example with face to face interactions still taking place for key services such as NHS workers, teachers and postal workers. The employer’s responsibility towards its employees and their wellbeing has a wide remit. Monitoring the exposure of employees to abuse on a daily basis is a huge undertaking that employers are starting to address.

3. Ensure reward design adequately reflects responsibility

Going beyond how they can equip employees with tools to cope with abuse, some employers ask us to factor this into their Job Evaluation Scores during the job grading process. For example, public transport involves a stressful environment of customer interactions, which should be recognised in the job score. Abuse experienced at work is hard to switch off from and should be acknowledged accordingly. Tough environmental conditions are already identified in the picking and packing industry, where working outside, weather conditions and hard labour are acknowledged by factoring in allowances and support. Differing levels of mental stress are being accommodated in the reward design strategies of organisations, reflected in pay levels themselves.

The spring edition of the UK Reward Management Survey is still open for participation - participate to receive a copy of the free survey trends report.

4. Accommodate employee challenges

 87 per cent of respondents to our UK Reward Management Survey have so far reported that they are offering employees flexible working hours during this crisis. These challenges will vary person to person, but ensuring that Line Managers are trying to accommodate the challenges faced by each individual is critical. Many employees will be working around their children and might be struggling with the lack of social interaction in lockdown. The added stress of managing technology alone, feeling disconnected from their colleagues and the potential stress of feeling they have to prove their productivity whilst out of the office can all be alleviated by ongoing communication and open dialogue with colleagues. Video conferencing can also overcome feelings of isolation and improve engagement levels during this period.

96 per cent of respondents believe that their response to COVID-19 will significantly influence employee opinion of them as an employer, demonstrating the scrutiny that organisations will face in assessing whether they did enough to support employees during this difficult time. Employers who treat this as an opportunity to embrace wider technology, work on business improvements and implement greater flexible working can prove themselves to be an agile workforce who can deliver business as usual in the most extraordinary of times.

5. Identify suitable candidates from the outset

Longer-term, psychological profiling can help employers identify the best candidates from the outset – e.g. which personalities would be best placed to be a customer complaints adviser, who are often better communicators and can calm people down. Specialist training in conflict resolution could further support current employees, particularly where complaints have increased e.g. Job Centres where Universal Credit has adversely affected people and advisers are having to deal with the fall out. This is an area that has quickly turned into a tough environment and training personalities accordingly will have a huge impact on whether an individual can thrive or just survive in certain roles.

Get in touch to promote wellbeing

The online #BeKind initiative has widespread application in making sure that people remain mindful of how they act during this pandemic. Whilst the challenges are undeniable, ensuring that employers support individuals as far as they can during this period will define them as an employer in the future.

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