Whilst the whole country is adjusting to the unprecedented expectations placed on each of us in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic, it is a critical time for each employer to step back and examine how they can support employees as every single organisation finds itself in unchartered waters.
How employers treat their employees over this period will shape their enduring relationship. We outline how you can support your people through this turbulent time.
Batten down the hatches
It costs far more to replace an employee than it does to retain them. Taking steps now to protect jobs where possible and uphold the safety of employees in their working environment will define an employer in the eyes of their employees. Are you listening to government advice? How are you facilitating working from home arrangements to the best of your ability? If pay budgets look strained, how can you access the right support you need to financially support employees? Looking after staff now will ensure that they do not jump ship at the first opportunity when the crisis passes.
Don’t rush to redundancies
Careful consideration will be required to ascertain what the conditions are for businesses accessing relief through the government grants and support measures available. With the government’s bailout package worth £350bn to help businesses cope with the lockdown, short-term reactionary redundancies may not be strictly necessary. When business does ramp back up again, you risk losing this talent for good because of their experience in working for you during the most volatile period.
Support at the outset
Employers must ensure that they are supporting employees’ financial and mental health during one of the strictest curbs to civil liberties in the UK’s history. It is easy to forget in the midst of the uncertainty faced by the business about the individuals that the employer has a duty of care towards.
Remote working has ramped up over the last five years so that more organisations are readily set up for working from home. But for a significant proportion, a strict message to work from home raises a lot of logistical questions when it comes to managing remote workers, providing health and safety support for their working environment and enabling seamless access to IT systems and infrastructure.
No defined end date
New measures are being unveiled daily to alleviate the anticipated pressure on the NHS and reduce the total number affected by the virus at any one time, with a three-week review scheduled. This is by no means a guarantee that the lockdown will be lifted at this stage, so it is important to bear in mind throughout this period that reduced social interaction can take its toll. Employers must put measures in place to overcome this where they can. Video conferencing is already being used extensively to facilitate connections that are currently banned physically. With no definitive date for life to resume as it has been, wellbeing has never been more important.
Holistic evaluation of wellbeing
Employers understand that wellbeing is not just physical health – mental and financial wellbeing are equally crucial to an employee’s happiness and satisfaction. During the last recession, financial wellbeing discussions were popular. We recommend employers facilitating these again. Equally, for those designated as ‘furloughed’ workers in order for companies to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, open lines of communication and in-built reviews about this decision will be required to allay anxiety around this new worker status.
HR will also set the tone for keeping calm and carrying on when it comes to supporting all employees, including giving managers reassurance that business performance can be maintained with employees working from home. Extra support will be required for managers who are more set in their ways and adverse to employees having the option to work from home. HR can help them to understand how to support their teams in still getting their work done.
Enlist support to ease a full agenda
With the focus on equipping managers and each employee with the tools required to make a potentially stressful period of self-isolation combined with working from home as seamless as possible, HR have never been busier in engaging remote workforces. Whilst some employers look to suspend some projects/expenditure, outsourcing work to a trusted partner is one way to keep things moving forward when it comes to HR strategy and planning. This will ensure that when restrictions are lifted and markets do recover, you are in a strong position to move forward.
Get in touch if you would like to know more about our Reward Retainer services to help you manage your workforce in this turbulent time.