05 May Work life, but not as we know it! The post-pandemic business landscape
Right now, the priority has to be fighting Covid-19 and business survival during these uncertain times. The virus has already, in a matter of just a few weeks, completely changed our world.
One thing is clear: even once we’re through this crisis, we can’t go back to business as usual.
The pandemic has forced us all to question pretty much every part of our day-to-day lives. It’s forced us to think about and realise what really matters to us and to the world we live in. It’s made us question our long-standing habits, routines and values, in both our personal and working lives. And now it’s making us consider what preparations we need to make for the coming unavoidable recession, and the impact it will have on businesses, jobs and the workplace as we once knew it.
So, let’s fast forward 12 months and see what our future selves might be telling us (or shouting at us!) post-corona.
Returning to work safely
We are all tempted to run/walk/drive/scoot/skip into work as soon as Boris tells us we can, Brenda will put the kettle on, Karen will bring the biscuits and we can all have a proper face to face chinwag at our nice comfortable desks. As much as I (and most of us) wish a switch could be flicked and we’d be back to the comfort of the workplace, in reality, a slow transition to a very new way of working will be required. Whilst the hope is that, at least for some key industries, the government will give some clear guidance to follow, being proactive and starting to allay any employee fears with a clear and considered recovery plan would be wise.
This is likely to include a phased or staggered return to work starting with key business roles, and a redesign of the work environment to facilitate social distancing measures. Which may include staggering entrances, breaks, meetings and departures, as well as implementing restrictions in different parts of the work environment, such as car parks, corridors, bathrooms, reception areas and any other communal areas. We do not know yet whether face masks will become mandatory but ensuring you have access to enough PPE, including antibacterial handwash and hand sanitiser in order to protect staff, is a must.
Do your employees share equipment for example phones, equipment or desks? If so, you may need to invest in extra equipment to stop the need for sharing.
Redundancies, reduction of hours, holidays and unpaid leave…
Let’s face it when things are a little more normal, there is still going to be a recovery period for every business and that means you may need to look at your staffing model and see who is really bringing in the bacon and who you can no longer afford. It may be a little difficult, as forecasting at the moment is pretty uncertain, but now is the time to look at best, worst and medium case scenarios and ready yourself for the potential onslaught. In terms of redundancies please bear in mind that there is a minimum of 30 day consultation period if making between 20 and 99 employees redundant and 45 days for 100 staff or more, within any 90-day period at a single establishment.
Increased requests for working from home/flexible working
For anyone that has facilitated working from home for their staff during the pandemic, this is likely to be an ongoing request to deal with in the coming months. Just because your staff have worked from home during this emergency situation does not mean that they can do so in the future whenever they like. However, there may be people in roles who legitimately can show they would rather remain home-working, at least for a part of their week, if not all, and can evidence their productivity in doing so.
There is still the issue of managing remote workers effectively, particularly versus office workers, and ensuring productivity and being fair to all. Also, just because people can work from home and be productive, we all know as humans we thrive from interactions with other humans and having a central workplace together. Sharing ideas and communicating face to face is ideal for satisfying these needs, keeping a healthy workforce and promoting team working and idea generation.
Do you have a working from home policy? If not, this could be a great time to create one.
Do you need that big costly office if half your staff are now working from home? Maybe you need to think now about your office arrangements/lease and what this could mean for your business post-corona. If you need less space but need to operate in a social distant way, how could this be achieved with a cost-saving. Just because you may not have one central office hub does not mean you cannot facilitate co-working in other ways. And let’s face it, if it comes down to losing a work space of losing staff, which would you rather?
With a lack of printing facilities and everyone finding work-arounds, be it email, slack, whatsapp or even good old carrier pigeon. We will have to question, why would we go back to the old ways? Less paper, equals less cost, and a greener environment, but may also increase productivity, no more standing around the printer chatting 5 times a day.
Less face to face meetings
Again, we have now coped for weeks and months without face to face meetings so maybe we could cut down on face to face time and do more teams/zoom/skype meetings. Not only could this save on travel costs but also all the extra faff-time that goes along with it. This is also a consideration in protecting employees and clients and adhering to social distancing. You may want to look at which meetings or which clients you consider essential to meet face to face and those who you do not. Communicating this widely to staff and clients/suppliers will go a long way to making people feel safe and ensuring no ambiguity and people inadvertently putting themselves at risk.
Training and support
Some staff members have been furloughed for 2 or 3 months straight. There is likely to be trepidation, after this amount of time away from work about returning, remembering things and performing at a good standard. Allaying fears and providing accessible training and support for these staff from the outset will only serve you in the future as every gets back on their feet. Particularly if you furloughed anyone who had low service and/or was still in their probationary period, they left the workplace whilst still in a learning phase which makes it double difficult to ‘bounce’ back.
Something as simple as calling the first week back ‘refresher week’ and coordinating some, socially distant, group training sessions could be the difference between your business flourishing or nosediving.
As we know, with lockdown, there are some people who refuse to follow the rules. If you have staff members who are ignoring the measures you put in place and therefore putting themselves and others at potential risk, it would be more than reasonable to follow the disciplinary procedure and apply any sanctions in order to ensure all staff are on board.
Future-proofing your place of work
If nothing else, the crisis has shown us that huge, seemingly unimaginable events are possible (and they are likely to happen again, just in different forms, for example cyber-attacks and environmental disasters). Getting contingency plans in place and considering how you can futureproof your business will be time very well spent and set you in good stead should we come up against another rocky road.
Whilst this is all food for thought, if you have any questions or need support putting any of this into practice, give us a call or a message and we’d be happy to support you through your recovery period. Call the friendly, experienced HR consultants at Streetwise HR today on 0844 682 7488.