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There is no doubt that Coronavirus has fundamentally altered how people work. Many employers have swiftly embraced a wholesale transition from office to home-based working to protect and support employees and their families, while those who cannot work from home now face strict and unprecedented controls over their actions in the workplace.
A further 8.4 million other workers have been furloughed, many on reduced pay, damaging their financial security and leaving them feeling remote and isolated from colleagues who are still working.
While senior managers will be heavily focused on safeguarding the company’s future, it’s important to also recognise how much of an impact the current environment of change and uncertainty will have on employee wellbeing and to take steps to support employees during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ve pulled together our top 10 suggestions for actions you could take and information you could provide to support employees during these difficult times.
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Uncertainty breeds anxiety. Create a communications strategy to make sure you keep in touch with everyone and keep them informed of key developments in the business. Reading company communications isn’t ‘working’, so it’s OK to ask people to do that while they’re on furlough
2. Check-in on Health and Safety at home
The government has issued clear guidelines on the steps employers should take to make workplaces safe. Those who are planning to keep people at home for longer should also be looking at the home working environment and DSE set up, to make sure employees are not storing up future problems – can they raise their screens and adjust their chair, do they have a separate keyboard and mouse etc? Employers might want to explore ways to provide equipment beyond just the laptop for those whose return to the office is not imminent.
3. Provide mental health support
There are practical steps employers can take to encourage employees to look after their mental health through this difficult time, including:
- Encouraging and support employees to share ideas on how to develop an effective daily routine and work-life balance.
- Ensuring someone speaks to every employee regularly – including those on furlough, so you can spot early on if people are struggling.
- Use of video calls to maximise the value of contact.
- Reminding employees of any support schemes – e.g. company-funded Employee Assistance Programmes or external specialist sources such as Mind, Mental Health Foundation and Public Health England.
4. Use furlough time to upskill your workforce
Now might be a good time to look into e-learning platforms as a vessel to deliver training to those who are furloughed. As long as they receive at least their appropriate minimum wage, it’s acceptable to ask people to complete training courses.
5. Remind people of options for financial support
For many people, pay during furlough will be less than their full rate and this may result in genuine worries about paying the bills. Additional support is available though, and employers could draw attention to sources of help, including on mortgage holidays, statutory sick pay from day 1 (reclaimable by some employers), Universal Credit and protection for renters.
6. Don’t neglect the social side
Zoom quizzes, virtual drinks, lunchtime online chats – technology provides many ways for employers to bring people together socially and keep the informal culture going. These can also be a great way to keep those who are furloughed engaged with the company.
7. Be mindful of people’s other pressures
Many people will be juggling conflicting pressures – children suddenly at home, family illness, responsibility for supporting dependents. Employees will remember how well they were treated during this crisis – treat people with empathy and they will repay you with loyalty.
8. Acknowledge diverse needs
Different people will need different support to help them successfully transition to new ways of working without being overwhelmed. Make sure you are being inclusive; take the time to find out what support people need on an individual basis.
9. Look to the future today
If remote working and social distancing are going to be with us for the foreseeable future, now is the time to review your people processes to make sure they will be resilient in your new normal. How will you recruit, onboard, equip, integrate and train new hires? What will the journey feel like for them? Have you got the resources in place to make sure you’re ready to bring in the people and skills you’ll need when the economy picks up?
10. Protect your company’s finances
There is a range of financial schemes and support packages available to employers to help make sure they will be able to support their employees in the best possible way – ensuring there is a job in the long term. Make sure you’re getting the advice and support you need to claim any available financial support open to your company.