It’s clear as the country begins to ease COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and life begins to take on some semblance of what it was before the pandemic began, whatever the ‘new normal’ looks like, it will be in place for quite some time. Dependent on a workplace’s operating situation throughout lockdown and after, of course, arrangements for employees will vary hugely. But there are some things all employers should bear in mind when re-absorbing furloughed staff and making their best efforts to resume business-as-usual – and here’s my top pieces of advice.
Communicate everything in advance
It’s been months since life has been ‘normal’ and for many, the journey back to normality will be daunting. It’s imperative that employers keep their communication channels open, honest and in advance as possible. If you’re changing working practices to involve different hours or timetables, new duties, new products or a re-introduction to office space, ensure the whole workforce have a clear overview of it in advance. Setting out a timeline for the resumption of ‘usual’ service in advance can aid planning and employee peace of mind, as well as promoting staff engagement.
There will undoubtedly be individual staff members who are resistant to change or who are more cautious or anxious than others. Whilst in normal circumstances it may seem as though people are being difficult or unnecessarily stubborn, keep in mind – this is anything but normal, even as things begin to restore in order. It is impossible for employers and managers to know exactly how the pandemic has affected the mental (and physical) health of every staff member and their loved ones, so stay mindful toward individual circumstances and perhaps take a gentler and more flexible HR approach than you may usually.
If stuff has worked for you – stick with it!
Whilst lots has been tough to work with through lockdown, many employers have been forced to pivot and adapt to new ways of working – and some of them have proved positive. If your business has been lucky enough to benefit from a new working practice, stick with it. Take the lesson learned and do whatever works best for your company. (If this involves something that may be out-of-contract for your staff, speak to an HR specialist for advice.)
Keep abreast of company support decisions
The government furlough scheme is winding down, and as the Treasury looks at ways to reinvigorate the economy, the support available for businesses will change. It’s important that employers stay on top of all developments relevant to them, in order to optimise any support their company is entitled to as well as to offer the correct level of support for their workforce.
If you’re unsure of how best to stay aware of and fully understand government decisions regarding operations, finances and support packages, speak to an HR advisor and keep in touch regularly for updates!