How can we manage performance during a global pandemic?

Things in workplaces around the country are almost back to ‘business as usual’ – but the new normal is not the same as it was before. Now, most office-based companies have reams of staff working remotely who hadn’t been doing so previously, many have a smaller workforce than before (because of redundancies, as well as a whole host of other external factors) and lots have new working practices and procedures that are still settling in. 

During the ‘new normal’, it’s important to note that no matter how things ease, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic; which will undoubtedly have affected your staff’s home lives as well as their work. Having moved and adapted working practices to fit remote working and extenuating circumstances, now too is the time to do so with performance management – but how best can this work on an ongoing basis? Let me explain…

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Working From Home Long Term, Post-Lockdown

Lockdown has brought a whole host of surprises, changes and challenges to employers the length and breadth of the country (and the world!), but the most prevalent has been the pivot to home working. Office-based businesses and employers have, in order to maintain their workforce operating at an acceptable level, largely allowed staff to work remotely – allowing them to continue working and earning whilst also staying safe, socially distanced, and, in many cases, caring for their children who are unable to attend school.

Of course, working from home is not a new practice; and most big brands already offer facilities and options around this for employees who are able to perform their role remotely. However, there has never been an event before that has sparked such mass change in typical work practices, and so many employers and employees are facing challenges around such rapid adaptation. 

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Welcome to the ‘New Normal’ for Offices and Workplaces

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.

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How to look after your mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak

Without question, the coronavirus outbreak is having an impact on all of our daily lives, and as we all adjust to the new normal of social distancing, home schooling and the dining tables becoming boardrooms; all this change can have a significant impact upon our mental health.

At the moment, it is difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there are many things that we can do to positively support our wellbeing during these uncertain times. The things that we already know that are good for managing our mental health such as venturing outside and staying connected to friends and family, have suddenly become more difficult to do, so it’s important we seek new ways to manage our mental health.

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How do you handle employee sickness over the bank holidays?

Christmas may seem like a distant memory but as we draw closer to the long Easter weekend, a lot of employees like to take annual leave to extend this further and take time out to unwind. This shouldn’t be a problem but throw some ‘suspicious’ sickness absence into the mix and things can quickly get out of hand.

To help you be fully prepared, I have put together some handy guidance to help take the pain out of bank holiday headaches!

What happens when an employee requests holiday?

All holiday has to be approved through your established booking system, in line with your company’s holiday policy and minimum cover required. If you don’t have a policy in place, contact me and I’ll help you get one suited to your business requirements. It may be an opportunity for you to once again draw your employees attention to the authorisation process and make sure it is clear. As a responsible employer you also need to encourage your employees to take their holiday on a regular basis, to ensure they are having adequate breaks and leisure time away from the work environment. It is good practice to manage and monitor holidays that have been taken, to avoid a surge of holiday requests at the end of your company’s holiday year.

What happens when an employee calls in sick over the long weekend?

All sickness needs to be dealt with consistently. The employee has the obligation to notify you within the specified time in line with your absence procedure. The timing of their absence cannot be questioned, and whilst unfortunate you will need to source cover last minute to account for the additional person not working for you during this time. If the sickness absence day happens to be the day before the bank holiday (which they were not scheduled to work) you would record the absence for the one day, and then the bank holiday in the usual way. Meaning that the employee would get paid for the bank holiday as normal. It is illegal to withhold this payment of wages.

The important part of managing any absence is the return to work interview on the morning back to work. This helps you to gather information and discuss the absence in more detail. You should also take the opportunity to examine the employee’s absence record to see if there are any patterns or if their absence is becoming too high. This could then trigger the requirement for a further, potentially more formal conversation with them.

What to do if an employee takes the bank holiday weekend as sickness, having been refused a holiday request?

Whilst this doesn’t occur on a frequent basis, it can happen. We have a really useful letter template available for our clients to take control of this situation. If you issue this letter to the employee prior to the ‘time off’ in question, you have made it crystal clear that if they take the time off it will be unauthorised unpaid leave and could lead to disciplinary action taking place.