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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Help, my employee is AWOL!

It is way past their start time and you’ve still not seen or heard from your employee. What should you do?

For many managers, initial thoughts are likely to be of concern for the employee’s welfare and naturally, the first step is to try and contact them. But what happens if you can’t get hold of them? What if they’d previously requested this day as annual leave, had it declined, but were now off anyway? What rights do you have as an employer to manage this sort of behaviour?

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What is a duvet day and should we encourage them?

History of the duvet day 

It is said that duvet days originated in the UK in 1997. August One Communications introduced the scheme that allowed employees time off that was not pre-planned or sickness. The idea behind duvet days was to reduce the number of sick days that were taken, specifically the days when an employee is ‘pulling a sickie’.

Benefits of the duvet day 

Introducing duvet days can ensure that employees feel that they are being treated with respect. As a result they become more productive in the workplace. The scheme also allows employees to avoid lying to their employers, specifically on days where they are not in the right frame of mind to work. Promoting honesty in the workplace and not lying about being ‘sick’.

Drawbacks of the duvet day 

Idleness could be encouraged, and also a lack of responsibility for overindulgence the night before might become the norm in the workplace. If the duvet day does not offer any additional perks to retain staff, then perhaps it isn’t right for your company.

Adding duvet days to your business 

To add duvet days to your business you need to think of how you will make it work and also the steps you need to take to implement it. Below is a checklist of things you need to think about:

  1. Implementing a Duvet Day Policy – new and existing employees
  2. Number of days (majority of employers offer two per year)
  3. Time of year days can be taken
  4. Days of the week that can be taken

Duvet days vs mental health days 

In 2017 an employee was praised by her employer for taking a ‘mental health’ day. (Read about this story here)

But what is the difference between a mental health day and a duvet day? 

A duvet day in essence is a day that is taken when you are not sick but would like a day to rest and recharge yourself. Mental health days are a sick day and employers are encouraged to treat time of work because of mental health the same as days taken off for physical health problems.

While it may be easier for an employee to take a duvet day or say they have food poising to avoid having a conversation about mental health, all employees should be encouraged to talk to their employer to allow for potential reasonable adjustments.

Sickness absence management 

Having an employee call in sick is frustrating but inevitable. Employees will have sickness at some time and be unable to attend the work place. Stress as a reason for sickness is difficult to manage and it is on the increase, sick notes being extended and long-term sickness situations can be frustrating to manage. Frustration can come from feeling there is nothing that you can do about this, but there is.