COVID-19 The Changing Workplace

I’ve been speaking to clients who are feeling paralysed, unsure of how best to handle this unprecedented situation.  COVID-19 is sending many businesses into survival mode. Employers are overwhelmed and concerned for the future, for the health of their employees and their business.

 

covid19

 

On Monday 23rd March, all schools across the UK were closed. The majority of parents face the challenging task of looking after children whilst earning a living.

The UK government has announced a lockdown with businesses shutting across the country. People are worried about job security and the financial implications that follow. It’s a troubling time for all.

As an Occupational Health Physician for more than four decades I have consulted with businesses of all sizes covering a wide variety of health issues. I work with businesses and employees to create an engaged, happier and more motivated workforce through a healthier workplace. Never have we faced anything like this before.

I aim to share some tips on how to navigate through this critical time. Through no fault of their own, sadly some businesses won’t make it, whilst others will make it through the storm.

I wanted to share a few topline thoughts given what we are facing today.

 

1. We are all in this together. Now is not the time to go it alone…

 

Remote working

 

At times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Many of us now need to work from home due to latest government guidelines – so what can we do as organisations to help employees?

It is vitally important to retain regular communication with your employees so that they still feel connected and part of a team. People are likely to feel isolated and lonely when working from home, which in turn may have an impact on their mental health.

There are plenty of companies that facilitate remote working such as the chat app Slack and video conferencing service Zoom. Slack is less formal, so that quick question that would normally be asked over the desk (but doesn’t warrant a meeting) can be asked quickly and informally online. Slack is a great resource for collaborating and sharing thoughts and ideas.

There are lots of platforms out there – choose one that works for you and your team so that you can stay in contact with each other and work together in an ever changing environment.

I spoke to a client yesterday who had a very productive video meeting with a potential customer when they couldn’t physically meet. This has led to them securing new business – which in turn created a real buzz around the ‘virtual’ office.

I also spoke to a client’s employee on Skype about her health issues; it was just as effective as seeing her face to face.

As a business leader, it’s important to be aware that many of your employees will be facing incredibly challenging times. Communication and collaboration will be key in making this situation feel a little brighter.

 

2. Keep up to speed with changes

 

Changes are happening fast. The government are broadcasting daily, sometimes hourly announcements.  As an employer, it is vital you and your HR team stay up to speed with latest announcements so that you can act accordingly and support your employees.

The latest information can be found on the government website here , and it explains everything from travel arrangements, working from home, sick pay and certifying work absence, and also current offers support for businesses, such as Statutory Sick Pay relief, business rates holiday and cash grants – all available for relevant businesses that are outlined within the government website.

The NHS have launched a new isolation note online service, so that you can get an isolation note if you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus. You do not need to see your GP.

The CIPD , as always, is an excellent resource for businesses and gives an employer response guide to COVID-19, alongside some valuable advice such as carrying out a risk assessment and bringing in a contingency plan in case key staff are affected by the virus.

If you are a small business or self-employed, the FSB provides a brilliant one stop resource, collating the important information you need to know, including free webinars, downloads and a list of key actions for small businesses

The information given is ever changing. Use the government website and other trusted ones as your basis to stay up to date.

 

3. Flexibility is key

 

Strengthen the values that your business holds, share them with your team and involve them in helping you enhance them. Live and grow by them.

Don’t sweat over the small stuff. Keep your eye on the bigger picture and prioritise your business objectives to reflect this challenging time.

Remember that your team may not always be available.  Your team might be checking in on relatives over 70, home schooling, or dealing with a sick family member. Be mindful of this.

Be creative to meet the varied demands of your business. Get the whole team involved to help find solutions. Test and learn.

 

4. Celebrate the small wins

 

These are uncertain times, and any good news will lift morale, however small. Group Facetime and the HouseParty app are brilliant resources that let you chat to many people all at once. Consider a quick team drink on a Friday night or a cup of tea in the morning to share positive news.

 

5. The bigger picture

 

If your business has the capacity to help others – now is the time to do so. Your community needs you more than ever. Being kind is a wonderful thing and will really help bring everyone together.

If you need help, this is the time to ask – remember, we are all in it together.

 

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Dr Doreen Miller

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