Supporting employees through the next lockdown

22 Jan 2021

Many employers and employees are now equipped and mentally prepared for a different way of working and an element of the “emergency” status of the pandemic has receded. However there is concern that a very abnormal working situation is now being normalised and employees who embraced enforced remote working in Spring 2020 are now being expected to continue to deploy their “coping mechanisms”  with reduced employer support.

Employers may see the positives in the impetus for workplace changes brought about by Covid-19, but the future may not look quite so bright for employees who see cost cutting and operational efficiency reviews impacting negatively on them on an individual basis. Employees accepting the need to adapt to changes necessary to deal with the pandemic and its long term impacts, does not let employers off the hook in discharging their legal duty of care obligations and best practice open and transparent communication strategies.

Most businesses have been forced to look at ways of creating operational and structural efficiencies over the last 9 months and are adapting their business model to fit the future. Established ways of working have been challenged and considered, and changes have been implemented to not only allow survival, but to bring about positive change to long term business viability. This will be tantamount to a pandemic revolution when we look back at the pace and extent of the changes made.

However employer complacency, “they coped first time round”, cannot be allowed to creep in as it will result in missing vital signs that some employees simply are not coping. 

Managing people through uncertainty and ensuring they have the psychological stamina to get through the next phase of the pandemic must be a HR priority for 2021. The ability to tailor and deliver support to employees in what are still unusual circumstances, will enable managers and HR to identify those that are vulnerable and put in place vital support at an early stage. A range of behaviours such as reduced contact, slower response times, disengagement with colleagues and not joining meetings, may be early indicators that employees need more support. These are easily missed when face to face contact and social connection is absent.

Employees working from home can often ‘burnout’ due to adopting a self imposed long hours culture,  and this is not always easy for employers to spot due to a lack of personal interaction. Managers therefore need to closely monitor work levels and check in regularly on those individuals with unusually high activity levels.

Equipping employees to work from home with IT and office equipment is the easy bit. Equipping employees to thrive, remain engaged and feel part of a team environment is the difficult bit. That is where the HR focus now needs to lie.

If you have further enquiries in relation to the above article, please contact Employment Partner, Rebecca Thornley-Gibson, or your usual employment contact at DMH Stallard.

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