It has been just under a month since the government placed strict lockdown rules on the UK in response to COVID-19. And we know that for many of you, business is far from usual.
If your business has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, we expect that you have come across some difficult decision making in recent weeks. We have talked many of our clients through the Job Retention Scheme, explained the process of furlough and discussed other options for workforce changes as a result of coronavirus. From these conversations we know that many of you are asking “what happens next?”.
It’s still somewhat of a guessing game as to when the lockdown will be lifted and normal life can resume. And we know that for some SMEs, the impact of coronavirus is going to have long lasting effects. Every business is going to need specific advice with long- and short-term strategies for HR, which we are happy to provide.
But for now, we wanted to offer some insight to help you and your team make it through this challenging phase, whilst also preparing you for the next one.
What needs your focus right now?
Whether your team are working from home, furloughed or working reduced hours, they are likely to be dispersed and navigating some major changes to their work routine and daily life. The constant media cycle of coronavirus coverage can affect morale and lead to anxiety. It’s important to take action and regain control of the narrative within your business.
Leadership, creativity and understanding are more important now than ever before. They will all help you to emerge strong from the lockdown.
Confident and competent leadership is critical during times of crisis. It can often be the difference between make or break for a team. Are your managers informed and equipped to lead others through this difficult time? Are they capable of dealing with the day-to-day so that you can focus on bigger tasks that demand your attention?
Regular managers meetings can provide a platform for your senior staff to air their concerns, share their successes and find support through their peers. These meetings also provide an opportunity for you to maintain unity and ensure that everyone is on the same page, communicating the same message to employees. Whether two metres apart or via a video conference call, it is vital to keep these meetings a regular fixture for those who are still working.
Lookout for signs of new leaders too. A crisis pushes people to challenge themselves and you may spot one or two employees showing new capabilities that perhaps they hadn’t demonstrated before. This is a good time to take note and have a think about some projects or training that could further nurture your future leaders.
Not every business has an obvious creative function, but there will be plenty of ways in which creative thinking has and will continue to help the people you employ. Employees may be feeling frustrated or stuck right now, which is understandable. But these feelings can also stifle productivity and negatively impact morale. So what can you do?
This is the perfect opportunity to embrace change and have your team thinking outside of the box. A different view, a change in perspective and a positive outlook are all key ingredients for new ideas and innovation.
Use this time to get to know your employees and find out how they are adjusting to their new routines. Are furloughed employees picking up new hobbies or learning new skills that could be transferable to the workplace when they return? Are those who are still working looking for new solutions to everyday problems due to a change in their circumstances?
Observe and take note of any different ways of doing things that you come across. You may find that one creative spark inspires another.
It’s highly likely that some of your employees are going to be full of questions concerning their jobs. You may not have all the answers immediately, but it’s important to keep communication flowing and display a level of understanding.
Encouraging and safeguarding the positive mental and physical health of employees is crucial and will require extra care and attention during these challenging times.
Employees may also be missing their co-workers; some could be in quarantine alone or managing difficult family dynamics. It would be wise to acknowledge that nothing is normal at the moment and remind employees of the support that is available to them. Whether that’s an Employee Assistance Programme or a charity helpline, keeping that human connection open can really make a difference.
Whilst the above key areas of focus should help to keep your team motivated during lockdown, we know that many of you are thinking about what your next step should be. And although we don’t yet know when certain restrictions are going to be lifted, it’s never too early to start planning for the future.
Time is the one thing we all used to complain we never had enough of. Use the time now to stay in touch with your networks, local communities and suppliers.
Think about your business forecasting now, produce ‘what if’ scenarios to prepare you for multiple outcomes and think about who you will need in place for each one. It can be a time consuming task to undertake so don’t forget, we are here to help.