It is safe to presume that the coronavirus seems to have taken over what appears to be every social media platform and every news station. The impact has since begun to be felt by employers and at workplaces, with government issued guidance on 16th March advising employers to allow their employees to work from home wherever possible. As such, businesses and companies from all over the UK (and around the globe) have had to adapt to this requirement, establishing a flexible workforce from home.
Setting up a remote workforce is no easy task and is one that sometimes takes months and years for organisations to establish properly. However, due to the current crisis we are facing and, in a bid to keep organisations afloat, some employers have had to implement this almost overnight. This poses itself as situation within employment law that we have never experienced or even heard of before.
To help organisations form an efficient remote workforce, an organisation’s technology and infrastructure should be reviewed, this would enable an organisation to move and adapt to these changing times as quickly as possible. Some companies are still PC based and don’t have laptops, meaning employees must use their own initiative to work from their own devices, subject to managerial authorisation, as some laptops will require specialist software and antiviruses to ensure they are reliable and that information is sufficiently confidential and protected. Organisations are also advised to think about all tools they need to use on a day to day basis to ensure their employees workloads are completed; this could be something as simple as ensuring important documents are uploaded onto shared platforms that are accessible to all.
With regard to keeping your workforce informed and offering guidance, a senior position should make an announcement as soon possible, setting a clear and reassuring tone to the team. It’s important to understand your organisational structure and how you update your team is dependent on the organisation and the size of your respective workforce. If possible, we would advise that emails to the workforce are sent out offering guidance where appropriate or alternatively (to avoid further emails) you could ensure your organisation has an internal site that is updated daily in accordance with guidelines issued by the government. Alternatively, videos, live streaming, text message or even WhatsApp groups can be utilised in this respect.
It’s important that employers agree upon how they are set to communicate with the team, as this will set the tone for all employees working from home. Employers ought to reassure that this isn’t just about them checking up on a member of staff’s productivity levels but also just to check in and support members of staff where possible. Furthermore, employees ought to be encouraged to make the most of their lunchtimes, be it yoga in the living room or a quick jog around the neighbourhood.
The important question to ask here is, how do we keep people connected in this current world of isolation? Employees themselves may be the answer to this question, as the importance of social contact cannot be emphasised enough. As we made clear in our blog on Coronavirus and Anxiety, self-isolation doesn’t have to be isolating.
It is advised that colleagues keep in contact and in some cases even work online together, as this gives the sense that they are still in the workplace and thus can stay motivated. Visual communication is being recommended over verbal communication in a bid to combat the concerns and impacts of isolation. As important as your employee’s physical health may be, the same importance must be placed upon that of their mental health; here at Thrive we have regular FaceTime calls in our diary with the team when working remotely; this not only limits the use of email, but it also has an office like feel too.
There are several sites/programs that may be utilised in order for your organisation to communicate with one another remotely. These sites are free, easy to set up (requiring only an email) and can be implemented straight away, these include: Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Google, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and PowWowNow. If any employee is unsure how to use certain software/technology, this must be communicated to a manager or a colleague who could help them with this.
Adapting to Change
The most important tip that we could offer under these circumstances is that employers offer their employees a sense of reassurance during these incredibly stressful times. The feeling of unity is always appreciated and especially felt when you remember you are a part of an organisation that is actively maintaining a sense of inclusion and support to their workforce.
As staff are working from home, talks should be encouraged around flexible working, allowing employees to start work earlier and finish work earlier or vice versa, dependent on their schedule, subject to managerial authorisation. An employee’s new working hours should also be reflected in an employee’s signature or communicated to a manager in order to manage expectations.
We also advise that employers are mindful regarding their staff, as homeworking will affect everyone differently; some staff may be working around families from home, caring for children who are off from school or even looking after vulnerable family members.
You may ask, what does an organisation do if staff actually want to come in? Currently, this cannot be stopped and is dependent on whether offices are still open, as many people are closing offices or expecting offices to be closed by the end of this week. We would advise that HR teams are used to resolve issues on this basis, detecting changes in staff’s behaviour and monitoring people’s health whilst they are in isolation.
In short, we must be optimistic; the fact is that the changes that employers have been forced to accept now, may change the landscape of the working world in the future. Here at Thrive, we’ve always been champions of flexible working and working from home, and this crisis will hopefully nudge the UK workforce in the right direction.
Be honest, be open, be vocal.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the coronavirus, email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is regarding your workforce and any future changes it is set to face, please do get in touch!
Written by The Thrive Tribe