As lockdown continues it is becoming evident that a new way of working is here to stay, in the medium-term at least. COVID-19 has forced large proportions of the UK workforce into their homes and businesses are striving to maintain business-as-usual in a time that is highly unusual. There is plenty of speculation that this will fundamentally change the way that we work in the long-term, but for now at least businesses need to find ways to maintain productivity while safeguarding the wellbeing of the workforce.
What was at first something of a novelty, home-working has slowly drifted into a routine which many are finding difficult. Many workers will be feeling the strain of isolation, a lack of social interaction, the pressure to balance families and work, and in many cases temporarily-reduced salaries. This is not to mention the stresses of not knowing what the future holds – there is much still unknown, and many industries are at serious risk.
With all this in mind it is absolutely vital that organisations are supporting their employees and finding ways to ensure that workers are not only productive and engaged with their work but given the support they need to maintain their overall wellbeing.
Here are three ways to maintain a productive workforce during lockdown and provide much-needed support:
First of all, employees need the technology that allows them to do their job. Laptops and work phones are the minimum requirement. As well as the hardware, your employees will need the software that allows them to communicate, collaborate and perform as a team. Now that employees have been working from home for a few months, it’s a good time to check-in and see if there are any additional requirements or areas which need support.
Training and upskilling may be necessary with the adoption of new technology. Be sure to implement this as early as possible where needed.
One of the key aspects of an employer’s responsibility to its employees is emotional support. This has perhaps never been more true than during lockdown. Employees will be dealing with a wide range of factors, both in and out of their work life, and support comes in a variety of ways:
- Allow Flexibility - Allowing employees to work at times that suit them is one of the most important ways that you can both maintain productivity and support your colleagues. Some parents with young children may not have the time during the day to invest into work and prefer to work in the evenings. Others may need to log-off at short notice to allow a spouse to attend an important meeting. Affording your employees the flexibility to work in a way that fits in with their other priorities is a basic requirement during lockdown.
- Show Understanding – Appreciating that employees will have different coping mechanisms and support structures is also important. These are stressful circumstances for all, and some will find it easier than others. It is important to strike a balance and understand that some may need more support than usual on tasks, need more space and time to perform, or even need to take a short break from work in order to decompress and look after their mental wellbeing. Being accepting and understanding of this is important.
- Social events - Not everything should be about the work. Utilise collaboration platforms such as Skype, WebEx or Zoom to hold social first events. No work talk allowed. Quizzes, coffee mornings, Friday drinks are a nice way for employees to socialise and share some time that is not focussed on work. Using a video chat platform is a great way of replicating in-person socials.
Effective communication is perhaps more important than ever.
- Provide Structure - As much as possible it is a good idea to maintain as much normality as possible. Regular scheduled meetings and catch-ups are a good way to maintain a structure in the work week and keep people connected and focussed on objectives.
- Don't leave people behind – With so much changing there is every chance that certain parts of a business will be far busier under lockdown, while others will be far quieter. It is important to both support those who are busy, but also those whose workload has shrunk. Busy teams will need extra support to handle workload. Those whose workload has reduced should be reassigned where possible – look into their skill-set and where it could be put to good use.
- Keep people informed - One of the most essential facets of keeping both morale and productivity up is to keep your employees informed as much as possible. There are so many unknowns and employees will have questions, both about the company health and strategy and about their personal circumstances. Give employees as much information as you have regarding your response, plans and how it will impact them. You can mitigate uncertainty and speculation by keeping your people in the know.
For more information or to discuss any of the issues outlined in this article, please get in touch by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0344 573 0033.
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