HR & Business Expert and SuperWellness Board Adviser Esther O’Halloran shares her thoughts and ideas for HR and Business leaders to tackle the days ahead.

So what can you do?

“According to the most relevant Gallup survey: The world’s 7 billion citizens demand that leadership and institutions lead our nations and the world with (1) compassion, (2) stability, (3) trust, and (4) hope and inspiration for the future, according to our biggest global study of what followers want.”

Everyone from your employees to contractors including you are worried and finding things to do to keep the work flowing and mental alertness going is a challenge for all of us. We know that anxiety over health and uncertainty over the economy are the  biggest challenges for businesses with concerns over this virus.

Working from Home

working from homeSounds great at first but then, the reality sinks in that we need people around us to bounce ideas off and share concerns. Technology can be a great help here for the ‘human connection’ so people can stay connected and keep in touch with clients, teams and each other. We already know that working from home can make people feel isolated so the use of ‘virtual water coolers’ can help teams stay connected.

  • Arrange regular virtual team break out meetings over coffee, set an agreed time for everyone to log in using; Skype, Zoom, Teams or similar (all are easy to download) use this to get people to chat socially as though they are in a breakout area in work.
  • Arrange daily check ins with line managers and their teams so people feel you are listening to them and are supported.
  • On-line creative sessions could be arranged, some organisations have got virtual groups together doing craft work; knitting, sewing, painting, sharing gardening tips. Yes this is not work related but a good way for groups to stay connected.
  • Change the working hours you normally expect your teams to follow (no longer 9-5) allowing more varied hours around childcare while schools are closed.
  • Set up online training so everyone is more comfortable using technology at home.
  • If you have a home working policy, recirculate this, not all employees will habitually work this way and so a refresher of the policy will be useful. Also consider ‘stress testing’ your IT systems to make sure they can withstand the increased levels of use.
  • Don’t forget some of the legal bits. GDPR obligations do not disappear neither does H&S towards your staff make sure your insurance covers home working. 

Anxiety

Coronavirus anxietyThese are very difficult times and many leaders are unsure of how to deal with the unprecedented scale of anxiousness from our teams. A lot of anxiety stems from the unknown and asking ‘what if’ so sharing actionable steps on how to protect themselves may help rationalise the issue to some degree.

  • Acknowledge that people will be feeling anxious and it is okay to feel this way, reassure them they are not making a fuss over nothing.
  • Job insecurity and wages will be playing on people’s mind so clear communication of what you are able to pay and for how long, even if it is bad news provides clarity for people.
  • Mental Health first aiders – are you making the most of the skills that some of your teams have?
  • If you only normally pay SSP you could consider enhancing this slightly with a flat top up amount that you can afford per week?
  • Try not to overwhelm employees with daily updates (they will no doubt be following the news) but do get the balance right of keeping them in the loop of what you are doing.
  • If you have employees not working from home check you have the right supplies in place for basic hygiene in your work premises.
  • Use reassuring language like ‘people being treated for…’ instead of ‘case’ and ‘victims’ which reinforce negative connotations and can make employees more stressed.

Up Skill & transfer

Maybe 2020 will be a year where businesses form new alliances and partnerships to use ‘human capital’ more effectively. We will all need to adapt and build on this together.

  • If you have people with maintenance, driving, catering or hospitality skills could they be redeployed into care homes or healthcare businesses locally to you?
  • The reality is, all if not most roles will change in some way in the short-term. It’s important to start to address this now and agree these changes with your employees, helping them clearly understand their new role and their new expectations.
  • Enable more people to volunteer in the community or for the NHS if they wish.

Keeping people motivated

  • Continue to live your values. Your company values are what you’ve determined will help your employees and business succeed. So even in challenging times, it’s important to make sure that they remain prominent in how decisions are made and the behaviours that are expected in your leaders and your workforce.
  • Continue with recognition even in challenging times. Recognition needs to continue as both your employees and business need it. It doesn’t have to cost anything, so don’t feel that since you may have to pinch the pennies you no longer can recognise one another. Remember, a simple thank you costs absolutely nothing!

Some good news though (light at the end of the tunnel)

  • Gender pay reporting requirement suspended this year.
  • IR35 in the private sector delayed for one year to April 2021.
  • We will have time to rebuild and decide on what is most important for all of us.