For years companies have resisted flexible working practices and working from home and now in these unprecedented times it is what we are all doing, well those of us who can.

I have been working for myself now for a decade so I am accustomed to working from home but these times are strange for me too as ways that I would break up my day/week are no longer options at the moment, such as working from a cafe or scheduling in meetings for face to face time with clients. That being said there are measures we can take but this article will focus on what the employer can do to support staff.

Technology Is Your Friend

  • Make sure that you have ensured that all of your employees are up to speed in terms of I.T. Schedule in a phone call with your I.T. person/department, (if you have one).
  • Instead of making a phone call encourage your staff to video call. Instead of emailing encouraging them to call one another.
  • Set up WhatsApp groups, or an equivalent. Set up more than one. I would suggest keeping them for social interaction so that work channels are free for work. If 3 or 4 people in a department or team are naturally the ones who socialise and hang out in the office encourage staff to set up smaller groups to keep that normality so whole department don’t have to stay solely in the same chat group. The key here is to normalise the working day as much as possible.

Finding A Rhythm

  • People will be finding different rhythms of work you need to make the communication clear to all of your staff that if person A needs to send emails after 9pm then that does not mean everyone has to read them at that point. I have clients who live in different time zones to me so I am used to a time delay when I ask a question and they are used to the same. Remind staff of this so that animosity is not being built up and people are not feeling ignored.
  • Ensure the well-being of your staff. Be clear as to how you or your managers want to continue with supervisions. These are still important now more than ever. This is inviting your employees to ask for help. Remember there may be very different personal circumstances we are each facing at this time and pastoral care of your staff should be paramount.
  • Take some time out of your workflow for long video lunches with any new starters or people who are still relatively new to the company. Recognise that they are starting under special circumstances. Nurture that relationship.
  • If you are an organisation that ordinarily has many, if not all of your staff working remotely you may think it is fine and you have got this covered. You have not got it covered. All of you have a disrupted woking pattern and that pattern and modus operandi will impact on everyone in a very different way.

Learning To Accept

  • Accept that there will be a great deal of adjustment and distress in the short to medium term especially. This will in turn impact on productivity. If you have a healthy culture at work and faith in your hiring process and team then you need to trust them. They will move past this at different rates, but they will move past this and you can support them in the ways I have previously mentioned.
  • Many families have been thrown into having children at home. These children are not used to it, they cannot see their friends, they may be scared by world events and this will take some adjustment for those employees who have children.
  • Be open with your staff about individual needs. Make sure that you are distributing workflow as and where you can within a team depending on their personal circumstances.

Control The Flow

  • Make sure that you encourage your staff to not continually share and talk about the virus on social and work channels that are set up. If they do and if you as an employer does ONLY share from official bodies.
  • Make sure that you are completely sure of an employment policy before you start to discuss it with your staff. If they ask you simply tell them you are still learning about this yourself and waiting for clarification but let them know you are doing tis as will alleviate unnecessary distress.
  • Consider who actually needs information and when. There will be so much information flying about from channels you have no control over so limit and manage your channels well.
  • Be honest and authentic as a manger/managing director/owner et al. Nobody expects you to be an oracle at this time.
  • Promote access to external support. You may have staff with pre-existing conditions that require support but this may spark mental and physical issues in others and remember the signs are not always clear. Many people are very good at masking a need for support and it will be harder to identify those that need help when you are not together. You are not expected to be the expert. Take some time to find places to signpost people should the needs arise.

Making Use Of This Time

  • As individuals and businesses we all have areas we want to develop and improve upon – if we had the time. Your business may have slowed so use this to your advantage look at those areas of development and changes in direction.
  • Take this as a warning that the world is ever changing. Many roles and responsibilities that exist today would have sounded like science fiction 10 years ago. Confer with staff or the management team/board to discuss what ways you can future proof your company.
  • Are there branding issues? Have you always wanted to look at the website? Did you want to plan an expansion? Once you start to think of things the list will be huge and you can delegate tasks to members of staff who have a quieter workflow due to the effects of the virus.
  • Encourage personal development for your staff. What training could they implement. Look to the future do you want to have a life coach visit your team after this? Do you want to have a course in mental health first aid for staff?

IN THE AFTERMATH

This is a huge global event and we do not fully comprehend the long term impact this will have on industry, the economy, the psyche of us as a human race. You cannot prepare for every eventuality but you can tool up and be prepared to be flexible when change comes.

You can have positive take a ways from this. You will have learned so much more about one another working in these conditions, you can come out of this stronger. This may have opened your eyes to the idea of flexible working that will enable many families to save money and still complete their role. You may also look at ways to reduce office space and costs. You could look at your cabon footprint by reducing travel wherever you can as a company and also for commuting.

Find something in your budget to have a party. Twenty years ago, and further back than that companies spent more on social events. Then everything had to have a clear fiscal gain. You will need to bring everyone back together. Having regular social events means that staff become friends and we are less likely to let friends down, we go to the mattresses for our friends. Hold events where staff bring their families along too. Create that community and it will have a positive impact on your productivity and company culture.