We’ve never seen a situation like this before. We’ve seen businesses have to lay-off employees and put them on to short-time working, but not like this. Certainly not with so much unknown and on such a scale that the government has decided to step in to pay wages.
Following the immediate rush to make decisions, implement the Coronavirus job retention scheme and furlough workers… Now what?
Keep in touch
Regardless of whether you have your whole workforce at home or just some, keeping in contact with everyone is vital. This is your team, the people who will come back together to get the business going again once restrictions end. It’s important they remain part of the team.
The equivalent from an employee’s standpoint might be the scenario of being dumped by their best friend because that friend has found a new partner, and then suddenly being picked up again when that relationship ends.
No one wants to be treated like that. This is the time to show your team you value them. Get to know them. With little to discuss relating to work topics, now is the time to ask about them personally. Find out how your team are using their furlough time, what their home situation is and the impact it has had on them. These conversations will make them feel valued and you might find they have ideas or skills that can be useful to getting your business started again. Simply knowing your team and what they are facing may be useful in how you plan to reopen your business.
We don’t know how a global pandemic or restrictions on our lives will affect us long term as no one has a crystal ball. What we do know is that when people are long term sick, their attitudes to work start changing after around 4 weeks of absence. New routines start to become the norm as work becomes less familiar. We know that keeping in touch with people during absence reduces the length of time they are off. Staying in closer contact helps them to feel comfortable about returning to work as they are reassured about their role in the team.
This COVID-19 induced period is a step up from sickness absence as we’re all forced into a massive change. Now we’ve jumped the hurdle of the immediate reactions, new normals are setting in. Some will like these new normals and some won’t. Some will be thinking about what is important to them in their life, perhaps making decisions to change their lives. Others will want to be back to a life they enjoyed. Keeping in touch with your team will keep work in their mind and keep them focused on a return to work, making it much easier for you to rebuild the team and reopen your business.
Where possible this is a time to reassure people. Let them know what you are doing to keep the business alive. If you have some people working and some furloughed, keep those furloughed involved by organising remote social events and regularly updating them on what the company is doing. It’s amazing how immersive and engaging a group Zoom call can be (other technologies are available). Tell people your plans for reopening the business. Ask their opinions and get them involved so they are ready to go once you can reopen.
This period is a huge challenge for everyone. None of us have experienced anything like it. We don’t know what is going to happen or what the future will look like. Whatever happens, for business to succeed you’re going to need your team on side. Now is the time to build and maintain those relationships. Don’t wait until you’re told you can reopen and just expect everyone to walk into the workplace as if nothing happened. Plan for reopening and have a team there to support you.
Article last updated: 22 April 2020
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