Staff may need additional support as they return to work during COVID-19
It’s true that great strides have been made to combat COVID-19 and as the curve has been flattened, the world is slowly opening up and trying to get back to business as usual. It’s also true that the corona virus has not gone away and for the foreseeable future we have to learn to live and work with its threat in the background.
By now, whether you are fully open or preparing to open, you will doubtless be up to date with official guidance on social distancing and other practical measures that can be taken to inhibit spread of the infection and provide a safe return to work. And, as employees come back to the premises, they will have been briefed on how to conduct themselves as they go about their employment activities. Have you, however, considered the mental and emotional impact that the pandemic has had on them? Here’s some things the WeddingDates team have been thinking about.
The current focus on health and safety will certainly allay some fears around contracting the disease, although a period of readjustment is inevitable as the team navigate their way around your company’s new routine. Regular communication and feedback will be vital in the days and weeks ahead. Government and industry guidelines are changing rapidly, and it’s really important to impart the effect of changes on your business as soon as they happen. Consider providing your staff with an individual welcome back pack containing such things as miniature hand gels, refresher towels, hand cream, door openers etc to show you appreciate their efforts.
Hands free door opener touch tool by Mariaela
Collectively your team will have felt the anxiety and stress that the pandemic has brought to the door, individually they may have borne more than their fair share.
Consider that individuals may have had a very different experience from each other. The impact of illness, bereavement, financial difficulties or domestic challenges cannot be underestimated. The hangover of stress may still be present as people travel to work on public transport, find a new way of working with colleagues and figure out new childcare arrangements. Arrange regular one to one chats with each of your team to acknowledge their situation and understand where they need support.
Two of the biggest worries for staff are holidays and sick leave. Have you communicated your expectations on these issues? They may be worried about not being paid if they are sick, especially if a partner has been laid off. If the situation arises is there a way to keep people who are isolating at home on the payroll doing project work for example? Have you clarified how you would like staff to use their holidays, considering childcare for example. Annual leave can be a worry for employers as the financial impact has been so great to the business, but weigh up the goodwill with staff against being inflexible with holidays. All of us are in need of a vacation break after this.
Keep an eye on culture in your company. Are your existing company policies inclusive to all your individuals? Some impacts felt may require the need for flexible working. Are there ways your current policies could be modified to accommodate this? Some people may need more support than others. Look out for tension within the team caused by perceived inequities, or one person’s stress levels. Keep communication open and deal with any disputes quickly. Encourage transparency and understanding through communication within the team.
Positivity is key. The need for honesty and transparency is key. Your loyal people deserve the truth about the business and how difficult the road to recovery is. Delivered with absolute truth and a healthy pinch of optimism, will go a long way to getting buy-in from the team. Remember to celebrate the small wins and show appreciation for special achievements, and observe the birthdays and anniversaries when you can. They’re needed now more than ever.
In these pandemic times everything has changed, and yet everything has stayed the same, we just need to figure out how to carry on. Business as usual is now business as unusual, and that business would be nothing without the people at the heart of it. Cut your people some slack, and while you’re at it, remember to cut yourself some too – We see you too, you’re doing a great job.
This lockdown experience has us all feeling a little more vulnerable. Now is the time to be humble and be kind.
‘Return to Work Safely Protocol‘created by Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE).
Operations Manager at WeddingDates