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We’re now well into lockdown and whether your employees are able to carry out work from home or are on furlough leave, the traditional and well-established ways of working have changed dramatically for everyone.

Whilst so much of the future is unknown right now, and we are all isolated from each other, how do you make sure that your key talent remains engaged and eager to return to the workplace, once lockdown is lifted?

Here are my tips for small business owners and their people managers.

Have a communication plan

Just under half (47%) of UK workers say their companies are providing well-timed communication to help employees navigate the crisis, according to LinkedIn’s latest #WorkforceConfidenceIndex. You’re not expected to have all the answers but scheduling communications, and providing the opportunity for two-way feedback, ensures that you are listening to and addressing the concerns and needs of your team.

Agree and share with your employees which medium should be used for which communications. The reason why Zoom is such a popular video conferencing platform is because it offers a basic package for free. If you don’t have instant messaging, then encourage your employees to add Whatsapp Web to their desktop and create groups or team chats which are relevant to them, ensuring that everyone has access to real-time messages.

Using technology is an opportunity to get to know your teams and their families even better. After all, with video calling you now get a virtual seat in your employees’ home. Some social suggestions include virtual lunch dates, games nights, fitness classes, remote drinks and family talent shows. Ask for volunteers to get involved and arrange the things that interest them.

Stay connected with furloughed staff

As long as you are not asking them to perform any work-related tasks, it’s recommended to actively communicate with employees on furlough leave. Allowing them the same access to company updates and social events, as those still working, means that they can choose to stay connected.

Also signpost where those on reduced pay can access information to support their financial wellbeing, for example the government support initiatives for individuals, mortgage payment holidays, Universal Credit and so on.

It could also be used as a time for self-development. Consider providing access to training material or suggest to furloughed staff that they could learn a new skill and share their progress with the team. You could also encourage them to volunteer for Covid-19 related causes.

Manage remote working effectively

Some employees have always had the ability to work from home and are comfortable in this environment. For others it may be a new and unwelcome change. Regardless of which camp your employees fall into, remember that all are trying to work during a crisis, often whilst juggling home-schooling and caring responsibilities. Show understanding that these distractions might mean that they are not as productive as normal and may need to flex their usual start and finish times to balance home and work life.

Agreeing shared goals and realistic, weekly priorities with your employees provides a sense of individual and team accomplishment, as well as ensuring that key projects remain on track.

Offer your employees a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) assessment and look to provide essential kit to make sure that their working environment is suitable and prevents injury.

Focus on individual wellbeing

Whether employees are working or furloughed, lockdown is a difficult adjustment for all. We find ourselves with more time on our hands and may be worried for our families or feeling isolated and lonely. Speak to everyone individually and note who is struggling the most, ensuring that you check in on them more often.

If you have counselling available, then make sure that you share how and where the team can access it. If you don’t you could look into providing an Employee Assistance Program, which is often available as an add-on via your insurance company. Alternatively, the NHS allow self-referral online to free psychological therapies.

There are a number of social media or wellness sites that connect like-minded people such as Peanut (connecting lonely and isolated mums) or Calm (to help with sleep and anxiety).

Physical fitness also plays a big role in maintaining mental wellbeing so encouraging your employees to get outside and starting a fitness club or setting a team challenge can be highly effective.

Show them you value them

Showing your employees that you really appreciate them and the work they do is vital in driving engagement. This could range from regularly saying thank you to sending small care packages.

Be authentic with your praise by making it specific, sharing examples of great work, attitude or team spirit.

Remember to have fun

Outside of the social environment of the office it can be easy for non-work communication to be pared down to the bare essentials. So don’t forget that a happy team is a productive team, and encourage opportunities for people to show their personality and be themselves.

Don’t be afraid to share parts of your home life that you would normally keep to yourself. Whether it’s your kids wanting to say hello, describing your view, or the live unboxing of the latest delivery that you had forgotten about; this glimpse into your life helps to increase empathy and solidarity and foster the feeling that “we are all in this together”.

Send a daily song suggestion or quote of the day and encourage your team to take turns in choosing and sending around their pick. Or start a book or film club and review them together.

Finally – don’t forget yourself!

Last, but not least, remember to look after yourself. It can be easy to focus on caring for others and to neglect yourself in these circumstances, but as the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.

The Halo HR team are available for a chat, either as a friendly sounding board, or to offer professional advice and support whenever you need it. Please do get in touch, we’d love to help.

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Author Hayley Mitchell

Head of Learning & Strategy

Hayley joined Progeny following the acquisition of Halo HR in 2019.

Learn more about Hayley Mitchell

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