A new day is dawning, or is it? On Monday the Government announced tentative steps to reduce the lockdown measures which have been in place since March. Whilst this has been met with mixed messages and frustration over the lack of clarity, businesses are now looking to the future to decide, not if, but how they are going to emerge.
I recently read a report issued in April 2020 by HRDatahub which surveyed 264 companies across the UK, totalling over 4 million employees. It looked at how Covid-19 has impacted their business and what will be their priorities over the next 3-6 months.
Understandably there has been a large swing towards recruitment freezes and changing working patterns. 14% of the companies surveyed are now considering voluntary redundancies and 21% are considering involuntary redundancies.
However, the most interesting result is that 38% of the surveyed companies are reviewing their organisational design.
‘Organisational Design’ is an interesting statement. How many businesses are functioning as they originally were designed to? Or are they operating as a necessity to meet customer demand? The pace of life has slowed dramatically for the majority and so have the order books.
Business leaders have a rare opportunity to take stock and reflect on how they want their business to function by design going forward.
And it got me thinking. If over a third of these businesses are planning to change the way they operate, how many small businesses are going to change too?
In an online networking meeting, I met a small business owner who realised that she could complete her daily ‘work’ between the hours of 9am and 2pm, leaving the rest of the day with the family. I asked her about this and her response was, ‘I’ve stopped doing all the things I thought I needed to do and realised I stayed in the office because that’s what I thought I needed to do.’ And her future plans – ‘I’m going to continue this pattern, it’s kinder to me and my family. I’m also going to have conversations with my staff about their working patterns too’.
So, by design, in its simplest form, this business owner has redesigned her working pattern and the tasks that need to be done to make her business function successfully.
So, if you’re a business owner and you’ve taken time to reflect and redesign your organisation. What things should you consider when opening your workplace?
Before you rush to open your doors again, have you considered the risks? The HSE has a great interactive tool which will help you identify what risks are and how you could mitigate them.
A good example of this is my co-working office, Co*Shabang. It’s recently reopened its doors and when you walk in you are greeted with hand sanitizer at regular points, a packet of anti-bac wipes on your desk, walking routes, and passing points.
All the communal areas (kitchen, breakout spaces) are restricted to one person at a time. And the main office area which used to house 24 people now only holds 8. The floor is taped, dividing the space to 2-metre demarcation areas and signs reminding you not to cross the lines for yours and your colleague’s safety.
Overkill? Or a company who is passionate about enabling people to return to work safely? For the record, I feel very safe there and the peace and quiet for 4 blissful hours was amazing!
My best advice is to have an open and honest conversation with them. Find out what their concerns are and try to address them. Listen to what they have to say and re-visit some concerns if you have to.
You need your staff now more than ever to be engaged and willing to help you resurrect your business. Forcing their hand won’t achieve this. They will be scared and unwilling to support you.
Choosing which employees to un-furlough and in what order to do it, can be as tricky as choosing who you were forced to furlough in the first place. A good place to start is to work out what your business priorities are and who has the skills to support those objectives. Then talk to your people -some maybe be willing to return sooner than others.
Once you have selected who you wish to return and when you will need to give them notice to return to work. Depending if you changed their contract of employment to furlough them in the first place, you will need to change their contract again. How do you do this? You’ve guessed it, by talking to them!
Ok, so, you’ve worked out a plan. Your staff are happy to return but someone wants reduced hours to help with childcare. Someone wants compressed hours, someone wants to work completely on their own, and the list goes on. To change a contract of employment can be a relatively straightforward task.
Of course, it can be a lot more complex than that. We are in unprecedented times, but expectations are manged a lot easier when both parties honestly share their concerns and actively work to address them.
Making redundancies is never an easy task, trust me, unfortunately I have a lot of experience.
Start your process with a fair redundancy policy and share it with your staff. ACAS have a simple policy which is easy to follow. Set your staff’s expectation of what is to come.
Understand what you want your message to be and remain consistent. Then ask for volunteers. People are likely to take bad news better if they understand the reason behind the decision and they haven’t been lied too.
Finally hold fair consultation meetings with your staff and look at any mitigating circumstances. If, after consultation, the position is made redundant, what can you do to help this person find a new job?
There you have it. A whistle stop guide to returning to work post ‘lockdown’. If you know me, there is a theme to my advice. It always starts with a conversation about what you and what your employees want. Together we can work out a plan to achieve that.
Are you ready to have that conversation?