Covid-19 has created a new business reality for everyone, with an ongoing process of adjustment to disruption. Employers need to be flexible to ensure business continuity as well as consider employee needs.
There’s plenty of information out there to help you as an employer or manager navigate your way through this uncharted territory. Below are some tips for looking after your staff and links to helpful, reliable resources. We’re also always here for our members, so please feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.
People are uncertain about the future, and leadership teams are left to figure out how to communicate with employees while minimising their anxiety. When communicating important information, such as what your organisation’s future might look like, have clear, consistent, robust messages – this may mean taking the time to figure these out, then communicating them once all the details are fully ironed out. Try not to make false promises and be as open and transparent as possible, even if that means saying, “I don’t know what the days and weeks ahead will look like, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do.”
Ask for input
As well as giving staff a sense of control, allowing them to offer ideas or provide input benefits to the business. The more diverse perspectives you consider, the better the final solution. Ensure this is done before taking any next steps.
Help your employees find their place
With all this change, some staff may have been redeployed, or be experiencing lesser or greater work demands. These changes can be both confusing and unsettling. Help redeployed staff by providing them with adequate training.
Try to share workloads of people with too much on their plate and on the other side of the spectrum, reiterate that employees shouldn’t be overwhelmed with feelings of guilt if they are experiencing a lighter workload. Let them know you’re there to listen to their concerns and find proactive solutions.
Encourage time off
With previously planned holidays off the agenda, the risk of burnout is even greater. As an employer, it’s important to highlight the benefits of time off to your team. Encouraging this right now is also beneficial from a business perspective. Be smart now, and ask employees to take leave during periods where demand is lower.
When it comes to managing employee mental health during Covid-19, it’s important to be acquainted with the resources available, and make them accessible to staff. We’ve put together several articles, and provided links to helpful information on wellbeing. Feel free to check these out and share them.
As well as this, if you have an HR manager, they can check in with each employee to see how they’re getting on – staff could feel more comfortable talking to someone about their mental health who isn’t their direct manager.
Returning to work
Many engineers will have returned to on-site work, which may be causing feelings on anxiety for some. The best way to relieve these anxieties is to have a clear plan in place, and to be reassuring and communicate your approach to employees in advance.
It’s likely most businesses will have some ‘high risk’ employees. When it comes to people who fall into this category, it may be necessary for the employee to get an opinion from their doctor about whether they are safe to attend work. If the doctor’s opinion is that they shouldn’t attend work, then you should consult with them about options. The Covid-19 website has further guidance regarding high-risk employees returning to work.
If you need to consider changes to your business, make sure you have taken appropriate advice. There are some resources available:
Team still working from home?
Be alert to burnouts and promote good self-care
The lack of being physically present makes recognising those overworking more difficult. Switching off can be a real problem for staff – as in many cases, people are falling asleep and waking up in the same room they work in. Remote working can also make people feel like they need to overperform to ‘prove’ they are not slacking off. So, while we continue to work from home, managers need to promote the importance of not working more than usual hours and taking breaks.
From virtual drinks to informal team catch-ups, the best way to combat feeling isolated during this time is to maintain a connection with your team. Set up one-on-one and/or small team chats, and make them routine.
Regular communication will also prompt people to be open when they are struggling. Individually asking how everyone’s getting means those who feel focused can get on with their day while creating space for conversation with anyone who might be overwhelmed.
Relax the rules
This isn’t BAU and leaders who fail to acknowledge the psychological impact of being in lockdown or quarantined at home will be letting their staff down. This is even more relevant when it comes to staff who are parents and juggling their work with home-schooling or looking after small children. Employers need to be understanding about parents doing different hours to fit in with their kids’ schedules. Check out our article on this, and share it with team members who might find it useful.