Every business owner is well aware that taking on employees is a big responsibility. This is why the majority of start ups tend to try to minimise their permanent staff uptake, instead rolling out projects that can’t be completed by the business owner to freelancers and temporary contractors.
Not only do staff cost a lot of money, but you commit yourself to providing them with a good working experience – protecting their health and safety, protecting their rights and generally providing them with an enjoyable workplace to be in where they can work productively and generate a lot of money for you and your company. Sure, you get a lot out of them. But you do have to give something in return. Now, having members of staff on board is a lot of responsibility at the best of times.
But right now, we’re living through some pretty unprecedented times. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the world hard and alongside a horrific number of illnesses and deaths, we’re facing a financial crisis. Businesses are struggling to cope with new social distancing measures and regulations and many are not able to run at all right now, so have closed their doors to the public and are furloughing staff. But if your business is lucky enough to be able to work on a remote basis, or you feel your government’s lockdown measures may be changing soon, allowing your staff to return to on site work, it’s important that you start to look into how you can lead your staff through these strange times and processes successfully. Here are a few areas to begin to focus on to make sure everyone’s needs are catered to properly.
Follow Government guidelines
First and foremost, it’s absolutely essential that you keep on top of government guidelines and abide by them. If you’re being told that it’s dangerous for your staff to work or that your business must temporarily close, it’s important that you follow this advice. Not only is this for the sake of your staff and their health and wellbeing, but also for the wider community. Coronavirus is contagious and chances are your staff don’t live alone. An incident in your workplace could go on to impact multiple staff members, multiple families and multiple others, risking people’s lives and putting extreme pressure on already burdened healthcare systems.
Help on-site workers
If your staff must work on site (perhaps they are key workers), it’s essential that you take steps to ensure their health and safety to the highest degree. Here are a few steps you can take to achieve this.
Keep staff two metres apart
It’s important that your employees socially distance while working. It’s currently recommended that all people who do not live in the same household stay two metres apart at all times. Implement measures in your workplace that can allow for this. One way systems help to prevent confusion. If staff are seated, their seats must be at least two metres apart. Try to have as few people in the workplace at any given time – use employee scheduling for teams to determine who’s in at any given time.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment
Where possible, provide your staff with personal protective equipment (or “PPE”) to prevent the spread of the virus and protect them. This could include face masks, latex gloves and disinfectant that can be used to clean down frequently touched areas, such as keyboards, handrails and other areas.
Even when people are two metres apart, further measures can be taken for safety. Consider installing plexiglass screens between employees who will remain in one another’s vicinity for extended periods of time, or for staff who may have customer or client facing roles, such as check out staff.
Help remote workers
If your employees can work remotely, this is ideal. It keeps them in their own homes and prevents them from coming into contact with others. Thanks to the rise of technology, this is a possibility for many workers and is a much preferable option for all. Not only does it mean less workers in the office or on site, it also means less people on public transport, the roads and in other public spaces. But many workers aren’t used to working remotely. They’re used to being near others and being able to reach out for help and support as and when they need. So, you need to implement good leadership and do your utmost to help and guide your employees during this difficult time!
Invest in remote working software
There’s plenty of software out there that’s specially designed to help keep remote workers in the loop and connected. Communication is key for any business’ success and you need to ensure that all of your staff still have simple and effective means of staying in touch with one another, even while they’re all working from different places. Microsoft Teams is a good example of software that could greatly benefit your staff! It has instant messaging features, allowing people to quickfire questions about their work and it also has conference call features, allowing meetings to still take place. Consider these types of software to ensure that your staff can get any help or guidance they need and can still collaborate to become productive.
Set KPIs and goals
Your staff may be used to having a manager keeping an eye on them and making sure they’re keeping up with the work they’re supposed to be doing. Sure, managers can still check in through remote software like we’ve mentioned above. But at the same time, it can prove more difficult to track staff members’ progress and efforts when you can’t literally see what they’re doing for most of the day. So, why not consider setting KPIs and goals? KPI stands for “key performance indicator” and setting these, or set goals, can make sure your staff know exactly what you’re expecting of them and can give you a means of ensuring that they’re doing the work that they’re supposed to be doing.
Remember that this is a particularly hard time for many people. For those with families, the kids are off school and may need assistance or distraction throughout the day. Your staff might not be at their desk and working as much as they usually would, simply because they’re having to parent at the same time as work. Some may be struggling with boredom and loneliness. Some may have concerns about their health. The list goes on. So, try to be understanding and lenient. Sure, your staff still have to work if they’re being paid. But be understanding and don’t come down as harshly on lower efforts or results than you may usually expect of your workers.
These really are bizarre times that we’re living through. Many of our lives have changed drastically in the past few months – and that’s just those of us who haven’t physically been impacted by the virus or had to deal with loved ones being physically impacted by the virus. While some businesses may suffer, many will survive this. Hopefully, the above advice will help your business to fall into the latter group! The most important tip is to put your employees’ health and wellbeing first. They’re the backbone of your company and you need to support them through this difficult time!
HR Future Staff Writer in the UK.