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Insights from employers on supporting staff during Covid-19

We’ve gathered some insights from employers about how they’re tackling the Covid-19 crisis. Here’s what they’re saying – and the next steps we’re advising they take.

By Claire Campbell, Consultancy Director, Timewise

Inspire your remote team

The current crisis has been described as ‘full-time work meeting full-time life’; a remote working experiment that we’re all having to work through. So how are employers supporting their employees during Covid-19 – and what should they do next?

I recently co-hosted a session for Timewise Partners, in which we explored how different companies are managing the status quo, and provided a mixture of short-term practical guidance and long-term issues to consider. Here are the highlights.

What people are telling us about remote working during Covid-19

Among the insights we shared with our partners were these snapshots of workplace life during Covid-19:

  • “Our remote working trial has just been catapulted forward by three years!”
  • “I’m determined to prove my boss wrong. The stuff she said couldn’t be done from home is happening as if we were in the office.”
  • “There’s no way I can do my full role from home at the same time as being personal Waitrose delivery to older folks, Head of Maths, screen-time police and Mr Motivator.”
  • “Some of our male senior managers are married to key workers so are having to take more of a lead at home – a real reversal.”
  • “We are moving everyone to 80% contracts to save money. Not sure how many conversations about workload are happening.”

How our Partners are supporting their employees during this time

Our attendees shared a number of examples of good practice from their organisations. These included:

Leadership and management

  • CEOs sharing their personal experiences of working from home, instigating weekly catch-ups with all staff and offering support from the top through webinars and other forums.
  • Managers proactively exploring what flexibility their staff need to be able to work around their personal circumstances.
  • Leaders encouraging staff to be open about the working patterns they have developed to manage their work and life responsibilities.

Changes to processes

  • Creation of charging codes that allow employees to log time spent on tasks like childcare, tracked by managers to check that employees are managing to balance their work and life responsibilities.
  • Offer of a 12-week sabbatical which can be taken by anyone, regardless of length of service.

Information and resources

  • Internal intranets with information and resources on topics such as how to interact with clients during the crisis, homeworking, annual leave and links to up-to-date information.
  • Remote working learning packages created with modules for managers (managing remotely), and for employees (working effectively).

Mental health and wellbeing

  • Use of forums such as parent/carers networks to listen to people’s issues and concerns, then explore potential support and solutions, particularly for the long term.
  • Creation of a wellbeing forum that highlights a topic each week, with associated content such as links to virtual bootcamps, ergonomic training to support posture, meditation and financial training.

Planning ahead

  • Initial work on a ‘return to work’ strategy for the post-lockdown future, considering factors such as real estate, critical roles to the workplace, company philosophy, attitude towards flexible working, and how to incorporate learnings into next phase.
  • Pulse checks being taken on the status quo to inform a post-corona future. Asking about concerns, experiences and challenges; gathering feedback on a peer-to-peer platform to build a baseline of learning and growth.

Practical guidance from Timewise

We also shared four core principles to help employers take the right next steps to support their employees:

(1) Think about WHAT people are doing

Assess what work needs doing, right now. Set priorities, new objectives and expectations for what needs to be done, before working out how to do it differently. Recognise the backdrop to people’s current working lives and consider the balance between the business’ needs and individuals’ needs.

(2) Think about WHERE people are working and how to support them

Consider providing enhanced broadband or a proper office chair. Create space for collaboration and engagement such as virtual team meetings and remote cafes, and check in on anyone who goes under the radar. Note what’s working and what isn’t to ensure you take the best examples with you into the long term.

(3) Think about WHEN work needs to be done and how that matches with people’s needs

Some people may be splitting childcare with a partner and so may need to have blocks of time off. Others may need to get ahead at the weekend to allow more breaks in the week. Build a framework that looks at your organisation’s needs and each individual’s needs to identify working patterns that will suit both parties.

(4) Think about HOW MUCH work needs doing and can be managed at the current time

Some employers need staff to reduce their hours to save costs; some employees need to work less to juggle their other commitments. In order to make this work, leaders need to either reduce the workload or find alternative resource. Expecting people to do the same work in less time isn’t a sustainable option.

What next?

We also shared our thoughts on the opportunities and risks coming out of Covid-19 and what employers need to do to mitigate the negatives and make the most of the positives.

As the situation continues, we’re keen to gather and share more stories about what’s working and what’s not, so more businesses are able to come out of Covid-19 into a more flexible future. If you have any insights to share, or need support from the Timewise team, do please get in touch.

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