In the third week of May, the number of working adults that have travelled to their place of work has increased from 41% to 44% according to the Office for National Statistics. In addition, there has been a dramatic move away from home working with those who are working exclusively from home having fallen from 38% to 33% last week as the country begins to venture out of lockdown. The forthcoming changes to social distancing guidelines which will see the majority of businesses able to reopen on 4 July, appear to have given many people the confidence that Covid-19 is on the decline and that they can restore some sense of normality to their lives. However, employers must not take some of their staff’s eagerness to return to work as an excuse for neglecting their responsibilities and instead, employers need to be reminded that all their employees’ health and safety should be at the forefront as companies begin to bring people back to the workplace. There is plenty of guidance available from the Government about what should be done in different work settings.
What also needs to be respected are the views of those who are nervous about returning to normal and employers should listen very carefully to concerns that people may have about returning to work, including their individual domestic situations and for example using public transport. This is especially true for those who have been shielding as their protections will be wound down with the view to it being possible for them to return to work at the beginning of August. All employers need to make sure that their workplace is Covid-Safe but the leaders of businesses employing those in the most vulnerable category need to be especially vigilant. A lot comes down to confidence and so employers should be sharing information and keeping employees informed of safeguards they have put in place as well as taking the time to have individual conversations with those who need it most. Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, has said that given time and reassurance, most people will get used to the idea of working in a different looking Covid-Safe environment and on this, I think she is right.
So, your staff have returned to the office and you can now assume that you will be back in business in no time, right? Most probably not… Things have undoubtedly changed since we went into lockdown and as a business leader you need to have a detailed look at which of the many changes we’re seeing now will indeed extend into the coming weeks and months. And, how they’ll impact on your customers and how you will need to respond. Businesses that were hit hard at the beginning of lockdown might start to see a recovery soon. Those that have managed to keep afloat up until now may find things more challenging as government support is reduced. And the nature of global markets and supply chains means that there may be a period of time before some businesses feel the effects of a global slowdown. Most business leaders will have kept an ear close to the ground throughout the pandemic but even so, gathering insight from your customers, competitors, suppliers and wider marketplace will be vital to decide how your company strategy, forecasts and plans will need to change. Experience tells us that it is those who react the fastest who will come out the strongest from this kind of situation as time is on their side and you will be one step ahead of the competition.
As I have written before, businesses cannot rely on their staff to want to come to work as they did pre-lockdown and perhaps give the same levels of commitment and devotion to their work that was once the case. The last few months have will have been, although in different ways, as tough for your staff as they have been for you as a business leader. Therefore you must ensure that they are fully engaged in order to accommodate the required changes that your business needs. More than ever, you will need your staff to help you transform into a business that flourishes in the post-coronavirus world.
A successful transition out of lockdown will mean having your internal processes in line and having a clear strategy to take account of the changes that have taken place. If you don’t take care of both of these aspects, you are in danger of being a passenger and not in control of where your business is heading.
Joe Brown, Co-Founder of Peopleforce Technical Recruitment.