If you’re an employer and you haven’t had the chance to work through how you can best protect the physical and psychological safety of your employees, you are putting your business and reputation at risk.
With Boris Johnson’s public announcement on Sunday regarding reanimating the UK economy, you are not alone in feeling a sense of confusion and dismay as to what this means for employees, if you are a UK worker. The lack of clarity and specific guidance on what employers can do to bring their employees safely back to work was disappointing to say the least.
There are plenty of organisations who have emailed or called their employees and told them to come back to work. With no plan, no reassurance of how their physical and psychological well-being will be looked after. “Just turn up to work on Monday and we’ll sort it out then” they’ve been told.
Planning is key
To be able to privately reassure and publicly defend any allegations that you are not making the wellbeing of your employees your number priority, building a back to work plan is essential. With the right plan it enables you to:
Instill confidence in your leadership ability and also in your brand.
- Feel more in control, which should ease some pressure that comes with waiting for events to unfold before you can act.
- Show you have taken a robust and thoughtful approach to bringing your employees back to work. It’s not just about bums on seats.
- Provide the right support to make sure your employees are as productive as possible, given the circumstances, from Day 1. This means a decrease in lag time in being able to better service your customers and clients.
Here are some steps you can take to build a bespoke back to work plan for your organisation.
Building the plan
Set up a small task force that has the knowledge and authority to act.
This should be a team of individuals who are not involved in the day-to-day operations as you need them to solely concentrate on the plan.
The key responsibilities of the task force will be to build a back to work plan which:
- Encapsulates the thoughts and feedback from key stakeholders
- Protects the wellbeing and safety of your employees
- Gives you the best likely chance of having productive employees who feel supported and listened to
- Circulate relevant information to key stakeholders
- Is agile and can be quickly changed when new information comes in
Identify key stakeholders who you may want to consult with but they are not responsible for the execution of the plan.
This could be a few of your employees, ensuring they are representative of different departments and pay grades, non-executive board members, trustees, end-service users, key partners or suppliers.
Create a list of questions that as a team you need to answer or consider.
What health and safety protocols do you need to put in place? Will you bring everyone back at the same time or staggered start dates? How will you deal with employees who are scared to come back to work or who can’t due to childcare or caring responsibilities?
Determine if anything has changed.
There are some businesses who have changed their strategic objectives, their operating model, or they’ve pivoted and experimented with new products or services.
At this point you only want to identify what’s changed, the potential impact on job roles and ear mark that so you can determine how you are going to communicate and make the change when your employees come back to work.
Who is doing what, how and by when?
Agree on who is responsible for which tasks, whether you need additional support (and who is responsible for procuring that), how you will update each other and frequency of check-ins, etc.
Make sure everyone is clear about the parameters of decision they can make unilaterally or those which need to be brought back to the group. As much as possible allow members to have the autonomy to execute and make decisions.
Too often organisations are slow to respond because of having multiple layers of decision making and having to agree decisions by committee.
Your teams are going to be feeling extremely anxious and so not only what you say but how you say it will matter.
You’ve been through this already in crafting your responses to covid-19, so there’s no need to go over old ground, but here are some things to bear in mind.
Plan who needs to know what and when.
You won’t have enough time to provide real time up-dates but you do want to be thoughtful about what to send, when and how.
Spend the time mapping up the types of updates you need to give, the frequency you need to send them (as much as you can pre-plan) and the methods you will use.
Also ask yourself these questions:
- What does our audience/key stakeholders need to know?
- How can keep our messages simple so there is less room for misinterpretation and people can remember what we’ve said
- How often are we planning to update on next steps?
Decide on the appropriate channels depending on your audience.
For your employees, it could be via Slack, holding 10-minute video conferences (that are recorded for those who can’t make it), pre-recording a video message on your phone or even setting up an internal podcast and uploading it to your intranet.
Keep a clear structure to your updates.
This is helpful to make sure your messages have substance and there’s a reason, not sending updates for updates sake.
Have an objective third party on hand to sense check any messages or review written communications before you press send. This might seem like overkill, but try redacting an email that’s already been sent. It’s possible, but doesn’t your heart skip a beat when you realise something you wrote might be misinterpreted?
With the lack of clear guidance from the government and concerns over the safety and welfare of employees, this whole process may feel messy at times but provided you are clear in your intent, communicate often what you are trying to do, people will forgive if it’s not perfect.
About the author
Shereen Daniels is a HR Director and Managing Director of HR, a strategic HR consultancy helping organisations achieve more with fewer resources so they can grow their businesses without it costing them a fortune! Shereen is passionate about using behavioural data to align the right talent in the right roles at the right time, knowing it can make a transformational difference in your ability to compete and service your customers and clients well.
After dipping her toe in politics in 2019, Shereen is now a community member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Artificial Intelligence, a Board Member of the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership Board and for the last couple of years, has been a Board Trustee for Endeavour-Mat, a group of selective and non-selective schools in Kent.
Website: https:// www.hr-rewired.com