With the nation fast approaching the heralded end of lockdown, the mood is optimistic. But as we have learned all too well over the last 18 months, any large-scale change can bring with it new challenges. In order to help you get ready for the impending ‘opening up’, today TIL brings you a checklist of key issues to consider in the coming weeks.
Wellbeing has been a workplace watchword in recent years, and with good reason: HSE figures show that stress, depression and anxiety account for 51% of all work-related ill health and 55% of working days lost.
While for many the chance to reconnect with colleagues and friends face-to-face will be something of a wellbeing boon, it is worth paying more than lip service to the potential difficulties to mental health another big change might pose.
With uncertainty in the air, and the recent shock of lockdown, The Mental Health Foundation predicts fear and anxiety may be common responses to the onset of another change, especially among those who have developed coping strategies over the last 12 months they will now have to abandon. Tips on easing the transition include making any changes gradual to build up tolerance to the new way of working. It may also be necessary to offer flexible working to employees to allow them to manage their own wellbeing effectively. Which takes us to our next item to consider.
Work from home has been crash-tested over lockdown and the news seems promising. More than 80% of employer respondents to a BBC poll said hybrid working was likely to be part of their plans post-lockdown, with many heralding big changes to the workplace and the working day. And that may be a bus you don’t want to miss, because a recent report by the consultancy Barnett Waddingham indicates a third of young workers would look for a new job if their organisation did not offer sufficient flexibility.
Naturally, with flexible and hybrid working touted, tech is going to play a big role in keeping businesses connected. The Zoom boom was brought a spotlight on the tools we use for verbal communication, and the need to organise teams without direct supervision has accelerated the rise of project management tools. Selecting the correct technology to suit your purposes and assessing how it, and your working processes, are implemented, can make all the difference to utilising your resources effectively.
Training and Development
Another critical effect of the lockdown has been a training crunch. The tightening of budgets was, perhaps, inevitable as a cost saving measure under lockdown, but employees are feeling the impact. According to recent research published by AI-driven learning platform Soffos, only 22% of employees feel their development has been invested over the course of the pandemic. Concerns are especially prevalent (once again) among younger workers.
COVID-19 is still with us, and for as long as it is, it remains crucial that we are vigilant. Vaccinations will go a long way towards safeguarding the workforce, so it is in every organisation’s best interests to assist staff as much as possible in getting inoculated. ACAS recommends employers consider offering paid time off for vaccination appointments, paying staff at their usual rate if they are off ill due to the side-effects of a vaccine, and not counting vaccine-related absences towards absence records and ‘trigger’ systems.
They also recommend opening the lines of communication with staff about vaccine policy; advice that works for all the key areas we have covered in today’s blog. Opening the lines of communication and collecting your own data might be the best way to ensure you’re as prepared as you can be for the coming change.