Taking care of your employees (whilst taking care of yourself)
The coronavirus pandemic has presented unique challenges for business owners and managers which are testing their people management skills to the absolute limit. The demands are often two-fold as the financial and economic pressure increases for the leaders themselves, potentially placing their own jobs or livelihoods at risk. This is a highly stressful position from which to manage others, so it pays to have a great plan and think carefully about the ways and means of working closely with the employee.
A starting position (pre-Covid) that demonstrates high levels of enablement and engagement is likely to promote the environment of trust and communication essential to guiding an employee through the crisis. Employers should show empathy, while adopting a caring, compassionate stance regarding an individual’s personal circumstances. Wherever possible the processes and decisions implemented to protect the business should be transparent and involve an element of collaboration, encouraging two-way lines of communication. Technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams is readily available to encourage collaboration and meetings, which is proving highly effective in keeping team members connected.
An employee or department may not agree with a business decision to furlough, reduce hours, downsize or restructure; so keeping the team informed and updated as far as is reasonably possible may at least promote an understanding and pragmatism about what actions are necessary.
It is the job of the manager to help the employee through; best practice would include regular calls to discuss workload, performance and well-being, particularly when home-working. One of the major disruptions arising from working from home is the employees own personal challenges; this may include family interruptions, problems at home or feelings of detachment or isolation. It is important that the manager understands that they are not obligated to fix the personal issues, but rather solve the business problem. Offering solutions such as (more) flexible working, time out to be with the family or better technology may go some way to improving the productivity of the employee. It should be noted the colleague must take some responsibility for managing their own time and schedule to complete the allocated work in a professional manner. Practical solutions such as using a dedicated workstation or room can go some way towards de-misting the increased blurred lines between work and home.
With owners and managers operating under significant stress, it may be helpful to seek help from a selection of business coaches, mentors or legal and HR professionals to take an objective view of the business and provide expert guidance. A trusted consultant to confide in, help plan the business and support the workload may just create enough space for the clarity of thought required to guide the business through these difficult times.
Managers can increase their learning at this time to better prepare for change management. This is potentially an ideal time to foster accountability while helping employees feel secure and prepared for the future, operating with a sense of purpose. Employers should continue to adapt and work from the perspective that periods of uncertainty don’t necessarily have to be paralyzing or fatal.
From an employment law perspective the guidance provided by the Government is complex and changing daily. Applying the directives correctly to the circumstances of your business is a difficult task, but one that we can certainly help with at Chadwick Lawrence, so please call 01924 379 078 in the first instance to discuss.
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