What does HR need to consider as lockdown eases?
Indoor hospitality, indoor entertainment and several other sectors have reopened after the easing of lockdown restrictions in England from today (May 17, 2021) – Sky News reported
The further easing of these restrictions will see cinemas, museums and children’s play areas reopen, as well as indoor hospitality.
The publication explained that theatres, concert halls and conference centres can reopen, with capacity limits.
The reopening of certain sectors from today will see the people function thinking about its role in facilitating this return to work, as well as what they will need to do for staff.
HR Grapevine spoke to several experts to find out top considerations for HR.
Communication has played a central role in the pandemic year and should inform a core part of HR’s strategy when returning staff to work.
Anthony Gregory, Head of People at Love Energy Savings, told HR Grapevine that clear comms is essential, adding that “it’s a central element of our return-to-work plan”.
He explained: “Here at Love Energy Savings, we are reaching out to our employees at both company-wide and team-wide levels using face-to-face meetings and video conferencing.
“This is bolstered by email follow-ups and regular signposting to policies, procedures, and information on Government guidance and our company’s COVID-19 response.”
Nicola Forshaw, Director of Human Resources at The Landmark London, also stressed the importance of two-way communication when returning staff to work.
She told HR Grapevine: “At the Landmark London we have held many communications meetings, and training sessions to allow our teams to discuss any concerns and ask any questions they have.
“We have completed much of the back to basics, service, hospitality, product and service awareness sessions all prior to our teams returning, this means that they are able to return with more confidence and less anxiety.”
How should HR communicate?
In the pandemic year, Forshaw said the luxury hotel brand had learnt to communicate in various ways – something she feels has positively impacted engagement and comms at all levels of the business.
She added: “We believe in personal service for our people as well as our guests, we understand that not all our members of the team engage with social media and others love it, so different methods of communication engage with different people, at different times, for different content, so it is important that we keep it fresh and relevant for each member of the team.”
Emails, virtual newsletters, online dashboards, and group chats are just some ways that communication could be tackled.
Staff wellbeing is another top priority for HR when returning staff to work – something which one HR leader said should be at the core of what an organisation is doing in the comms.
And Robert Hicks, Group HR Director at Reward Gateway, told HR Grapevine that employers should “offer all the wellbeing help you can” which could be via an EP or wellbeing coaches.
He added: “Make sure everyone knows that wellbeing is part of the return-to-work plan and that staff can take their time, where it is possible.
“More than anything, talk to them, ask questions and make them feel like they are returning to a safe place, a great place where they can connect with colleagues, collaborate with others and continue to do great work.”
Best practice & wellbeing
When it comes to best practice for wellbeing, Hicks said he feels organisations should be looking at 4Cs:
Communication – talk to staff, let them know your plans.
Clarity – be very clear on what the rules and expectations are.
Consistency – the rules apply to all, special cases for preferences should not be granted (medical reasons are different).
Comfortable – make sure staff are comfortable in what is being done and have the ability to ask questions, seek guidance and work through what will be a big change.
Health & safety
Employers and HR should also give thought to health and safety. The people function should be thinking about potential return-to-work concerns among employees.
Rustom Tata, Chairman of law firm DMH Stallard and head of the firm’s employment group, said it’s critical that employers consider that some workers won’t have had the offer of a vaccine yet.
He told HR Grapevine: “For some younger workers the newfound optimism of many of their older colleagues will not be a view they share.
“Just as many organisations have been encouraged to consider the mental health impact on those (often younger) employees living alone and trying to work through lockdown, so they should continue to appreciate that there will be real and genuine concerns about a rushed and enforced return to work on a full-time basis.
“Quite apart from any measures taken at work, for those with longer commutes in main city centres, the spectre of the risks surrounding the use of public transport remain.
“While there are reports of some early studies showing reduced transmission risk by those who have been vaccinated, that is not yet categorical, and while the impact of Covid on those who have been vaccinated may have reduced, the worry amongst those unvaccinated should they contract the virus will be considerable,” Tata added.
Training & returning furloughed staff
With more sectors opening from today, it is possible that some staff will be taken off furlough and returned to work.
If furloughed staff have been out of a working environment for some time, HR might offer training upon their return to help ease the transition.
From the day-to-day basics of their role, or showing them how new processes work, it could be useful for staff.
Source: HR Grapevine