Three scenarios for the post-COVID world of work
What next? This is the question on everyone’s lips, after all, the future is already not what we anticipated just a few short months ago.
COVID-19 has bought with a new normal, thereby causing businesses to rethink the way they operate.
And not just in the immediate future, it’s forced companies to think about how their choices now will impact them in the post-crisis future.
Although we don’t yet know exactly what the future will bring, it is possible to explore and plan for a range of outcomes now, as even as this present time, it’s clear that there are some confident moves businesses can take.
Here we explain the three workplace scenarios that have occurred as a result of the pandemic and the steps you can take to help set a precedent for the future.
Scenario One: Long-term working from home arrangements
For many, becoming a work from home business almost overnight created numerous challenges, but having now had months to settle into this new normal of working, businesses are continuing to change for the better. And despite struggling to recreate some of the rhythms of the office, there are many advantages to be had from remote working.
We’ve listed some considerations below to help ensure remote working is sustainable for both your business and your employees.
Help staff to create boundaries between work and home.
It’s easy when working from home to continue working past your normal finish time. Therefore, set “office hours” and share tips on how to track time. Also, try to promote healthy expectations in regard to deadlines and communicate these clearly. And finally, make clear to staff that there is no expectation that emails are answered after a certain hour.
Promote prompt and punchy communication amongst your workforce.
Have a pressing issue that requires a quick resolve? A simple phone call will suffice, say goodbye to long video calls, they only eat into your teams’ productivity levels. Morning huddles are a great way to start the day, just aim to make them prompt and punchy to ensure you’re boosting staff morale and motivation.
Remote working means no commuting and more flexibility.
The flexibility of not commuting into the office means that you’re building towards a more diverse, more capable and happier workforce. For example, no commuting means making work more accessible for staff with disabilities, it’s also particularly helpful for anyone with childcare responsibilities, long-term health conditions as well as caregivers. Overall, remote working means companies can draw on a much wider talent pool.
Scenario Two: Furlough and preparation for when furlough ends
The take-up of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been significant, with 9.5 million workers furloughed by 1.2 million employers since March.
And these employers had made £31.7bn of furlough claims by 26th July. It’s estimated the scheme will cost the government an estimated £80bn in total.
Here’s a summary of the scheme’s latest developments…
CJRS will close as planned on 31 October 2020.
It is now too late to put employees on furlough for the first time unless they are returning from maternity or other family leave.
From 1 July employees can be moved onto a flexible furlough arrangement. Effectively this means they can work part time in any pattern.
From 1 August employers will be required to contribute employer national insurance and pension contributions.
In September employers will also be required to contribute 10% of wages and the government will contribute 70%.
From October the employer contribution increases to 20% and the government will contribute 60%.
As the government are now asking for employers to contribute to the scheme, something that will increase in September and October, employers may need to consider alternative options. This could include redundancies...
It’s been reported that one in three businesses are expected to lay off staff before furlough ends in October. The fact that it’s possible to make staff redundant while on furlough has most likely contributed to this.
In a bid to encourage job retention, the government have announced they will pay businesses a £1,000 bonus for every furloughed employee they keep on until the end of January 2021. Just be mindful that there are eligibility criteria that need to be met.
JRS will end on October 31st, and there are currently no plans to extend it or make it sector specific, despite calls for the government to do so.
With the end of furlough nearing, and with 730,000 people losing their jobs thus far, what can you do to prevent redundancies within your firm? For starters, you can look to reduce working hours. Asking staff to work fewer hours, can significantly help towards saving on costs.
Another alternative is to freeze training budgets. This is a temporary measure, but for businesses who spend a significant amount of money on training, it can prove very useful. You could also consider freezing annual bonuses where possible.
Other potential alternatives include introducing flexible working arrangements, whereby you could permit staff to work from home on a more permanent basis in a bid to keep your overheads low.
Finally, there’s the options of temporary redundancy. This means you provide employees with no work or corresponding pay for a period of time until there is work for them to do. In the absence of a term in a contract permitting the change of terms and conditions, or temporary redundancy, you will need to get staff to agree to this.
Scenario Three: Staff returning to work
Staff returning into the workplace became a more familiar concept on Monday, August 3rd in response to the government’s advice…
That said, it’s important to consider which roles and tasks can be done from home – this might involve doing things differently and not assuming a role cannot be based at home.
If however, a return to the workplace is necessary, ensure that you are and continue to follow government protocol. For instance, a Covid-19 risk assessment is essential, results of which must be shared with your staff as it’s essential that your staff are aligned on return to work plans.
From providing masks, hand sanitiser, deep cleaning within the business, putting one-way systems in place, keeping employees the correct distance apart etc. – such provisions should be in place as well as documented.
You must also have cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures in place and should communicate this with workers, screens should also be fitted where staff are unable to maintain a safe distance apart.
It’s equally important to mentally prepare staff for returning to the workplace after months spent at home. Aim to mitigate anxiety by reassuring your staff, firstly by telling them the steps you’ve taken to protect them, and secondly by completing return to work interviews and health questionnaires, helping to make employees feel more at ease.
Take the time to know how your staff feel about returning to work, so you can address each of their concerns. After all, a happy, healthy workforce is good for business.
There are numerous forces that are and will continue to affect the workforce after COVID-19, from social to technological, and environmental to political. By accepting the reality that the future isn’t what it used to be and start to think about how to make it work for your business, this can help to accelerate your post-COVID recovery.
Why not create a plan that illuminates what needs to be done (and by whom) to reach a stated goal, for most this means, not doing the same thing the same way, but instead focusing on outcomes, and learning through experience so that even an uncertain future, with effort, can be a better one.
If you need up-to-date guidance or advice, we’d love to hear from you. Our platform offers all the information you need on return to work interviews, being COVID-19 secure, coronavirus policies, homeworking agreements, redundancies, furlough tools, plus case history. Simply call us on 0800 231 5199 for more information.