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21 questions when thinking of reopening the workplace

As of today, 28th April, we have no clear guidance from the Government about what the easing of lockdown could look like…How does your business plan with so many unknowns?

We understand that each business is unique and may have bespoke requirements. However, we still recommend that you start planning for the various scenarios now.

So, what do we know?

  • Lockdown will not be lifted completely for some time
  • Social distancing is likely to continue for some months, including at work
  • Employees may be feeling isolated or fearful of returning to work if currently working from home or are furloughed and not working
  • Some will prefer to stay at home funded by the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme rather than returning to work
  • People may want to avoid public transport altogether, a challenge for many workplaces
  • People have learnt new ways to communicate and work more flexibly whilst in the current crisis – Zoom, Skype, Teams and WhatsApp being used almost daily, and some businesses are realising that working remotely is a great way to continue to operate.

You will be aware that the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 June 2020. However, if lockdown restrictions are eased before then, you have some options to consider:

  • Continue to trade as you have been throughout the period, with increased or decreased turnover and workforce planning to reflect the estimated amount of work you will have for your employees;
  • Re-open fully, with the whole team back at work;
  • Re-open fully, with a phased return of specific employees in line with skills required and revenue generated;
  • Re-open partly, with a return to work for specific teams using a phased approach; or
  • Worst case scenario – fail to re-open.

Your team will have different expectations about how they can and want to work in the future; it’s imperative that you understand what your employees think and for you to listen to their ideas and contributions on how they can work at their best and how the business can perform better in the “new world”.

Many of our clients have been discussing what they should be asking themselves when working through these scenarios, and our team of 60 brilliant People Directors, have come up with 21 key questions for the CEO and Leadership team to work through:

1. What turnover levels do we need to achieve, to determine at what point should we bring back all / some of our employees?

2. What different / additional hygiene and PPE procedures and practices do we need to put in place before people return to work?

3. How will we comply with social distancing guidelines in the office / on the shop floor?

4. Are there roles we no longer need, on a temporary or permanent basis?

5. If I need to make employees redundant, should I start the process whilst they are on furlough and, if so, how do I consult with them remotely?

6. How do I fairly select who returns first, or at all?

7. What if employees are anxious about returning to work and ask to stay on furlough or working from home?

8. What do I do if I need to extend the Furlough period for some employees, beyond the end of the Job Retention Scheme?

9. What if members of the team ask to continue working from home on a permanent basis?

10. How much notice is it reasonable to give, to bring an employee back who is either working from home or on furlough?

11. Do I have a number of people who have worked throughout this crisis, who will be desperate for some time off when we get through this?

12. How do I manage holiday requests and holiday levels going into the second half of 2020 and beyond?

13. How do I establish employee needs and circumstances in order to take these into account?

14. How do I deal with employees who are classed as ”vulnerable” or live with someone who is “vulnerable” and may need to stay away from work for a longer period, ie. after the end of the furlough period?

15. Are there issues about bringing back employees with childcare responsibilities where their support facilities such as schools or nurseries are not yet open?

16. What efficiencies and better ways of working have we identified that we want to use now and in the future?

17. What communication channels have worked best for us during the crisis and what do we intend to use going forward?

18. How can we recognise individuals for great contribution to the business and/or for their social contribution in raising colleague morale?

19. What new skills do we need to develop internally if the business is adapting and diversifying?

20. Are there new roles we need to recruit for / retrain existing employees for?

21. What would we do differently if a second wave occurs and a further lockdown happened in the next 12 months?

A lot of questions to work through!

There are some significant costs associated with getting some of this wrong, including the possibility of tribunal claims around unfair dismissals.

But the good news is there is a lot of upside for getting this right, namely building a workforce that trusts you, believes you have the good of the team at heart, and is aligned and ready to take on the challenge of rebuilding the business.

At People Puzzles, we are firm believers that a motivated and engaged team will deliver high performance and great new ideas that can drive a business forward.

We would love to chat to you if you are looking at how to come out of lockdown ready to thrive in a post-lockdown world and need some help.

We are still offering our free 30 minute consultation so please get in touch with us at hello@peoplepuzzles.co.uk or call 0808 164 5826 to arrange a suitable time with one of our brilliant HR Directors.

People Puzzles are here to help.

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