Several weeks have passed since initial restrictions came into operation for many businesses across Ireland. Eager to discuss what happens next we held a virtual round table last week with HR leaders across Ireland. The theme of the online event was “Workplace Readiness in a Covid 19 world”
HR leaders from a cross section of industries joined the virtual discussion including a Legal firm, a global semiconductor manufacturer, a global food producer, a tourism & cultural organisation, a stockbrokers and our own Global Head of HR at Morgan McKinley
The Insights that emerged during our online event:
- Initial focus for many in the early stages of the lockdown was safeguarding their workforce, granting technology access, mitigating business losses, implementing business continuity plans & protecting a businesses culture.
- Through our discussion, we found across these businesses, all workers who could work from home were settled into working from home and operating productively with all challenges considered; from failing internet access to childcare challenges. All employers were taking a reasonable and flexible approach to accommodate the varying needs of their workforce now working from home.
The discussion moved on to the best communication practices happening currently with a virtual workforce in operation. Communication styles being adopted currently included:
- Morning and evening business and team update meetings referred to as "loop up" calls.
- 1:1 check in calls titled as “walkie talkie” calls
- Hosting invited speakers e.g Health & safety experts for town hall type virtual meetings
- Health initiatives like couch to 5K and planning for National Workplace Wellbeing day last Friday May 1st
- Hosting Wednesday webinars with topics such as overcoming adversity.
- Weekly newsletters to stay connected
- Surveying workforce for feedback and understand their concerns about returning to the workplace
- Keeping a workforce connected to the business using communications platforms like Workvivo
- Virtual coffee break chats, team quiz events, virtual Birthday calls to keep a social culture alive amongst teams.
Popular throughout our discussion was what happens next? and How do we bring our workforce back together safely? suggestions discussed were;
- Bringing in teams on alternate days/weeks to maintain physical distancing measures, considering if 1-2 persons per cubicle met physical distancing guidelines.
- Opening canteen facilities on a rotation basis.
- A phased return of workers using a Tier 1 to Tier 3 phased approach.
- All businesses operating a “Stay at home” policy if a worker is unwell or symptomatic.
- Collective agreement to keep those that can work from home at home to protect individuals who need to go back into the workplace
- Production operatives remained the most challenged when needing to return to work for the reopening of plants
- To safeguard workplaces and workers, companies are looking at investing in temperature scanning technology for large workforces and production facilities.
- For smaller workplaces how to carry out temperature checks was a big topic of conversation and also if there are GDPR considerations around this measure.
- One business outlined their plan to roll out “care packages” to employees in advance of returning to the workplace. Packages would include a Thermometer, face mask, tissues and hand sanitizer.
Before concluding our event, we discussed how each business was addressing the treatment of annual leave with the following being shared;
- Some workforces being asked to take a week’s leave between March to May 2020 or take 50% of their 2020 annual leave before September
- Every organisation is reminding their at home workforce to take breaks and rest with the important message that “everyone is still working and needs to recharge their batteries”
- Increasing the “carry over allowance” of annual leave from 3 days to 5 days or in some cases carrying 8 to 10 days into 2021 annual leave.
Concluding the online event, it was clear no one business has the answers to what comes next. We gathered some great insights into the plans being discussed and even though our discussion was prior to the phased plan issued by the Government on May 1st, we are now facing a whole new set of questions and challenges to address as we move forward to a “new normal”.
We will continue to share our market insights from our next leadership discussion as we prepare to work through a phased return to work. Should your business need any advice on hiring during the current market don't hesitate to contact me, we would be pleased to support.