44% of adult workers are anxious about returning to work, and 31% are especially anxious about having to use public transport (52% in London due to business and length of journey!) Monitoring staff wellbeing during this transition phase is paramount and will require due diligence on behalf of the employer, and high levels of empathy and compassion. This reintegration is further complicated due to company restructures, redundancies, and furloughed workers.
Jo Bristow explained the COVID-19 pandemic as an “emotional transition on a global scale in an intense time frame, which heightens our sensitivity around it and therefore magnifies our response” and I could not agree more. For those who have been furloughed especially, this time period has been a shock to the system as many of them fell out of a working routine and in many cases took a 20% pay cut. Now that businesses are slowly returning to some sort of normality, concerns have been raised about the logistics of bringing furloughed workers back into the office. Reintegrating staff who will have spent time out of their regular working patterns, may feel out-of-touch on company practice, and in some cases resent the decision to put them on furlough, poses new challenges for employees.
Many businesses will be wanting to accelerate production and project delivery in an attempt to reclaim lost profits over the lockdown period, but how feasible is this when bringing back teams who haven’t been in the workplace for three months? Retraining staff and allowing for a period where they get used to their day-to-day working will be necessary in many cases, as well as the rebuilding of team relationships which enable effective collaboration. Cavendish Employment Law’s McKenzie says: “It may take time to re-establish trust and for the workforce to return to their optimal performance.”
There are many reasons in the current situation why employees may be unable to be as productive as they would be pre-lockdown. This could be from the impact of mental health issues, stress, reintegration struggles, or a stagnation of skills meaning they require retraining or refreshing on company tools, policies, and practices. Companies should be sensitive to this and put in place measures and plans for supporting all employees in the workplace. It is only through staff support, that businesses can increase productivity and efficiency within the workplace.
Statistics on the attitudes and emotions around workplace return, and also the impact of the lockdown on skill loss or stagnation are few and far between but is a topic I think is really important in planning for the future. We will be looking at hosting a webinar to explore in further detail and give some insight/advice from those who have started to do this. An important point to make, which was pointed out by our client, is now is the time for managers to step-up and become leaders.
This is unprecedented times for businesses and employees, which means it is more important than ever to share knowledge and support one another. Follow Maxwell Bond on LinkedIn for up to date information on upcoming events, webinars, and guides.