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COVID-19: Life in the waiting room

COVID-19: Life in the waiting room

The public risk associated with COVID-19 didn’t seem too alarming two weeks ago. It was something that was still ‘elsewhere’, not quite real.Today in Glasgow shopping streets and supermarket shelves are empty. As I write this, the world seems to be stuck in a paradox. Things feel completely hectic, yet everyday life is on hold.

Now our offices are closed. Many of our customers are working from home already. Many in healthcare, retail, logistics – can’t work from home but are still showing up, keeping the country moving. For them I’m grateful.

We are in the waiting room.

The consequences of this outbreak will make many of us feel overwhelmed. That’s natural. There is an impact on every aspect of our lives. The workplace, where the majority of us spend most of our time, is no exception. This experiment we’ve been dropped into is testing many organisations. A test that, when we come through, will teach us better how to perform well in challenging times.

“No gem is polished without friction, nor person perfected without trials” – Seneca

It’s time for Employers to step up.

Many questions and concerns are being raised in light of this uncertainty. News, advice, reporting – both legitimate and fake, will spread globally in seconds. As employers, we must lead in the only way that has ever been meaningful- we must lead by example. With so much short-term uncertainty a long term-strategy may feel impossible, but even in chaos, some things hold true. When a crisis hits, it’s how you respond to it that can make or break your organisation – and your reputation.

People, family, safety, health and community come before commercial interests, of course. But those families need income, need stability, need hope – they need to know their livelihoods will be there on the other side of the crisis. Business continuity isn’t a purely commercial choice – it’s supporting employees, candidates and customers. It’s reassuring. Yes things are difficult, yes things are strange, yes business is not top of your mind- but we will keep things going so your job will still be here when the crisis is over. Things will return to normal.

It’s essential to be transparent.

It is essential to be transparent with employees and candidates about the measures you take which will affect their lives. If you haven’t already, the first thing to do is keep your people informed. COVID-19 has been top of mind for many people for some time. That’s not going to change. The conversations may have started at the coffee machine a few weeks ago, and they are still ongoing in your company’s WhatsApp group. We have passed the moment when you, as an employer, don’t have an opinion. Your goal now is to become a trusted voice in this crisis. The last thing you want is for them to be overly concerned or worried, or unclear. Try to limit your communication to information and recommendations from official sources and explain what this means for the organisation and employees.

Prevent the spread of fake news and fear.

Correct misinformation where you see it. Encourage the team to make their voices heard if they need it. Encourage empathy. People react to stress and profound changes differently. Team-mates and colleagues will be an essential source of inspiration, contact and support. It’s an unfortunate truth that many of us will be, or will know, someone affected.

Don’t let candidates stand on the side-lines.

It won’t cost you anything to share a message on social media to keep candidates informed. For example, explain that job interviews are replaced by video interviews. Inform them that they can pause the process and defer interviews if they need to. Let them see that you understand. The health, of them and your own staff, is paramount. Communicate your efforts to support the pandemic plan and let them know that the health and protection of workers and prospective employees is number one. In other words, show that you care. Prove that you care.

Be a thoughtful leader, committed to finding solutions to the challenges ahead.

Monster, like many other companies, has already taken preventive measures. Implementing travel restriction policies, enforcing a 14-day self-quarantine for employees returning from abroad to the UK, cancelling face to face customer meetings and encouraging people to work from home when possible. It is the responsibility of each employer to put safety first and to help mitigate the potential exposure of their employees (and their loved ones) to COVID-19.

Working from home.

For many, working from home is a welcome change. Some employees will respond like kids on their first trampoline! But the context is not ideal, and extroverted colleagues, who like to be in the office, maybe eager to see their colleagues and reconnect with customers. Fortunately, there are a few things we can do that can help us maintain team spirit. For example, employers and managers can regularly set up informal check-ins with team-mates – or set up a communication group through platforms like Slack, Skype or WhatsApp. Whatever you choose, use an instant messaging tool that is easy to use and everyone can access. In this way, adoption will be easy.

Schedule “face-to-face” time.

Schedule a virtual team meeting at the beginning of the week that summarises the goals for the coming days and expectations. For example, you can tell your staff that you expect them to be available online via chat, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the rest is flexible. In this way, everyone wins from this situation. Video calls are generally preferred over faceless calls because it helps create more lively interactions. However, be aware that millions of people are now adding video calls to the systems, networks may at some point struggle to cope – and some employees may be on limited data plans that get used up quickly with video calls.

You can see our top ten tips for home-working here

Take one day at a time.

Everyone’s life is now disrupted, that’s something we all have in common. This unprecedented time is a challenge, but it can also be a catalyst for a strengthened team spirit and positive change. It is vital that employers actively support their employees, and customers, by remaining transparent and reassuring. Overall, current events demonstrate how crucial it is for employers to be prepared for the various workplace issues associated with a widespread threat to health, stability in general, and the potential of a collapse in complexity. When we are able to demonstrate leadership, show commitment to everyone’s safety and make human connections we have everything you need to cope with this crisis and its consequences for your organisation and for your people.

Stay safe.

Stay informed.

Wash your hands.

Be kind to each other and please

…be economical with the loo-roll!