Published: May 28, 2020 | Updated: May 28, 2020

Prepare for change: World of work is going to be very different in the future say HR experts

Tracy Michael, Director, The HR Team South Coast Ltd.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

As business engines splutter into life after the prolonged lockdown one thing is for certain – the world of work is going to change.

So says Tracy Michael who, together with fellow Director Kelly Marsden, owns The HR Team South Coast Ltd.

She said: “Without question the last few months have opened eyes.

“Some business sectors who have always been rigid about their working arrangements have been forced to change their ways.

“They’ve discovered that, actually, their employees can work from home and still be effective, if not more so.

“I think that the work world will change, and for the better.

“There will be more of a work-life balance for employees and everyone will benefit.

“How we think about our workplace will no doubt be the biggest change of all.

“The open plan office as we know it could become a thing of the past.

“There has been a boom in co-working spaces and hot desking.

“Co-working was all about increasing social interaction, but we may see a resurgence of cubicles and closed doors.”

It’s been a busy, and at times emotional, few months for Kelly, pictured left, and Tracy.

Tracy said: “I’ve dealt with a lot of very stressed people and, yes, some have broken down on the phone.

“A lot of employers are very protective towards their staff, especially if they’ve worked for them for a long time.

“It really has been a question of holding the hands of our clients as we help them get through this very difficult time.

“I think we’ve really been showing our worth, especially for clients who have little or no HR knowledge.”

Founded two years ago by Tracy and Kelly after they met, by chance, in a park, The HR Team provides outsourced HR support and advice to small and medium sized companies.

The Poole-based business has 15 retained – and up to 20 ad-hoc – clients in a variety of sectors, ranging in size from one person up to 50 staff.

Most are in Dorset including Mays Estate Agents and IEC Engineering Ltd.

The HR Team has now produced five handy tips to help businesses survive the ongoing crisis.

They are:

  • Communicate openly and often

A great concern among the workforce extends beyond health.

Communications should be accurate, consistent, and honest.

Managers should also update communications frequently, as information changes day-to-day and even hour-by-hour.

Tailor communications to the employee. One style of communication does not suit all.  Zoom isn’t for everyone. Some find a simple phone call less intrusive.

Business owners need to also listen and adjust. Consistently get feedback from employees at home and in the workplace. Learn what is working and not working and what makes them feel safe.

  • Mental health support

The coronavirus crisis has uprooted normal work life, causing feelings of anxiety and depression among some employees.

Some businesses are offering free access to mental well-being apps. They can help to manage stress, build resilience and cope with anxiety.

Employees working from home are juggling spouses and children being at home as well as home schooling needs.

Managers could introduce virtual coffee breaks and lunches in which colleagues can enjoy non work based interaction. Fitness breaks should also become part of the new working day.

Appreciating and recognising staff is key to elevating their self-worth, engagement levels and sense of belonging.

  • Develop your team for a return to work

Training is not only permitted during furlough but it is actively encouraged. It’s a great way to keep furloughed employees engaged, motivated and optimistic.

Identify new skills or development needs if roles need to be adapted.

There are key tests before bringing their people back to the workplace. Is it essential? Is it sufficiently safe? Is it mutually agreed?

In the short-term businesses will need to ensure employees have PPE and staggered lunchbreaks.

Contactless pathways might be the norm too, so workers do not have to press buttons or touch keypads.

  • Understand employment law

Business owners who do not have an internal HR department should consider using an outsourced consultancy as HR policies are changing daily.

In the first instance, have an up to date contract of employment. It protects employers as it reduces the risk of legal action and for staff it offers peace of mind and security.

Generally speaking, employers who attempt unilateral changes to employees’ contracts without agreement could be in breach of contract.

An employer can make a change if the employee agrees so it is important to clearly explain the rationale behind the changes and confirm any agreed changes (even if temporary) in writing.

  • While surviving in the short-term, don’t forget to plan for the long-term.

It is important to think about long-term ramifications.

For many in this newly expanded remote workforce, there will be no turning back for a long time yet.

While it’s impossible to develop a perfect plan with such fluid timelines, as well as so many other variables, there are many steps you can take today to ensure that you and your organisation come out the other side of this crisis a little less battered.