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How to support employees after lockdown

Peter Meyler, Associate and Head of Workplace Consultancy - Barnett Waddingham

How to support employees after lockdown

Covid-19 is the biggest and most unpredictable crisis the UK has had to deal with since World War II.

From an employment perspective, many key workers continue to be fearful of catching the virus. Others are working from home or have been furloughed. Some have already been made redundant or fear imminent redundancy. All of this is inevitably affecting many people’s mental health and wellbeing. So what can employers do to ensure they support their employees as lockdown eases?

Returning to work after lockdown

The gradual return to any new “normal” version of work will be different for employers and employees alike — and scary for many who don’t know what to expect or plan for. A good example of this is flexible and home working, which has allowed many people to continue working productively during this crisis. Will this become the new normal for many of us?

Kick-starting the economy is critical but requires employees to be at their best so they can be highly productive. They need to be happy, healthy, engaged and feel confident and comfortable about how and where they are being asked to work.

Understanding your employees

It is essential that employers truly understand how their employees are feeling at this time and what worries they have about returning to work or job security. This is an integral part of return to work planning.

We surveyed over 2,000 UK employees. While just over half (51%) expect to be working normally again within the next three months, 14% (18% among furloughed employees) believe they will be made redundant and 11% believe they will be asked to be take a cut in pay and/or benefits.

Employees’ confidence in their financial health has plummeted to only 35% feeling confident now compared to 59% prior to the pandemic, especially among furloughed employees whose salary isn’t being topped up.

The importance of good communication

At a time when communication with employees is at its most critical, there appears to be a vacuum, with a third saying they are receiving no communication and another 24% receiving only a small amount of communication to support their mental wellbeing. It is a similar pattern for financial health communications.

There is a strong correlation between quantity and effectiveness of communications, with less than half (46%) having some level of satisfaction with mental and financial health communications. For furloughed employees, they feel they are receiving less communication and support than those still working.

What does this mean for employers?

It sends a clear message that there is an urgent need to understand how different parts of their workforce are feeling at this time in order to be able to respond to the challenges effectively. Regular, simple employee pulse surveys can play an important role in ensuring you are focusing on the right interventions.

Bringing employees back to work effectively is as much about understanding and supporting their mental, emotional and financial wellbeing as it is about ensuring they can physically work safely with minimal risk to health.

Read more about our research results here.

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