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Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan and circumstance.
As the UK continues to keep a hopeful eye on the horizon regarding the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, industries across the nation are looking towards their workplaces and assessing what steps they need to take in order to make the gradual return to the office a safe and stress-free experience for diverse groups of employees. We've outlined the Top 10 factors that HR teams need to take into account when safeguarding a diverse workforce out of lockdown.
HR professionals have already found the scope of their responsibilities increased over the course of the pandemic, with many having found themselves at the forefront of executive level business continuity planning. This, coupled with the need to maintain constant lines of communication with employees for matters of performance and wellbeing, means that as organisations look towards a return to the workplace, these skills honed by their HR teams will be paramount in safeguarding the wellbeing of their employees.
Our recent survey shows that 53% of HR professionals we asked felt that their organisations were ready for a return to the office. As organisations begin to plan for the “new normal”, it is imperative that they look beyond the logistical aspects and take into account the diverse scope of their workforce. When building your future business strategy, it is important to be aware of the various circumstances of each employee. As we move towards the future of the workforce, it is more important than ever that you build an inclusive, supportive environment which takes into consideration the individual needs of your employees, rather than a homogenous, one-size fits all solution. By factoring in the concerns and needs of your people, you are able to foster a workplace where your employees feel supported, productive and happy.
10 Factors to consider for supporting a Diverse Workforce
- Age- Many workplaces have wildly varying age ranges of which have to be taken into account when planning a return to the office. Many of these people may have been in at-risk categories during the earliest point of the pandemic and therefore must be taken into consideration when looking at the makeup of the office and whether these employees will feel comfortable in returning. Also be mindful of disparities in vaccinations, there is currently still quite a divide between the older population having received first or second doses, whilst the younger population (18-40) aren’t projected to receive a first jab before July. It’s worth taking into consideration how comfortable those awaiting vaccinations may be over returning to the office space and what you can do to accommodate them and alleviate any anxieties. Utilising Cloud based HR solutions allows you a greater degree of visibility over the age range of your workforce and can allow your teams to plan discussions around issues such as health and concerns about returning to the workplace.
- Public Transport- When looking at a return to the workplace, it is worth assessing the circumstances of each employee, particularly in regard to their commute. Not every employee will have the luxury of personal transport and with the vaccination rollout still ongoing across the country, it is understandable that many employees would have reservations about using public transport for the foreseeable future. When planning your workforce’s return to the office, take into consideration what accommodations you can make for certain employees to ensure they aren’t taking risks they aren’t comfortable with, or encourage car-pooling to minimise these risks. Are there any local cycle-to-work schemes that your business can take advantage of?
- Parents- Many parents have had to massively rework their schedule in order to balance the educational needs of their children throughout the pandemic. Although schools are now open, parents and employers must be aware of the need for schools to isolate children on the grounds of suspected infection. This may mean last minute changes for employees who will suddenly find themselves required to isolate at home. HR teams should do their best in order to ensure that any schedules or workplace processes are flexible enough to cope with last minute switches into working from home.
- Dietary requirements- Some employees may have dietary requirements that mean they unable prepare food within the office space. When developing your plans for returning to the office, it’s important to consider the wider environment around the workplace- are there suitable facilities locally to meet those requirements? If not, you may have to accommodate those employees in a more permanently remote fashion.
- Disabilities/shielding workers- Although many of these people will have been prioritised for the vaccine, they still must be taken into consideration. Some conditions such as Myeloma can severely hinder the body’s immune response meaning there are understandable levels of anxiety with regards to how safe a return to the workplace may be for certain people, even while vaccinated. Healthy employees may also be living with partners/family members with serious health conditions and therefore, it is worth considering any risks a return may pose for them and their loved ones. If you aren’t confident the office space is set up as to alleviate these concerns, it would benefit you if you factored in a more flexible approach for working arrangements. Just asking employees and listening to their concerns should be enough to paint a picture as to what some people will require to stay safe.
- Social spaces within the office- Pre-Pandemic, many organisations will have had dedicated social spaces (pool tables etc) set up within the workplace. As natural hubs for employees to gather, these areas will no doubt be under great scrutiny as we return to the office, with many organisations potentially restricting access to them. The question posed by this to HR professionals is: how do you make these areas covid safe and also balance the social aspect of office work? Although across the nation, businesses are looking at a return to face to face working, it would be prudent for HR teams to look upon the last 12 months and how they pivoted social work functions to a virtual platform (E.G Virtual pub quizzes.) and to see how these processes may be adapted even after a return to the office.
- Lateral flow testing- Whilst there is cause to be optimistic as we progress along the roadmap out of lockdown, businesses will benefit by remaining vigilant and acknowledging the ongoing severity of the pandemic. When considering a return to the office, it is important to lay out clear procedures for testing the workforce and also how to mitigate the impact that positive testing may have on your day to day operation. Ensuring that you have clear protocol surrounding testing also serves to provide employees with peace of mind.
- Pregnant employees- much like with shielding workers, foremost in your mind should be the question of whether pregnant employees will feel comfortable in returning to the office, and what you can do to accommodate their working schedule to safeguard both mother and child.
- Mental health concerns- I’m sure we can all agree that the past 12 months has been an emotionally taxing time for all. When building your plans to return to the office, it is paramount that you take the emotional wellbeing of your employees into account. Some may have experienced loss as a result of Covid-19 and this coupled with the general rigors of a year in lockdown, mean that is imperative that HR teams are keeping a close eye on the mental wellbeing of their people. Being able to track employee wellbeing and mental-health will be absolutely key to safeguarding your people while we move into more of a state of flux, and building a culture with the tools that foster pro-active honesty and communication are vital
- Avoid inter-employee resentment- When assessing the structure of your workforce, it will become evident that some employees will require a greater work-home split than others. It is important that all employees feel supported to their needs, and that the working structure is clear so as to avoid any suggestion of preferential treatment that may foster resentment. Being open and transparent about the different working circumstances that may be in place will be key to building an understanding between employees and your business.
Our survey conducted with HR Magazine showed that over 86.7% of HR professionals believe that their employees requirements have changed over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an extremely healthy mind-set to have as organisations are looking towards a return to the office. The factors we’ve discussed above demonstrate a need for an open minded and flexible approach to on boarding the workforce as we have seen a trend towards diversity and inclusion becoming folded into the wider function of HR. A key development over the course of the pandemic, has been the pivot into digital platforms such as Cloud HR for organisations and the true measure of success for organisations will be finding the technology and systems to support them and their people as we head towards the future.For more information, our new whitepaper will help you discover the considerations that your organisation need to take into account when building the new shape of the workforce
Want to find out more about how to safeguard a diverse workforce out of lockdown? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan and circumstance.