Just as we were all preparing to enter the new normal, the threat of localised lockdowns has become a real worry for business leaders everywhere. In the UK we’ve seen Leicester go into a localised lockdown. With outbreaks of Coronavirus in other cities, employers everywhere should be watching the news with bated breath if they wish to ensure the safety of their people and business continuity.
While many of us may have become used to remote working and have been able to adapt well, a localised lockdown could present a whole new set of challenges. Remote working may be running smoothly now, but the transition between the office and home hasn’t been smooth sailing for everyone and to repeat without changes could lead to disaster. Considering the implications lockdown has had on businesses previously, it’s imperative that leaders prepare for a worst-case scenario. The pandemic isn’t going away, and as this year has already proven, companies must be able to adapt quickly, efficiently and with strong leadership.
Localised lockdowns will also test just how much companies and HR teams have learnt from the pandemic, and failure to prepare could be the final straw in losing employee confidence and tarnishing your employer brand. Businesses cannot risk making the same mistakes again and simply returning to their old, pre-pandemic ways of working. While we’ve all been working to protect employees and minimise the risk of outbreaks in our spaces, it’s vital that we haven’t overlooked creating a strategy to respond to another lockdown situation. Otherwise, businesses are at risk of heading back to square one.
Here are some things that should be considered:
Reflect on Past Mistakes
No one has been perfect in this pandemic. Looking back, even the businesses that had a smooth transition into remote working will be able to identify some things they’d do differently. Now is the time to ensure that you do. Cast your minds back to March 2020 and look at how far you’ve come in that time. After months of remote working for many, companies should be able to identify the best technologies to use, strategies for communication across the business and attitudes to take with them into another lockdown. Use this learning to your advantage and let it inform your remote working or COVID strategy going forward.
Consider What is Critical
As you have time to prepare an emergency remote working strategy, you must evaluate your critical deadlines, employees and processes. The ways of working you adapted to during the last lockdown may not have been the most effective as it was a rushed decision; now is the time to refine them. Find ways to adapt now so that your critical business can run as smoothly as possible, and you can meet your deadlines or goals. Ensure your employees can work comfortably from their homes and have everything they need, or if they need to come to the office, you have a safe environment which meets all government guidelines.
Ensure Up to Date Information
It’s been a long time since we last went into lockdown, and a lot can change. While it may be a small task, asking your employees to update their contact information could be a lifesaver in a worst-case scenario. If a lockdown occurs or worse, someone in your office contracts the virus, you need to be able to contact everybody quickly and easily. If you have the wrong phone number for one employee, it could cause unnecessary stress for many. A simple request to update contact details will help you prepare for the worst-case massively, and ensure employees know to tell you if anything changes going forward.
Review Where Your Employees are Based
In the UK, Leicester is close to many other towns and cities which caused problems for commuters when it locked down. People who live in Leicester could work elsewhere, but people that live elsewhere could also work in Leicester. Your workplace is rarely in a completely isolated location, and this causes confusion.
The location of your office may not be affected by these new localised lockdowns, but it doesn’t mean your employees won’t be. Use your employee data to gain a better understanding of where they’re based and ensure that all individuals know your remote working procedure. If a localised lockdown affects them, clearly mark out the individuals they should contact and ask that they give as much notice as they can by communicating as soon as warning signs appear. Your HR can’t watch every area for outbreaks so promote open discussion if concerns arise. With a clear strategy in place, any employees that commute should be able to continue their work from home without too much disruption to the rest of your business should a localised lockdown be enforced.
Check Your Supplies
We’re not suggesting you go out and stockpile office supplies in case of another lockdown; however, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. If there was any equipment your team wishes they’d had to make working from home easier or you found certain supplies hard to get hold of under the threat of March’s lockdown, it may be sensible to invest to avoid panic later.
Talk to your suppliers and ensure that they are also prepared and have a business continuity plan. It may be that they have other providers in other locations that can help should they be unable to provide your supplies. This will reduce your chances of being caught short should their local area go into lockdown too.
Survey your employees and ensure they had everything they needed while working from home to gain a clear idea; some may benefit from a headset or second monitor, for example. If this is the case and finances allow, investing will mean you are once again better prepared for a worst-case scenario.
Provide Training Where Needed
If you are lucky enough to be back in the office albeit socially distanced, it may be a good idea to check that all of your existing employees are confident with the technologies and procedures you implemented while remote working. This could be a golden opportunity to run training sessions on Google Documents and online workspaces, Zoom and other technologies that were alien to us not so long ago. Talk to your managers, if there were any areas their teams felt less confident in while working remotely, now is the time to help them strengthen those skills, so remote working becomes more seamless going forward. This will avoid any employees being left behind and will reinforce technical skills that may be vital for your business in the future.
Communicate with your Employees
No matter what strategies you put in place to prepare for a localised lockdown, they will not work unless they are communicated clearly to all employees. Whether you’re currently working in the office or working remotely, procedures are only as good as the communications which support them. As an employer, it’s your job to inform employees of any COVID-19 worst-case scenario measures and to ensure that everyone understands their individual responsibilities.
This also gives employers the chance to test and fine-tune their strategies as well as listen to employees’ concerns. Your staff are likely to be equally worried about the thought of a localised lockdown so keeping them in the loop will help your employer brand from an internal perspective and provide confidence in you when it’s needed most.
Unlike March’s lockdown, businesses have advanced warning and time to prepare. Make the most of this time so you can minimise the effects of another potential lockdown as well as comfort your employees so that they know everything is under control.
In the world of business, you can never be too prepared, and this is especially true during a pandemic. While no one can predict the future of this virus, we can now prepare for the worst-case situation by evaluating our previous actions and learning from experience. Being ready for a local lockdown or even a COVID outbreak within your business will help to restore confidence in your ability to adapt – helping the employee experience and your employer brand- as well as ensuring business continuity should the worst happen. Having transparent processes and strategies in place, and making your team aware of them can reduce the impact of a potential second wave, whether nationally or locally.
To survive in the new normal, businesses must now prepare to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes. These unpredictable times call for strong leadership and the ability to adapt quickly. Providing robust and tested strategies will put you in a better place to thrive in a post-pandemic world so that you can focus on business growth going forward.