How should businesses approach people decisions and workplace productivity during Covid-19? Advice from Fora’s online workshop with KPMG

April 2020

Each business will be impacted in different ways by the unprecedented challenges created by Covid-19 but in our latest webinar with KPMG, their experts highlighted some of the common issues business leaders need to consider. As the disruption from the lockdown continues, Fora Residents and other businesses globally need to not only deal with the current situation but also think about how they will emerge from the crisis, ready to thrive in the future.

 

Rob Andrews of KPMG’s legal department highlighted the array of options available to companies, ranging from the well-publicised Job Retention Scheme through to redundancies, which ultimately underpins all the other options. Anecdotally, Rob said that the furlough scheme had so far helped most companies avoid the need for measures such as short-time working and layoffs. Pay reductions had also been implemented by some organisations, particularly by management teams looking to demonstrate a willingness to spread the impact of Covid-19. Rob recognised the PR value in companies being seen to do the right thing.

 

Look before you leap

Before taking any action, Rob cautioned that employers must ensure that they have the right to do so and think about how to mitigate employment law risks. Despite the exceptional circumstances, employment rights still apply. For example, some companies may be required to implement a 30-day consultation with staff before a course of action is adopted. Business leaders should have a clear approach on issues such as sickness absence and the shielding of workers, particularly those in more vulnerable groups. “From a legal standpoint, make a record of what decision was made and why it was made,” advised Rob. “If it ever came to a dispute you would be able to show your thinking.”

 

The situation will continue to evolve

Kate Holt of KPMG’s People and Change specialism highlighted how the situation has changed since the beginning of the crisis. After initial Reaction and Resilience phases, many businesses are now looking to Recovery. “We’re dealing with the now,” said Kate, “but we can also see that business will look very different coming out of this.” Remote working raises a myriad of practical issues including cost, connectivity and data security. In the meantime the emotional stresses and strains created by the disruption need to be carefully managed too. “We are seeing an increase in mental health issues so policies around Wellbeing need to be strong,” observed Kate.

 

Wellbeing comes first

It has never been more important for companies to appreciate how their employees may now be having to juggle multiple tasks, particularly childcare and home schooling. Companies need to listen and communicate, with some using questionnaires to understand what challenges their staff are facing. Kate explained, “Some companies aren’t getting this right. Some aren’t listening enough. Some aren’t talking enough.” Companies need to flex in less formal ways to ensure productivity and morale are kept up. There needs to be recognition that not all employees will adapt easily to remote working and will miss the social aspect and support of the office.

 

Stay positive

But KPMG were also able to share feedback that, despite working remotely, many workers were even feeling more connected to their organisations and teams. Kate described a varied list of events that businesses found supported a sense of camaraderie, ranging from virtual quizzes and drinks though to tours of people’s gardens. “Look to the fun side – particularly for those who live on their own,” advised Kate. In uncertain times these initiatives also reinforced a sense of trust. “Hold true to who you are as an organisation,” advised Kate. Transparency and honesty are crucial at this time and, although not everything will be perfect, staff will appreciate that business leaders are trying to do their best in difficult times and also looking to the future.

Fora will continue to work with KPMG to bring our Residents and followers the most up-to-date advice. Keep an eye on your Fora newsletter for the next workshop and other opportunities to access business support.