Coronavirus – adapting to the new ways of working

27 March 2020

There is no doubt it’s been an unprecedented few days and weeks for employers. Organisations are re-arranging how they work and consider how best to restructure their businesses to survive the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19).For employers whose workforce can work from home then a transition along these lines has started to happen for many. For those employers who have recently placed the majority or some of their employees at home, here are some tips on how to manage your new home working workforce:

  • bring in a home working or flexible working policy;
  • consider adding some structure to the team’s days and weeks;
  • consider the implementation of core hours; and
  • use the technology available to us: teams can share screens, check work and problem solve in all the same ways they ordinarily do using applications such as Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Managers and team colleagues alike will begin start to miss that daily contact and social interaction of an office environment. Mental Health England suggest setting up regular video catch-ups with your team for both social purposes as well as regular work based catch ups. We are seeing teams set up virtual ‘coffee catch-ups’ and ‘lunch dates’ and even ‘walk and talk’ sessions, sharing of workstation photographs in order for teams to maintain that social contact that the office normally provides.

For those employers whose workforce does not so easily transition into homeworking then other options are being considered. We are seeing employers considering a variety of options such as:

  • asking employees to take some annual leave;
  • asking employees to take some unpaid leave; or
  • asking employees to consider reduced hours and reduced pay eg asking for volunteers for a 4-day week.

Some sectors have found themselves contemplating more targeted wage bill reducing interventions in order to stem the loss of revenue to their business such as layoffs, short-term working type arrangements and redundancy. Whatever a company is considering, it would be prudent to make sure those decisions are borne out of financial modelling in relation to actual and projected revenues anticipated as a result of COVID-19.

Employers will also now be able to take into consideration the announcement from the government on 20 March 2020. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced an extensive programme of state intervention to support employers whose businesses are affected by the coronavirus. The ‘Coronavirus Retention Scheme’ will be available to employers who would otherwise have needed to lay off their employees or make them redundant because of COVID-19. Whilst we don’t have full details of the scheme yet, employers will be able to apply for reimbursement via HMRC for up to 80 per cent of their retained employees’ wages (up to £2,500 per month). This is for workers who would have been laid off but are kept on the payroll during the COVID-19 crisis; the government has called this furloughing or leave of absence. The scheme will be backdated to the 1st March 2020 and will be made available to employers for an initial period of at least three months.

Keep an eye on RSM’s coronavirus hub for more and contact Kerri Constable if you have any concerns or questions. In the meantime #staysafe.