We know it has been said far too many times already over the last 10 months, but this year has been unlike any we have experienced in our lifetime and a difficult one for most of us.
There have been many adjustments we’ve had to make in our day to day lives from wearing face masks in public spaces and practicing social distancing when we’re out and about, but there has also been a huge impact on workplaces and ways of working that will have a lasting effect on businesses.
As we look back on the year, there is a lot that businesses and employers can learn from 2020 and carry forward into the years that follow…
The importance of contingency plans
One of the biggest takeaways from this year is to expect the unexpected.
No one could have predicted or been prepared for what has happened this year but this should be the wake up call we need to now put a plan in place for any possible scenario that could greatly impact how we work or our safety in the workplace.
All businesses have plans and policies in place for certain events even when they have never occurred in the workplace before and the likelihood of such an event is slim. For example, we don’t ever expect a fire in the workplace; however, we conduct regular fire drills and ensure that there is fire safety equipment on the premises.
Yes, it is required by law but it is also important for businesses to consider every possible risk or danger in the workplace and put the appropriate measures in place to protect their workers and visitors because if the worst is ever to happen you need to be prepared – as we have witnessed this year.
One thing that many employers should start doing is putting contingency plans in place for every possible scenario that a business may encounter including a recession and global pandemics, which takes us onto our next point.
The need for a Pandemic Policy
Although it is not yet required by law, pandemic policies have proven to be an important piece of health and safety documentation for workplaces over these last few months, and many businesses did not have one in place prior to this year.
As part of a solid contingency plan, employers should create a pandemic policy and include it in their company handbooks to be distributed to, and read by, their employees.
This can be taken a step further with businesses reviewing their current company handbooks and assessing whether they need to introduce any other new policies into the workplace off the back of the coronavirus pandemic, such as a homeworking policy.
Working from home can be effective
Although remote working has been growing in popularity over the last few years thanks to advances in technology making it easier for employees to work productively outside of the standard office environment, only approximately 5% of the UK workforce worked mainly from home in 2019.
Given that the first lockdown in March required everyone to stay home which meant working from home where possible, businesses were forced to introduce a work from home policy if there was not one in place already.
This saw a record high of 38% of the UK workforce working from home in mid-June, and though it is unlikely that the figure will remain this high as we head into the new year, it is predicted to remain much higher than it was prior to coronavirus.
Businesses who may have once been weary of remote working have been exposed to many of its benefits.
Working from home:
- Reduces the cost of renting office space and resources as you can downsize
- Reduces employee lateness and sickness absence
- Increases employee mental wellbeing as they are likely to get more sleep and don’t have the stress of a commute
- Can improve communication as you feel more inclined to reach out to employees and check in on them
- Allows for more flexibility and agility which can be attractive when recruiting and can increase employee retention rates
- Promotes a better work/life balance which can lead to a happier, more motivated workforce
It has also proven to employers that their staff can be just as, if not more, productive when working from home and it will not affect the performance of the business.
Employers need to be prepared to act quickly
Even with a contingency plan and policies in place, you still cannot be prepared for absolutely everything and there are limits as to how much businesses can plan for the unknown.
The one thing that employers can do is be ready to adapt as and when things happen by staying informed, having a clear line of communication with their employees, and seeking advice and support from an expert.
Businesses often opt to have a HR and Health and Safety Consultancy by their side, even when there are not any specific or pressing matters that need to be addressed, so that they are ready to act when the unexpected does happen.
This could include:
- A grievance being raised by an employee
- An employee not following the code of conduct
- An accident in the workplace
- A new employment law or health and safety regulation being introduced
- A sudden increase in workload that requires the hiring of new staff
We have a team of qualified HR and Health and Safety Consultants that have experience in effectively dealing with all the above, and more, across all types of industries in compliance with the law.
They can help your business implement what we have learned from 2020 by creating a bespoke pandemic policy, conducting an on-site covid-19 risk assessment, providing advice on how to manage remote working, and keeping you regularly updated with news that might affect your business.
By having a professional consultant on call, you can also act quickly when new issues arise in the workplace to keep your employees safe, and your business running effectively, at all times.
To speak to us today about what your business can learn from this year and how we can help implement those lessons, call us today on 0845 2626 260