Life in lockdown has been very similar for me to business as usual except that it isn’t quite business as usual! For one thing, like everyone else, I’m obviously not commuting as much. I have been busy with the furlough scheme; talking clients through the myriad of considerations and rules on this; but other “bread and butter” for an HR Consultant such as discipline, managing sickness absence, performance management, has all but disappeared. Working from home is straight forward because I already have an office in my house, but I’m now sharing resources and broadband with my son and husband which also means time spent around the coffee machine with my new co-workers! However, this pandemic has had other unexpected impacts on my working life that I thought worth sharing.
Redundancy in any situation is distressing. I would say that anyone who claims not to feel empathy towards the employers and employees in these situations is not being truthful. Many jobs have been “saved” (for now) by the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and it is welcome news that, as I’m writing this, the Chancellor (“our Rushi” as one of my clients refers to him colloquially) has just extended this to the end of October. This is welcome; but is it postponing the inevitable? Will there be jobs for everyone at the end of this? When will “the end of this” be, and what will work look like? Sadly, I do not have the answers, but what I do have are some solutions for employers which may involve redundancies. I am already talking to clients about downsizing and redundancies. For some, consultation has already progressed and it is simply heart breaking. These redundancy situations have impacted me personally way more than other redundancy situations and I think it is because of all the other emotional, social, medical, psychological concerns that are simultaneously swirling around our hearts and minds. I’ve shed tears for these amazing people on both sides. I’ve prayed a lot. It is therefore even more important to plan, consider what actions need to be taken, and know what consultation rights apply. Employers should engage with trade union representatives, staff representatives, and staff as early as possible, and with an open mind like never before, because most staff are anticipating these conversations already.
This brings me on to another effect of the pandemic. I have really tried hard to have some “me” time everyday to quietly sit and breathe. Whether it is part of my yoga routine (I can strongly recommend “Yoga with Adriene”), quiet times, or just taking my dog for a walk. I think this should become a more important part of my day because it has certainly helped to lessen stress and anxiety particularly when I’ve been about to embark on difficult meetings. Just to take time out, be mindful, and then to allow time to plan and consider what needs to happen. I have also made more time for wider reading to challenge me and my business, to undertake employment law CPD, and to consider what my business might look like on the other side of the pandemic. It will be different; some of my clients may not be trading or in business; or their businesses might have changed significantly. I want to be there for them throughout and I think this added value of having a relationship with clients is invaluable and hopefully what makes them want to do business with me.
Finally, I am considering expanding my offer thanks to some exciting conversations with friends and businesswomen who have challenged me to consider additional ways in which I can add value to my clients and others. So, I am investigating the possibility of producing podcasts to cover a range of “how to” situations to help and guide managers to have conversations, develop relationships, nurture and support staff, with confidence. It is early days, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and, even better, offer me some areas that you think would be helpful for your managers/your business. I’m also looking at collaborating with other Consultants to help advise businesses on what actions they need to prepare for when taking those first tentative steps of reopening their business.
If you need help with your business right now, if you need HR support in any area, please contact me. Likewise, if you’re a business owner it can feel very lonely and so if you need support or someone who you can talk to about exploring options in order to keep your business afloat, I am here and am happy to phone or organise a Zoom call with you.
Take care of yourself, your family, your business.