A combination of people being unable to work, the need to limit the amount of personal contact and demand for your product or service being potentially significantly reduced, is likely to mean you will need to change the way your organisation and people work.
Be prepared to be flexible with staff in the way they work – many will need to work from home, potentially for the first time, and may have family responsibilities as well. People are likely to be far more productive in the long run if they are allowed to vary their working patterns and methods to fit around their own circumstances.
Prioritise tasks and activities to identify what is critical – that is, what absolutely needs to be done, for example to fulfill customer demand, to ensure legal compliance or to meet employee needs – such as payroll or maintaining a safe working environment. Once you have identified your critical tasks, challenge yourself again – are they 100% essential; what would happen to the business if they weren’t completed for a period of time?
Consider how the critical services and tasks can be delivered if the people normally responsible are unable to work due to sickness, self isolation or the need to look after children. Ask yourself, who else could do the work? Do they have the skills and knowledge? Would any additional training be needed? Are there other ways the work can be achieved?
Create a contingency plan for each area of critical work – you may need to consider unnatural solutions or be prepared to work in ways that would not normally be acceptable.
Where possible, organise tasks and provide facilities to enable home working. Successful home working depends on careful planning, cooperation and trust, as well as ensuring conditions are right. We have provided a separate guide on how to ensure effective home working.
Consider how technology solutions may be able to reduce the number of people required in the workplace – for example video and voice conferencing for remote meetings.
Creative Working Arrangements
In order to manage the workload and ensure the safety of employees you may need to implement creative working arrangements.
For example, introducing more flexible resourcing strategies to maintain essential services in case of resourcing shortages due to people becoming ill and/or self-isolating.
If roles can’t be performed at home and are essential, consider more innovative solutions such as staggering separate A and B shifts to perform critical tasks at different times of the day so they are not in contact with each other and the risk of cross infection is reduced.
In circumstances where people are no longer fully utilised – due to example a fall in demand for services, or a cessation of a particular activity such as training – try to look for opportunities to reallocate tasks to them, to potentially reduce the burden on employees whose work has increased as a result of the crisis.
You may also need to consider the government-supported Job Retention Scheme, whereby people can be released from their duties for a temporary period, but stay employed with up to 80% of their salary (to a cap) being reimbursed by the government. We have produced a separate guide on this scheme.
Other options, as alternatives to more permanent layoffs or redundancy situations could include offering employees temporary periods of part or unpaid leave, a reduced working week, or a reduction in salary. These types of measures need careful consideration and implementation in the context of employment legislation.