This week, Scott Morrison made further announcements relating to the coronavirus and the changes we need to make to minimise the infection numbers across Australia. More businesses will be impacted as they will not be allowed to operate as normal from midnight 25 March 2020. The other key message to come from both Scott Morrison and the state Premiers is that Stage 2 requires those who can work from home, to do so effective immediately. Clearly not all industries can manage this but there are options for others who previously felt it was impossible.
For all businesses, the key is to determine how they can keep people employed and their business viable – especially looking to the future when we do come through to the other side of the coronavirus. Restrictions placed on some industries means that there will need to be very hard decisions made regarding stand downs, making roles redundant or terminating employment but for others, there may be some alternatives that will allow you to keep your team employed. Whichever path you need to follow, please contact the HR Staff n’ Stuff team to help you through as there are legal obligations that need to be considered with the restrictions meaning different choices are available to different industries.
CAN WE KEEP OUR PEOPLE WORKING?
Do you have the cash flow to pay wages? If so, you may want to look at what constructive work your employees can do that will enable your business to be ready to go once lock downs are lifted. You want to have all your processes ready, new ideas fleshed out, cost efficiencies established – whatever you need to be sure you can meet the market when things kick off again. If lock downs occur, a factory may not be able to continue producing but you may have a team that can work from home on projects and research that your business doesn’t normally have the time to support. Get these moving if you can. Agile businesses who look outside the box are more likely to come out of this period successfully.
If you can’t afford to carry your full wage bill then you may be able to work with your employees to reduce their hours temporarily so that they can continue working and the business can keep functioning. As long as you assure your people that it is only until restrictions are lifted, they are likely to see it as a way to remain gainfully employed during the crisis while they help keep the business viable for the longer term. Please reach out to our team of HR Consultants for guidance in communicating and managing this process as are there are a number of considerations that will need to be factored in before you proceed.
WORK FROM HOME
For some businesses, work will be able to continue but only if your employees can operate in isolation from their homes. Again, there are things to consider before you send everyone home with a laptop. Firstly, does your network support remote work? Have you had your IT Support team set it up and test it? If not, make this an absolute priority. For some businesses this will be easy while some companies may require more work to make this happen. Either way, if you are in any way unsure, get IT on to it now.
Secondly, you must have your work from home policy and agreements in place. Establishing clear communication as to what is expected and the flexibility that will be given during this time is key to making this process work for your business. Bear in mind that in Victoria and the ACT, schools have brought forward the term holidays so you will have parents trying to juggle work with family needs. If your business can carry varied hours in which employees can operate outside of traditional office hours when children are in bed, then be clear as to what is expected, how and when and you will reduce the stress load for both yourself and your team. You may wish to agree to reduced working hours for employees working from home with caring responsibilities or the inability to function at normal hours when working alone.
Remember that Workcover applies as usual when people are working from home, so make sure you get agreements and policies in place to ensure people have a safe place to work and understand that they are still obliged to comply with all company policies. We can help you with these if needed.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
The one key message we want all employers to hear today though, is that your communication out to your employees has never been more important. People are frightened and even though you may be feeling the same way, you need to step up and be a leader now more than ever. If your business is still operating on site, working remotely, in a reduced capacity or if you have had to make the tough decision to stand down your team, you absolutely need to keep in contact. As far as possible, make sure everyone knows what is happening and what you are planning and any updates you have about reintroducing normal working functions when that information is available. You need to think about the words you use, the tone you use and the message delivery format. Now truly is the time to lead your people.
The HR Staff n’ Stuff team is here if you need us. Please contact our team if you are unsure of what you need to do or how to go about it. These are very uncertain and stressful times so please know that help is only a phone call away. We will be operating and we will be here to help.
The HR Staff n' Stuff team all contribute to our blogs. Enjoy the read!