Faced with all the worry and uncertainty of today, many of us are longing for the times ahead of us when lockdown and furloughs are just words from the past. Visits to pubs, cinemas, football grounds and restaurants and, more importantly, visits to see friends and family, can seem like distant dreams now. Of course one day, and hopefully not before too long, those things will once again be part of our everyday.
However, alongside our dreams of the future, there are worries too about things to come. Predictions of difficult days ahead for business are making the news, alongside the painful statistics of illness and loss.
It’s pretty much certain that the damage to the economy being caused by the current crisis will have a lasting impact on the worlds of commerce and work and so employers do need to be thinking now about some steps they may need to take once the lockdown begins to ease.
Regrettably, and despite many efforts to the contrary, redundancy is going to be a word we’re likely to hear a lot. Employers will need to make sure they’re up to speed on how to conduct redundancy processes fairly and in line with their legal obligations. Consultation, fair selection and, for larger scale redundancies, engagement with trade union or elected employee representatives are all things that employers will need to manage and getting up to speed now with the steps you will need to take will be time well spent.
Businesses may need to function with fewer people covering the jobs previously performed by a larger number of workers and so employers will also need to consider workforce reorganisations, with employees moving into wider ranging roles, where multiskilling and flexibility will be key requirements.
Employers will need to ensure that their remaining workforce is engaged, motivated and properly trained to perform the work they need to do. Equally poor performance will need to be properly addressed.
On a positive note however, something that many employees are demonstrating to their employers at the moment is their ability to work flexibly and in innovative ways. People are working from home where they’ve not often done so before and employers should be considering whether greater flexibility on their part as to how work can be done is something they should embrace in the future.
Can lessons be learned from these difficult times about how work can be structured to help working families achieve a better balance? With businesses needing to recover and needing to maintain or restore profitability, retention of the best workers is going to be a high priority. A flexible and forward thinking approach to work is likely to be a key element for employers in achieving this.
And so, while the times we’re living through are so very difficult, and while the times ahead can look worrying in many ways too, there are lessons we can learn and preparations we can make now to help us better respond to the business challenges ahead.