No one could have predicted at the beginning of 2020 quite how the year would go. There is not a single person or business in the UK that has not been profoundly affected by the events of the last few weeks. The coronavirus pandemic has changed life very dramatically and very quickly. In just a short space of time, previous plans for the year have been torn to shreds and everyone is dealing with the new realities of life in lockdown.

Coming to terms with the new normal

Data from the ONS shows only around 5% of employees worked mostly at home before the coronavirus crisis and only 30% had any experience of working at home at all[1]. Now, millions of workers are having to get to grips with working remotely virtually overnight. The likelihood is that many of the projects they were working will have been altered significantly or scrapped altogether. They will have to get used to working in ioslation, communicating to colleagues and managers online or on calls. If this wasn’t challenging enough, many will also be having to manage work alongside other responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly relatives, which will only add to increased levels of stress and anixety.

Time to press the reset button

To carry on with the same objectives and expectations in these circumstances for many is just impossible. Now is the perfect time to check-in with employees to agree what they are able to achieve while working remotely and set new goals. Having fresh, relevant and realistic objectives to work towards will give employees direction and focus. These are vital to make employees feel what they are doing is valuable and enable them to be as productive as possible given the situation. It makes sense to make these short-term, achieveable over the next few weeks and months to ensure they feel attainable.

Little and often

Working at home is very different to working in an office. The days can seem much longer, without the natural punctuations that working with others provides, like tea breaks and spontaneous conversations. A week working at home, can seem incredibly long, especially to those completely unused to the experience. Check-ins between managers and their direct reports on a weekly basis can establish a new framework to anchor employees, providing an opportunity to track progress, highlight successes and confront issues. Check-ins offer a new and appropriate rhythm to work towards that ensures that no one feels alone or forgotten.

Spotting the warning signs

A lot can happen in a week, not just at work but in the world outside. With 24/7 news coverage it’s hard to escape the enormous problems that everyone is facing and not to feel overwhelmed with despair and anxiety. Research from the CIPD has found that a major concern for employers is how to support employees’ mental health while they are working at home, in particularly around coronavirus anxiety[2]. A weekly check-in is the perfect opportunity to see how employees are coping. Giving them the chance to open up about how they are feeling is the first step to spotting those that are having troubles or need more help. It makes employees know that they are not alone, making it easier for them to come forward and ask for support if they need it.

Celebrating the positives

With so many negative headlines surrounding us it’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral of depression, feeling that nothing is going right. They may be hard to spot at times, but there are some silver linings to the current situation. How people are pulling together, helping their community, looking after their neighbours is inspiring. The same spirit of togetherness may well be going on within teams, departments and businesses as colleagues help each other out to ensure the work gets done.

Weekly check-ins provide an ideal opportunity for employees to highlight successes and to call out those who have gone above and beyond what is expected. Recognising positive achievements and sharing these across an organisation can give everyone a vital lift, boosting morale and providing an important sense of normality.

All in it together

The businesses that come together at this time, that are open and honest with their employees and treat them with compassion and empathy, will be the ones best placed to come through this crisis. Conducting weekly check-ins right across an organisation with give HR teams vital insights into how their employees are coping and where best to concentrate their focus and support. This information will provide a barometer on employee engagement and wellbeing, highlighting what is working well and what could be improved. It is also useful mechanism for information to be disseminated across a company keeping employees informed about management decisions and for senior leaders to know how their workforce is coping. Check-ins provide a window into the home of remote workers, shedding light on how things are really going.


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