The coronavirus pandemic has affected every business across the UK. Whilst some are busier than ever due to demand, others are finding that the need for their products or services has considerably slowed. All companies are having to look at their operations to try and stay afloat during this uncertain time whilst adhering to government guidelines, by altering the way their staff work and in some cases changing the roles people are doing, or taking the difficult decision to place staff on short term paid leave.
Even those businesses that are adapting will no doubt be affected by staff shortages, whether that is people having to self-isolate, taking sick leave, or taking time off to look after family. In turn, this new way of working, juggling home life with work, brings its own concerns for staff around mental health and well-being.
In the midst of this predicament employers may need to fill business critical gaps fast to keep things running, one way they can do that is to upskill existing staff, or retrain them to work in another part of the business.
“It’s challenging for all businesses and their people right now, it’s certainly pertinent to look at the skill-sets your members of staff have and explore how these can be used in other parts of your company, which may be busier than others at the moment”, says Nicky Williams, Head of People and Skills at Business West. “Staff who are usually meeting and greeting clients in person could be redeployed to help with computer-based admin work or asked to handle phone calls to help ease the pressure on others. Spending time talking to staff to explore how they can be redeployed is crucial, to listen to their needs and worries is important to keep staff morale high.”
Even employees of companies which are still operating with staff working from home, are taking the opportunity to learn new skills and software, such as video conferencing programs, webinars or messaging systems, which many may never have used before.
“Here at Business West a lot of staff were set up to work from home already, but for others it was the first time they had to get used to working remotely”, continues Nicky. “They have been learning new skills such as video calling and getting used to remote programmes such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype, skills which will continue to be useful for them and the business even after this pandemic has passed.”
As we are all aware, the NHS has itself been taking on this challenge, with doctors asked to temporarily switch specialty and retrain to work on Intensive Care Units to help coronavirus patients, and Doctors in training graduated quickly so they can increase capacity to deal with the outbreak at its inevitable peak.
With many businesses forced to close after the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday 20th March, some staff have also found themselves at home with little to do. Taking into consideration the government’s advice regarding staying at home as much as possible, and social distancing, it could be an opportunity for businesses to encourage these staff to sign up to online courses to learn new skills, or even offer to volunteer in their local area by helping local community groups set up to deal with COVID-19.
“As well as adapting to a new way of working it’s important for us as managers to keep in touch regularly with our teams and ensure their well-being is a priority. We often forget as business leaders that work is a core focus of people’s lives –with many people isolated at home their whole social construct and scaffolding is removed. ”, continues Nicky “Providing staff with clear goals, new structures and new skills to learn will be key in maintaining staff health and well-being through this challenging time.”
With no time limit on how long the coronavirus pandemic might continue to affect businesses, it’s a key time for companies to see how they can alter their operations and support their staff to upskill or retrain to allow business to keep going where possible.
To help businesses Business West are providing detailed practical support and guidance. Businesses can reach this support through our Trading Through Coronavirus hub.