As Employment Lawyers we are in a privileged position to gather perspective on a very challenging time for many clients with uncertainty and fear prevailing. For others it has been an opportunity to pivot or seek different options to ensure their business survives and thrives.
Discussing these points with many in human resources, personnel management and business owners there are some constant themes which have been aired. Providing positive notes and dare we say more clarity around business growth.
Here are some of our insights:
Insight 1 – Communication has been key
Many decision makers made it a point to us that the communication, the tone and transparency was a key part to their survival during the pandemic.
Any transition whether it has been stand downs or even redundancies have of course required the right legal compliance but also empathy built into the process as well. Clearly communicating to employees what was going to happen, when and how was difficult and many of our clients said to us it was a clear test of leadership and the values that the companies held true.
The other side of the communication issues were also centred around work from home and how could organisations keep employees connected. Some of our clients utilised different means to keep the communication lines open such as:
- WeChat channel message groups;
- Zoom “huddles”;
- “Friday Drinks” through Microsoft Teams.
Insight 2 – Developing a flexible workforce
Another insight provided to us by HR was the development of more flexible workforces. This was done in a variety of ways including:
- Upskilling and training administrative team members to help in operational parts of the business such as accounts and client management;
- Managers using virtual and remote ways to manage staff in different states and territories (even different countries);
- Amending and changing rosters to suit the needs of the business whilst at the same time considering the effect on employees.
There was also a need for leaders to be flexible in their approaches, how work (and how it was getting done during the pandemic) needed to change and who that might effect.
Even understanding “virtual body language” was thought of as something to consider and lean into – with differing degrees of success.
Insight 3 – Peer Support more important than ever
The scope of mental health has come to the forefront more recently as employees deal with isolation and disconnect. For many especially in states such as Victoria it has been a difficult exercise and support required by managers and supervisors has been very important. Strategies to cope have led to numerous progressive ideas on “work” in its current context including:
- A move to 4 day weeks – with 1 day specifically carved out for personal care, relaxation and revitalisation;
- Utilisation of new software such as Microsoft Teams – “virtual commute” and programs like Headspace being rolled out to employees;
- Regular virtual (and phone) check ins with employees;
- Preparing employees with the “worst case” scenario and providing information about a “Plan B” – some organisations utilised stand down provisions and others even looked into secondments. Another avenue explored was extended leave for some employees.
What does this tell us?
Yes there is uncertainty however talking to our clients it is has become apparent that managers, executives, boards and human resources have stretched themselves. The reactionary issues of unfair dismissal claims and general protections matters are not over, in saying this, organisations are looking at other avenues to keep going. This has meant different perspectives and different technologies being implemented, trying out unique programs and moving leaders towards embracing uncomfortable situations and decisions.
We look forward to continuing to demonstrate our key core value of help first to help clients achieve growth even in the face of a pandemic.
If you are an employer or in human resources and this article resonated with you feel free to give us a call +61 (07) 3876 5111 to arrange a time to speak with our Director, Jonathan Mamaril or one of our team members – we might even shout you a coffee (or a virtual one).
About the Author
Jonathan Mamaril leads a team of handpicked experts in the areas of employment law and commercial law at NB Lawyers – Lawyers for Employers who focus on educating clients to avoid headaches, provide advice on issues before they fester and when action needs to be taken and there is a problem mitigate risk and liability. With a core value of helping first and providing practical advice, Jonathan is a sought after advisor to a number of Employers and as a speaker for forums and seminars where his expertise is invaluable as a leader in this area as a lawyer for employers.