You’d be forgiven for initially thinking that the only impact of COVID-19 on employee turnover rates would be how successfully organisations ride the storm and manage to retain the roles within their business.
However, with increasing talk about the ‘new normal’ and the changes that companies will face with home working and flexibility, it’s time for employers to think about the long-term impact on their culture and employee satisfaction.
The ultimate question people are facing is when social distancing rules are relaxed, do you enforce a return to the office or allow your people to work from home indefinitely?
This will inevitably depend on your business model, but if you’ve changed your processes and implemented the technology you need for effective working from home, then you may be considering whether the overheads of an office are worthwhile. But this could be a double-edged sword, so it’s important to consider the consequences of both choices.
You may have people who have no interest in working from an office again – they may find that they’re more productive at home, they enjoy not having to travel, and not being in an office gives them freedom to manage their workloads more efficiently.
Alternatively, you may have people who can’t wait to get back into the office. They may miss the social elements that video calling can’t provide, they may appreciate the structure of leaving the house and literally going to a place of work, or they may not be set up appropriately at home for long-term working.
You’ll likely be in a position where you need to find the right balance between the two in order to ensure you keep your people happy, and prevent them looking elsewhere when recruitment starts back up again if the decisions you make don’t fit in with the lifestyle they are now looking for. So, what do you need to consider?
Employee mental health
There’s been many reports and plenty of news around the suspected mental health crisis that is looming as a result of the pandemic. This could be due to anxiety, isolation or poverty, among other things. It’s very likely that your organisation is already considering this and has something in place to support your people, but when everything changes again and isolation is removed, the ‘return to normal’ will likely affect people as well.
For a while, at least, the fear of going out in public will cause anxiety, there will be concerns around job security and for others, who have found many positives in the new lifestyle, going back to how things were before will be cause for concern.
Balancing that will be difficult but consider what measures you are putting in place – be flexible and offer options to your people so that they can try out the best solution for them. Be clear and regular with communication and have regular and open conversations to get a feel for how your people want things to move forward.
If you don’t already have a dedicated resource for mental health, it might be time to consider one. There are a number of organisations that offer support lines, or the opportunity to speak to a specialist, which could be a great option for smaller organisations who are looking for an effective solution.
The likelihood is that workplaces will be back in action before all of the children go back to school, so you need to consider how your people will manage with childcare while this happens.
In addition to this, the extended period at home may make parents re-evaluate their working hours – perhaps they’ll want to be more flexible in the mornings and afternoons, remaining home to reduce the childcare burden on others.
You might be interested in: How HR can manage the work and childcare juggling act
Revision of Employee Benefits
US-based Willis Towers Watson recently undertook a study which showed that two in five companies are planning to review their employee benefits as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s been a sharp increase in the desire to undertake remote learning and training, and the way that organisations have supported sick and parental leave have been under consideration, so it’s not surprising that benefits are now at the forefront of people’s minds.
Reviewing and improve these employee benefits could see an increase in retention when the new normal resumes. These benefits could be more flexible working – giving people the option to work from home permanently or sporadically; a change in healthcare provisions; or additional personal development, to name a few.
By undergoing this exercise, and getting the feedback you need from your people, I can increase trust and loyalty among your people. Be sure that you’re talking to everyone, or at least employee representatives, to uncover what they are really looking for, which could be different from what they wanted pre-pandemic. Don’t fall into the trap of believing ‘we know what’s best’ – opening up lines of communication and facilitating an avenue for feedback is key to getting this right.
The dreaded office workspace conversation. How do you balance the new needs of your people, with some wanting to work from home and some not? Well firstly there’s the flexible working benefit we just talked about, but it may be a bigger issue than that for you.
Most organisations will have huge overheads with office space along with leases or mortgages. For some, these overheads could be too high after a severe drop in business, and for others, they’ll have no choice but to continue with the agreements they have in place.
If you find a split between the drive to work from home and from an office, perhaps consider down-sizing, or having a hot desk facility only. And if this isn’t an option, you could consider re-purposing some of your space into a social area for employees, reducing the unused space if you find a lot of empty desks after the review of your policies.
The risk of employee turnover rates increasing is high if HR and business owners don’t manage the situation appropriately, but there are certainly ways to reduce this risk and improve employee loyalty and satisfaction.
These suggestions may not work for your organisation, but there’s no doubt that your people will have their own suggestions and ideas of what could work. If you can balance this with business needs and the financial impacts that come with this, then you should be on to a winner.
And remember that, throughout all of this, your competition could start offering people benefits that you aren’t, and the more relevant these are for the new way people want to work, the more likely is that your employees will jump ship. Having a flexible set of terms and conditions means that you stand a much stronger chance of keeping hold of your bet people, and it also makes your organisation much more attractive to top candidates outside of the business.