How HR departments must adapt to the second lockdown

Shelley Frosdick, Managing Director and Director of Culture at The PHA Group

The pandemic has had a seismic effect on the business world forcing large swathes of the working population to work remotely.

After many businesses and workers had started to restore confidence in returning to offices, an order for many to work from home again and close physical stores or offices has been disheartening. So, what can businesses do to adapt to the second lockdown and rebuild team morale?

Going online

Of course, we’re all well drilled in using video calls now so going online is nothing new. But making it seem fresh and using it in innovative ways to keep staff engaged will be the key this time round.

It’s important – in times of isolation more than ever – to make staff feel they’re part of a wider group even if they might not necessarily cross paths with certain colleagues on a daily basis. At The PHA Group, we arrange regular ‘coffee catch-ups’ across the agency, ensuring a mixture of departments and levels of seniority meet for an informal discussion. It allows the team to get to know each other better and feel more connected; it helps to relieve stress and can improve productivity as well; it can also be a relief for many to share common challenges in our daily lives and to unite under a common purpose.  And it also creates a great platform to share those all important Netflix recommendations!

As well as coffee catch-ups, we also run a number of other training initiatives that have seamlessly adapted from being virtual, to in person, to a mix of virtual and in person and now back to just virtual – its exhausting just saying it! These training sessions keep career progression and professional development high on the agenda, as well as encouraging knowledge sharing and cross team working which is so important.  Regardless of lockdown and what’s happening in the wider world, staff want to feel that their career goals and aspirations are still being supported and so an ongoing commitment to training and personal development is absolutely critical for any business to ensure they continue to keep their staff motivated.   

With lockdown 2.0 challenging us to think of new ways to make virtual initiatives as engaging as possible, we have worked with our partner agency in New York, 5W, to set up a virtual exchange program which will run for the next month. This is in place of the in-person exchange program we normally run biannually which had to be cancelled this year due to Covid 19. Our two agencies have worked together to devise a program of activities that will cover creativity, new business, sector specific campaigns and general catch ups to talk with friends and colleagues about the challenges and opportunities of 2020, and no doubt the US election will also be a big discussion topic!

We hope these sessions will offer great opportunities for knowledge sharing and a time to speak with others openly about the new world in which we are all working, sharing tips and advice and giving us all a morale boost as we connect with colleagues from across the pond.

Looking at partners that your business has, or organisations you regularly work with and planning joint virtual events and training is a great way to bring newness to a virtual format we have all become used to. Every business is facing similar challenges and coming together gives a fantastic opportunity to offer something different.

Focusing on wellness

Now more than ever, mental and physical wellbeing has to be a priority and our in-house wellness team recently launched a new wellness initiative encouraging staff to spend a day away from work to focus on their mental health.  The newly launched Wellness Day is  in addition to everyone’s holiday allowance and can be taken whenever an employee needs and  could cover a broad range of activities from yoga and practising mindfulness to going for a walk, visiting family or just taking time to relax and switch off. Staff are urged to share the results of their wellness day with the agency in weekly company newsletters to promote positive mental health and share the benefits wellness breaks can bring.

Something to look forward to

With the Christmas party sadly cancelled due to social distancing measures. Many businesses will be scratching their heads thinking about what they can do instead. But while arranging COVID-compliant virtual events can be a good alternative to boost team morale and togetherness over the important festive period, there is also a great opportunity to give staff something to look forward to in the future. At The PHA Group, we are planning an agency-wide summer event to look forward to in place of this years cancelled Christmas one, showing we still recognise the importance of celebrating our achievements together in a relaxed environment, especially after such a tough year for everyone!  And we have already booked our 2021 Christmas party and added the date to everyone’s diary so we all know that the 2021 Christmas party will happen, and I’m sure be our best one yet!

No one could have expected the challenges of 2020, but what we can all do as employers is create a workplace that is fun, supportive, engaging and that adapts to the up’s and down’s as they happen.  Continuing to show a commitment to now, and a focus and hope for the future will ensure staff feel reassured as well as supported.  Here’s to 2021 and all the opportunities and happiness that it will bring. 

Author: Editorial Team

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