Three months into COVID-19 and with our entire workforce working from home we can see the first real signs of us emerging from lockdown.
Three months into COVID-19 and with our entire workforce working from home we can see the first real signs of us emerging from lockdown. With the lifting of restrictions and moving from phase 1 and phase 2+ it is now time to start the process of assessing and planning for our return to our offices. Our partners, On Q Recruitment in Australia recently reported their return to work in a recent article in the Irish Examiner. As Australia is about four weeks ahead of Ireland in the Covid return cycle, this information could be useful to Irish companies as they start to prepare for a return to their offices.
CareerWise Recruitment, an SME with 4 offices, is working on our Roadmap for returning to our offices. This Roadmap is created in line with the Return to Work Safely Protocol which includes risk assessments, plans, safety statements and other assessments to allow an orderly return to our workplace. As this is a new area for us all, training and online support is readily available from local Irish training SMEs, the HSA and HSE.
There are a number of important points to remember throughout the process:
• We are learning just as much as everyone one else and the plan will change and move to react to the changing situation of COVID-19.
• We have learnt new skills over the last 3 months of remote working that will stay with us for a long time to come.
• People are happy to return to work for the social and face to face elements of work which they have lacked over the last 3 months. However, that may not be possible immediately but the life skills learned during lockdown will help us through this and lead to an enhanced work environment in the long-term.
• Support Irish SMEs whenever possible.
One question many ask is what is the new normal of returning to work? The reality is there isn’t one. The risk assessments and plans will all remain live documents and will have to develop as we evolve over the next 12 months.
Most certainly there are challenges and changes we will have to adapt to when we return to our workplaces are:
• The challenge of working remotely for a continued period of time if you are in a vulnerable group.
• Mental health: the impact has not only been financial on businesses, the economy and individuals but also mentally. The challenges that our health services are facing of mental health will be more stark than ever before. EAP and other support services will need to be provided to employees.
• Complacency: one of the biggest risks is that if someone assumes everyone is else is doing everything right that they are ok to drop their standards. We need everyone to give 100% of the time committed to ensuring they follow guidelines, take no short cuts and protect themselves and also everyone else around them.
• The way we did business in the past will not be the normal of the future. We will have to adapt our methods and how we work and businesses will have to adapt to survive in the new ever changing ‘normal’.
• Communicating and leading your people is a bigger challenge. With any information gaps you can have uncertainty which can lead to rumours and anxiety. So the timely communication of information by leaders will help ensure employees continue to be engaged and productive during this challenging time.
• Engagement with customers: as everyone is so caught up in trying to maintain their own business communicating with your customers is also key to help them meet their needs and ensure relationships that were built are not lost.
Finally, there will be lots more change ahead of us and we will prevail through it all.
Michael has over 15 years’ experience across across a variety of leading multinational and indigenous engineering consultancy firms. Most recently he worked in a number of functions at Associate Director level including Engineering, Technical Services, Manufacturing, Operations, Compliance and HR with MSD. Michael has a wealth of experience from the Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing and Engineering Sector. He previously worked for Genzyme and with NeoDyne on site with a variety of their clients including: Schering-Plough, Wyeth, Askeaton Power, Dairygold and Bord Gais.
Michael holds a Masters in Personal and Management Coaching and a Masters in HRM; both from University College Cork and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Limerick. His primary degree is in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from University College Cork. In addition he holds a Diploma in Financial Management with the ACCA. Michael is a registered member of the British Psychological Society as tester for Ability and Personality Assessments, a Chartered Engineer with Engineers Ireland. He previously completed a Green Belt with CIT.
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