If you are a business owner, manager or HR professional who is getting to grips with overseeing your team during the lockdown, it may all seem a little new.

Perhaps you have never previously offered a home working option and are not accustomed to managing staff when they are not in the workplace.

But there are many ways in which we can work towards upholding a level of efficiency and ensuring staff's wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this article, we offer some guidance on the way to look after your team in lockdown.

Communication is key

Lockdown can be a stressful time for employees, with all sorts of issues potentially coming to the fore - from the wellbeing of friends and family to job security.

For this reason, managers should aim to make communication regularly - and that makes access important.

From email to instant messaging apps and video call solutions such as Zoom and Skype. However you choose to communicate, regularity should be seen as the priority.

Ensure that you have a first point of contact whose responsibility it is to manage employee communication, and the same person, or another manager, who is responsible for tracking and reacting to COVID-19 related risks.

Communication should focus on the top line COVID-19 updates which will affect employees in both their work and home life.

Communicate with Furloughed Staff

In cases where you are implementing a furlough scheme, it is absolutely essential that these requirements are communicated as clearly as possible.

You might wish to talk through the implications face to face on a video app, before sending through any legal information in document form.

Refine your virtual workplace

There is no reason why a virtual workplace should not work efficiently in the digital era.

After all, we can provide all the opportunities a physical workplace can in terms of ways to collaborate, ways to share information, and ways to work.

Your first step should be ensuring that every employee has the means to work from home.

This might mean the downloading of certain apps, or in some cases, even ordering new equipment.

Make the most of file sharing systems, instant messaging apps and collaborative working platforms to organise your team.

Employee Feedback

As we have mentioned previously in this article; communication is key, and regularly asking for feedback from your team - from how they are, to what they are doing, and which work activities they have planned - can make all the difference to the effectiveness of a virtual workplace.

Of course, in many cases, stable wifi can be key to a smoothly functioning virtual workplace.

If an employee has poor quality wifi and is struggling to schedule a technician visit during this time, why not advise them to use a hotspot from their smart phone's connection?

If you are a larger organisation, you might like to set up a 'virtual workplace helpdesk' of sorts to deal with any technology-related queries during your remote working phase.

Prioritise wellbeing

As a manager of employees, it seems likely that prioritising is already a big part of your working day.

During the current COVID-19 outbreak, those priorities will change, and the health and wellbeing of employees can come to the fore.

Of course, you would usually place great importance on the wellbeing of employees, but during the pandemic, it can become a more pressing consideration.

Firstly there is the threat of the virus itself, and your responsibility as an employer to prevent putting your team in risky situations.

Implementing a remote working strategy is a massive part of this, but if you must remain in operation, there is a long list of other measures to take, depending on the nature of your business - this can include steps to ensure that staff can do their job while making as little contact as possible with their colleagues or customers.

Mental Health

For those who are working from home, there is the aspect of mental health during the lockdown.

Some of us cope better than others with staying indoors for long periods, so as an employer this is a time when friendly advice on how to deal with these new circumstances can come in handy - from organisation to exercise.

Do you have a question about an aspect of employment law which the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to your attention?

Call the experts at Neathouse Partners Ltd today on 01244 893776.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.