The challenges of leaving lockdown

By Anita Jaynes on 1 June, 2020

A guest post by Oli Thomas, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Corsham-based Purple Lime.

Following the latest information from the Government, many business owners and management teams are now building strategies to prepare for their employees to return to the workplace. 

This of course means that I too, as a company director, have to consider the challenges that working within the social distancing guidelines cause, and also the effect on my staff’s mental wellbeing, after living and working in lockdown for several months.

Here are some of my tips to help my team and, perhaps, yours:

Your staff are your priority

Alongside getting the business up and running, it is also about ensuring that your staff come back with the best support you can give them. They may have faced challenges during this time within their own families.  

Consider how you can be flexible with them during this time – not how you can get rid of them if they don’t meet your needs.

  • Have you kept in touch with them during lockdown?
  • Have you planned support for any employees who may have been affected by the virus personally?
  • Do you know how they will cope with childcare?
  • Will some have children that still need to be home-schooled?
  • Be aware that some staff may be nervous about returning to the office. Take time to ease them back into work.

Holiday plans and pay

We are in a situation not experienced before, and most people will have had their holiday plans cancelled or postponed. What will this mean for your business?

  • Have your employees taken their holidays during furlough?
  • Have you considered what will happen if everyone decides they want to take holidays at the same time?
  • If your business has particularly stressful work times during the year, plan holiday opportunities around that in your business plan.

In all cases, it is best to have open and honest dialogue with staff about when it is best for them, and for the business, to take time off.

PPE equipment

Act now and order any PPE equipment you need. Suppliers are already overrun with orders, and with many businesses going back to work at the same time, it will take time to get things in place.

  • What type of PPE equipment do you need?
  • Have you done a risk assessment of the office spaces?
  • Do you need to make physical changes to your offices?
  • Can you buy locally? You are more likely to have a reliable supply chain, as you will be able to contact them more easily. You are also helping the local economy and business community.

Business Planning – after your staff, comes your business

  • What have you done to maintain a positive cash flow during lockdown?  
  • Have you kept up to date with your business planning? It probably looks very different now than it did in Q1. 
  • Have you considered how your cash flow, budgets and forecasting are going to support your plan over the next few months?
  • Are there areas of your business that you can outsource if you have less staff able to return?
  • Can you make more use of tech than you already do?
  • Are there ways of working that you have used in lockdown that have proved beneficial and would be good to continue?
  • Have you thought about letting clients know in advance when you will be back in the office?
  • Keep clients updated with your health and safety plans too – so they feel confident in being able to see you if needed. 

 Change – if you are planning change, this in itself can be a challenge. 

When the governments furlough support ends, businesses will have to take on responsibility for that cost.  

There is a huge risk of people being made redundant when business owners make decisions around changes they may want – or may have to bring into effect. 

  • Will you have the funds to pay all of your staff full pay or part pay as furlough ends?
  • Have you planned or thought about what you will do if not?

If you think redundancy is an option for your business – be kind and careful. Are there other options? 

Look at the contracts you have in place and talk to your business solicitor about possible clauses to offer temporary variations of contracts.

  • People can work reduced hours / short-time working
  • You can lay-off staff temporarily and bring them back when work picks back up again, after agreeing with the employee to temporarily vary the contract and put them on a period of unpaid leave.

If you need support with any of these matters – or feel it’s time to outsource your finances in any way – please get in touch with us on hello@purplelime.uk.com or simply call us on 01249 691 360.