As lockdown restrictions lift, organisations must carefully manage the risks associated with encouraging staff back to work, including their safety, mental health and wellbeing

The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work and do business. In some respects, this has been good; firms are embracing flexibility and innovating to find technological solutions to cope with government lockdowns throughout the world.

Studio Graphene recently surveyed over 500 decision-makers within UK organisations to uncover the impact Covid-19 has had on innovation. A whopping 45 per cent of businesses said the pandemic has prompted the most radical digital transformation in their history. Forty seven percent have migrated their offering from in-person to online, 39 per cent have invested in a new area of technology and one in five have launched a new app.

However, these seismic shifts have not been without their challenges. The sudden order to work from home left many firms grappling with logistics and technological challenges. On top of that, companies had to radically transform their business models to match new realities around consuming and living.

Meanwhile staff struggled with mental health issues, loss of income and fears around job security, while working parents were suddenly left without childcare solutions and trying to home-school whilst also holding down a job.

The challenges ahead

Now, lockdown restrictions are easing as governments seek to protect their local economies, but the virus is still very much at large. If anything, the challenges for businesses have become even more difficult to navigate.

Organisations are navigating how to bring employees back to work safely, whilst also acknowledging that many want more flexibility in the future. They also being forced to make redundancies and, in some cases, even declare bankruptcy.

Danny Wong, founder and CEO of Goat Risk Solutions said: “When the lockdown first happened, most of us were in crisis mode shifting the operations onto remote arrangements and ensuring we could support our customers in the best way possible.

“Of course, in the meantime, customer demand for most businesses fell off a cliff and organisations have started feeling the pain of an extended shutdown. Immediately we go from one crisis to the other, the new focus is cashflows, furloughs and redundancies.”

From a people risk perspective – the complexities are difficult to navigate but of the utmost importance to get right. Organisations need to think carefully about communication with staff that are being made redundant and supporting those that remain in work.

This is mission critical, partly because failing to manage people results in increased absenteeism, drops in productivity and a loss of talent, but actually the risks run deeper than that. Consumers are increasingly voting with their feet, and how organisations conduct themselves throughout the pandemic will have far-reaching impacts on their reputation – and ultimately their bottom lines.

Liam Arnold, director of Well@Work said: “The biggest cost to any employer is always the staff. Why would you want them to be off work? Having something in place to help support employees with their mental health and staff wellbeing will always have a positive impact on the sickness levels within a company. It will also keep the turnover of staff low.