For many businesses, staying productive and competitive during a pandemic has been one of the biggest challenges. However, with certain areas across Australia soon to have their doors re-opened, now more than ever is the time for businesses to adapt, improve and innovate their operations. We have collated a list of steps to help prepare and plan the changes any business should address in the coming weeks.
1. Understanding Federal Government requirements
The Australian government has released a series of resources and initiatives to support businesses through the COVID-19 changes. For employees that return to the workplace there are strict social distancing and safety requirements – you may need to rotate the number of staff in the office at one time, for example. In addition, review JobKeeper updates and ensure that employees are being adequately paid for the hours they work, in accordance with the relevant awards. If necessary, increase payments or decrease hours. Keep an eye on your state government’s websites too, such as Victoria’s roadmap for re-opening, for example.
2. Change or scale down operations
Changes in how your employees operate within your business – whether they are physically in the workplace or working from home (or a combination of both) – require you to clearly communicate what is happening, backed by processes. If you need to scale down your operation, ensure your staff are consulted with and understand their rights. Managers should be readily accessible to all staff during times of change.
3. Develop your policies and procedures
Your workplace and method of work has changed. You need to document the new policies and procedures that reflect these changes. Complete and coherent procedures ensure that your entire work force understands what is expected and help to ensure an effective business.
4. Prepare for blended workplace environments
With a shift to online working, businesses should prepare for the scenario that some employees will still need to work from home or are, in fact, more effective working from home. The systems and platforms that have seen you through the COVID-19 crisis should be reviewed for effectiveness and then integrated into policies and procedures to facilitate a smooth blended transition.
5. Ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all
From social distancing, to kitchen cleanliness, to elevators, stairs, doors – all businesses must maintain a high level of hygiene in this new COVID normal world. Working from home environments need to be considered and included in policies that address workplace safety.
6. Focus on the mental well-being of staff
The last few months have had a significant impact on everyone’s mental health. Regular check-ins with staff to see how they are going physically and mentally is essential for maintaining a positive and effective team. Staff should feel comfortable with reaching out to their leaders with any concerns, and leaders should feel they have the resources and power to enact positive changes in the workplace. Varying organisations have stepped up to plate to offer services that could help address the mental impacts of staff such as SALT’s (Sport and Life Training) Workplace Re-Connect program.
7. Setup your online communications infrastructure
From online conferencing tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, businesses need to plan how to keep staff connected, when it’s a blend of on-site employees and those working from home. Accounts and logins should be secured and safe systems put in place so that at-home staff can easily access any important information such as files and documents.
8. Ensure you have a COVID-19 Safety Plan
Jurisdictions across Australia have differing obligations upon employers – in order to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in their workplace(s). Ensure that an up to date plan is available to staff, is followed, and that they have access to it during these times. For a scope of what should be included, click here: FC – COVID Workplace Safety
9. Customer considerations
It is not just your employees that are going to be transitioning into the new post COVID-19 world. Customer support and interactions in a physical space must be setup in a way that makes people feel safe and confident, when engaging with your people and buying your products and services. Consider services such as a support desk whether that be a direct phone line, email contact form or full platform such as;
10. Review your process and gather feedback
As things are constantly evolving, it is vitally important to update processes and procedures as these changes are occurring. Subscribe to Federal and State Government updates and find a trusted news source to keep you abreast of changes when they happen. Also, invite honest feedback from your staff as to what is working and what isn’t, and how you can make them more effective.