Resilience and recovery 2020 - 2021

As the realisation sinks in that COVID-19 is with us for the long haul, our approach to its management, and sustaining employees and performance has to adapt

The impact will be felt at individual, organisation and national level.

The Government launched its Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 in September 2020 along with a Framework for Restrictive Measures, a risk management strategy for the next six to nine months.

These address a longer timeline than previously, on the basis that we will have to operate under the shadow of Coronavirus until at least summer 2021.

Framework for Restrictive Measures

The Framework for Restrictive Measures is designed to allow individuals, families, businesses and services better understand, anticipate and prepare for the measures Government might introduce to stop escalation of the transmission of the disease.

The Framework consists of 5 levels, the lower levels will be activated when there is low incidence of the disease, with isolated outbreaks, and low community transmission. The higher levels will be used to deal with higher incidences of the disease. Different regions and counties may be at a different level to the national level, depending on the incidence of the virus in that particular area.

At all times the priority guiding the plan will be to keep schools open, while keeping people safe and protecting the resilience of the economy and communities. Local and sectoral responses will have to react to their circumstances, and have implications for job security. The two key strands that will most affect paid employees relate to workplace attendance and public transport. CIPD research indicates they are the areas of concern for employees.

With most of the country at Level 2, employees are advised to work from home if possible, and only attend work for essential on-site meetings, inductions and training. At Level 3 workplace attendance is only if absolutely necessary.

Guidance in relation to attendance at workplaces

  • Level 5    Essential workers only
  • Level 4    Essential & other designated workers only
  • Level 3    Attend only if absolutely necessary
  • Level 2    Essential meetings, induction and training only
  • Level 1    Staggered attendance
Guidance in relation to public transport
  • Level 5    Avoid public transport (25% capacity)
  • Level 4    Avoid public transport (25% capacity)
  • Level 3    Only when necessary (50% capacity)
  • Level 2    Peak hours reserved for essential workers and purposes (50% capacity)
  • Level 1    Off-peak hours 

In relation to schools and childcare these will remain open with protective measures at Levels 1 to Level 4. At Level 5, recommendations will be based on the situation and evidence at the time.

Reducing the risk in workplaces

The Government’s guidance to reduce the risk of the disease specifically calls out a number of workplace risks which must be at the forefront of every employer’s mind.  Greater risks of the spread of the disease have been identified with:

  • The specific nature of work, particularly in the food and construction sectors
  • Inconsistent practices, where compliance is variable across work areas and individuals within the same organisation
  • Shared use of transport and shared living accommodation
  • Where there is a pay disincentive and employees lose pay if they test positive for COVID-19, and hance avoid getting tested
  • Requirements around use of Personal Protective Equipment and infection control

Increased attention to minimise these risks, and implementation of social distancing and the appropriate wearing of masks must be a top priority.  Internal audits to assess compliance and consistency will help, and a commitment to cover sick pay for those who test positive with the virus policy should all be considered.

In response the Government plans to:

  •  Roll out a communication strategy to boost compliance
  •  Update the Return to Work Safely Protocol in conjunction with the Health and Safety Authority
  •  Increase the number of workplace inspections

Employee resilience and supports

The Government’s extended timeline about how long we will be living with the Coronavirus draws attention to the need to put a workplace plan in place to build resilience and  provide as much comfort and clarity to employees on how the organisation will respond over the coming months.

An increasing anxiety is emerging from uncertainty about the future and returning to the workplace, and employee morale is at risk with the lack of clarity about what will be asked of individuals in relation to their place of work. Many organisations are moving towards a mode of blended working for the future, but the lack of security and visibility of the conditions and parameters of that is unsettling for many, with life decisions on hold. Consultation on future flexible / remote working models should be rolled out along with increased supports for managers on how to support employees and ensure ways of working are effective.

The impact on performance, at individual, team and organisation level needs to be closely monitored through the winter. After the last six months, many individuals are missing social connection and support, and would welcome ways to socially engage. There are also emerging challenges in relation to sustaining recognition, creativity, collaboration, social activity to celebrate success in a virtual world.

Workforce planning and restructuring is emerging where revenue has dropped and new skill requirements may be identified.  A supportive and compassionate approach to restructuring is required, and an understanding of changes to government schemes.

The wellbeing challenge will grow as we move into the winter months, and the risk of isolation increases.  Each organisation needs to place a specific focus on this.  Create an employee group to lead on this, if there is not yet one in,Take time to assess the value add of each wellbeing initiative, so there is evidence of what is being achieved and if it is have the targeted impact.

It is critical at this time to be alert to showing care for those who have gone the extra mile or may face burnout, and anyone who may be continually depended upon as they are more available than other colleagues, with fewer dependents.

Questions are emerging about dealing with normal performance and workload issues, and the difficulty in understanding and managing poor performance. Consider a new employee who may be investing too much time coming up to performance bar, but that time that may be invisible to their manager and team, and so is more difficult to support.

As we realign supports for the coming months, listening to the employee voice and adopting an empathetic and confident approach should be the starting point.