PositivePeople July 23, 2020 No Comments

How to Build Empathy into your Restructure

How to Build Empathy into your Restructure

As a result of the impact of COVID 19 on organisations, the reality is that many businesses are needing to restructure to remain viable. For those employees affected, a job loss, in addition to the multi-faceted anxiety that this pandemic has created, can be devastating.   

We all necessarily have to take note of the legalities of how to implement a change process in a way that is fair and minimises the risk of any personal grievances being raised.

Rigidly following due process does minimise potential risk. It can also sometimes leave the impression, with both those affected and those employees who remain in the business, that the employer is cold hearted and uncaring. Given the COVID 19 situation, these perceptions can be especially strong.

Change processes are more successful for all involved with empathy built in along the way.

The feeling that exists within the organisation during the restructuring process and afterwards is a clear indicator of morale and also how employees view how the process has been handled and communicated. This in turn affects engagement and productivity, as well as potentially leaving an indelible mark, either positive or negative, on the organisation’s employment brand.

So, the ideal is to strike an even balance by following a fair process, but doing so with a very strong sense of caring and empathy for all of those affected, both directly and indirectly.


Outlined below are some practical pointers of how to show caring during the process:

  • Ensure that you plan the restructure very carefully so that it is professionally done
  • Make sure that an essential element of your plan includes a filter of empathy and caring throughout
  • Develop well thought out and carefully worded communications. As with any communications on a difficult subject, the facts have to be stated, but it is how you say and communicate them that makes the difference. Maintaining confidentiality is important. However, it is helpful to have others in the team understanding the need to be supportive of those directly involved
  • Take the time to put yourself into others’ shoes and tread lightly
  • After outlining the proposal, offer to allow impacted individuals to go home for the rest of the day or deliver the proposal mid-afternoon and let impacted employees go home then
  • Understand that different people respond differently and take that into account at the time
  • Outline access to the company EAP service or in the absence of this, the Government funded ‘Need to Talk? 1737’ service for counselling support
  • At the proposal meeting, offer time to employees during the work day to get their thoughts straight around what feedback they may wish to provide and prepare for the feedback meeting. Arrange cover if they need it
  • Realise it can be a difficult process for all concerned – CEO, Manager implementing the change, impacted employees and other employees. Be available to hear and discuss concerns from anyone throughout the process. If the issues raised are beyond your skill set, encourage people to access EAP or 1737 or seek other appropriate outside assistance
  • Sometimes the content of a proposal may take a while to process. Be available for additional questions or meetings if you think your employees require it
  • For those whose roles are disestablished, provide support with up-dating CV’s, LinkedIn profiles and practical guidelines on navigating the job market at this time

Separating from a business is counter-intuitive for a human being’s natural desire for social connection and approval. Showing caring and empathy never goes amiss, and can work towards reducing the stress for all concerned. Apart from being the right thing to do, especially at this time, it is also sets your organisation up as one that will be respected for its ethos.

This will have positive spin offs of loyalty, commitment and engagement from those remaining.

If you need help navigating restructuring, please make contact with us. Positive People have over 25 years of experience partnering with medium sized businesses. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz 

PositivePeople June 19, 2020 No Comments

Flexible Working Arrangements

Making Flexibility Work for Your Business

Are some of your team reluctant to return to the office full time or even at all? You aren’t alone.

We have been fielding a number of queries from clients who are considering working from home arrangements post-lockdown and trying to work out the best arrangement for their business.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

The reality is that every organisation is different, with varying demands and cultural norms. There will be pros and cons unique to your workplace and structure which you will need to weigh up.

So, what should you consider and is there anything you should avoid? Here are a few steers while navigating this time. 

  1. Firstly, listen to your team and openly engage in the discussion. See this exploration phase as an opportunity to create positive engagement with your team and gain work efficiencies. Even if the final outcome isn’t exactly what people asked for initially, your team will appreciate being treated in a respectful, positive manner.
  2. Consider the future but keep it simple. Whilst you may only have a couple of people asking to work from home now, there are likely to be others who follow. Plan ahead for such requests by clearly identifying the specific roles that might fall into the ‘potential work from home’ category. That way you can treat people fairly and be consistent in managing requests and reviewing success.
  3. Be upfront. Communicate about what you are considering so everyone is in the loop. However, even if a role could be undertaken from home in theory, not everyone will be suited to such an arrangement. It is important to be upfront about that from the beginning and prepared to have those frank, sometimes confronting conversations.
  4. Be clear about your expectations. This might include minimum number of days or specific days you expect people to be in the office e.g. for team/client meetings to keep the connectivity and strong working relationships going, expected methods and frequency of communication in between office days, built-in regular reviews of the arrangement and performance levels.
  5. Don’t be afraid to try things out. Even if you already have a flexible working policy in place, you can still just trial an alternative temporary approach and formally review the policy later on. In the meantime, document any temporary individual arrangements so there is no confusion about what you have agreed.
  6. You will need to consider the practicalities of any home working arrangements to ensure you are meeting your health and safety obligations – here’s a good starting point:  https://positivepeople.co.nz/covid19-guidance-for-employers/covid-19-safe-work-from-home-guidelines/
  7. Also bear in mind that you are required to consider all requests fairly and respond in a timely manner to such requests

It can take a while to get into a rhythm when working from home, so expect a settling in period while you team get used to the new routine. Honest and open communication always helps to bed things in, and after while you will find the approach that works best for you and your team.

If you need help navigating flexible working arrangements, get in touch with us. Positive People have over 25 years experience partnering with small and medium sized businesses. Call us 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz 

PositivePeople May 28, 2020 No Comments

Motivating your Team

Motivating your Team

29 May 2020

There are thousands of books, courses, TED Talks and more dedicated to helping leaders to motivate employees and create a motivational company culture. We could literally go on all day – or all week!

Here is a targeted list of actions you can put in place today to increase the motivation of your employees.


  1. Have Meaningful and Worthwhile Goals in Place

Review your business, team and individual goals to ensure that they are fit for purpose in todays environment. Once they’re in place, communicate them widely and refer back to them often.


  1. Be a Leader Worth Following
  • Trust your team. Set the values, vision, purpose and framework within which employees are expected to do their jobs, and then empower them to do so.
  • Walk the talk. As a leader you must always be setting the tone and values for the company through your own actions. If you set a positive example in everything you do, employees will follow and the entire work culture will become more motivating.
  • Be a respectful, honest, empathetic and supportive manager. Bad management is one of the main reasons employees resign. Respect, honesty, support, and clear communication are fundamental in good leadership.


  1. Acknowledge Achievement and Effort

Often, all an employee wants is some recognition for a job well done. If people feel that their efforts are appreciated, they will feel ‘motivated to continue working hard. Recognition is high on the list of employee needs for motivation. Many supervisors equate reward and recognition with monetary gifts. While employees always appreciate money, they also appreciate praise, a verbal or written thank you and opportunities to lead or be involved in different work or a new project.

  • Write a thank-you note
  • Give verbal praise – either one-on-one or in front of the team
  • Consider a small token of your gratitude. A card, a chocolate bar, a new notebook or pen – whatever you think your employee would appreciate.


  1. Provide Opportunities for Autonomy

Employees gain a lot of motivation from the nature of the work itself – particularly autonomy and independence in how they approach accomplishing their work.

  • Allow employees to self-manage wherever possible
  • Delegate decision making where it makes sense
  • Look for opportunities for employees to contribute to leadership meetings or projects
  • Ask for feedback and contribution when setting goals and priorities
  • Include employees on emails that tell them about what is happening in other parts of the business
  • Look for opportunities to expand the job description to match the employee’s development


  1. Reward High Performance

Rather than try to guess what’s important to employees, sit with them and ask what they value and what would incentivise them. If adding a financial incentive is not possible in todays environment, consider more creative options – for example, offering additional leave for consistently over-achieving on targets.


  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
  • Team meetings provide one of your best opportunities to set the culture, build motivation and increase engagement. Hold them regularly, keep them short and don’t do all the talking. Ask people to share their challenges and successes, have employees give updates on projects, refer back to company and team goals and give progress updates on them
  • Good communication is a two-way street. Welcome feedback and ideas. Set up channels for this that will work for your team.
  • Be responsive. If an employee raises a concern with you via email, show that you care by replying or responding immediately – even if it is to let them know that you will consider their request/concern and come back to them.
  • Book in regular one-on-one meetings and stick to them. Show your employees you value them by dedicating this time to them. Understand each employee’s career and life goals. Discuss what they need to do to achieve these and help them to create a development plan accordingly.


  1. Team Work makes the Dream Work
  • Be caring and put your people first – expect your employees to do the same
  • Don’t miss an opportunity to encourage team work
  • Acknowledge when an employee helps their colleague out
  • If you know someone is struggling, ask one of their colleagues to help
  • Look for opportunities for some friendly competition – often the combined elements of fun and competition bring people together
  • Celebrate success and make having some fun at work a priority


  1. Don’t forget the Physical Work Environment
  • Make sure that your employees have the right tools to do the job. Struggling with out-of-date technology or damaged equipment can be very demotivating
  • No one feels excited working in a dingy space. Sprucing up your office does not need to cost a lot. A few plants and some comfy chairs/spaces can make a world of difference and bring the comforts of home into your office environment. If the walls need a lick of paint and the carpets could do with an upgrade, consider introducing colours as opposed to the standard office grey.
  • Are good snacks the key to employee motivation? Maybe. After all, nobody works well when they’re hangry. Think about providing some healthy food – it doesn’t need to be expensive or even a regular thing. A fruit bowl now and then or the occasional uber-eats catered learning lunch will always go down well.


Every business is different and, as such, will have different HR needs. Positive People is available to help. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

PositivePeople May 28, 2020 No Comments

Reset and refine your HR Strategy and develop a plan for the times

Reset and refine your HR Strategy and develop a plan for the times

29 May 2020


Employees and managers will have already had to adapt and reset how they do their work, either in a work-from-home arrangement or on returning to their workplaces. Their working world will be different and their expectations will also have evolved during the lockdown.  

With the organisation chart set up to best deliver the outcomes required, and with employees having a slightly different view of the world, it is important to revisit the basics of your HR strategy and then to develop your HR plan so as to motivate, retain and also attract new employees into your team when the time is right.

  • It would be of value to review the Purpose and Vision for the business. It could be that the goalposts have moved somewhat and a re-appraisal of some of your business goals is required
  • Along with Marketing, Financial and other business strategies, the HR Strategy needs to be 100% supportive of your business Purpose and Vision.
  • Set some goals in the following areas:
    • The ”new” workplace environment and new workplace tools
    • The “new” culture
    • Policy development to reflect the times
    • Employee engagement and motivation
    • Talent and leadership development
    • Performance measurement
    • Retention of valued skills
    • Succession plans

Discuss and agree your HR Strategy and plan and make it an exciting vehicle for employees to support.


Every business is different and, as such, will have different HR needs. Positive People is available to help. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

PositivePeople May 28, 2020 No Comments

Reviewing your Organisational Structure and Design

Reviewing your Organisational Structure and Design

29 May 2020


With changed circumstances it is smart to re-evaluate how your business is organisationally set up. Many businesses will have already taken this step and will have a lean but solid framework newly established. Steps to consider include:

  • Take an almost greenfields approach and evaluate what work you have in-house and what work you predict will come in through the door over the next period
  • Alongside any efficiency gains that could be achieved, work out the essential functions that you need and develop an organisation chart that can deliver the outcomes required
  • Establish job descriptions, skills and competencies required for each of the roles
  • Evaluate current resources against the ideal arrangement


Either rejig the organisation chart to accommodate current skills and competencies with some tweaks to roles. Any changes to encumbents’ roles requires discussion and agreement and formal changes to employment documentation


Decide to restructure the business along with the creation of new roles in a new organisation chart.


If a restructuring is decided upon, then a full restructuring process needs to be mapped out prior to commencing any action whatsoever. Assistance with mapping out and operational implementation is recommended. This is a complex and often fraught process that needs to be conducted to the letter of the law to minimise employment and reputational risk


Every business is different and, as such, will have different HR needs. Positive People is available to help. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

Adjusting to the New Normal

Adjusting to the New Normal

We’ve all learnt a lot through the Covid-19 crisis – and not just about how to make a sourdough starter. For many business owners and managers, it has been a time of reflection on what was working well pre-lockdown and what was already a problem that now needs to be addressed. Aside from the few industries that are suddenly booming, we’ve all realised that it’s time to dig deep and work out how to survive the recession. Below you’ll find some HR opportunities we’ve been thinking about.


Realising the benefits of long-term flexible work practices

Flexible work arrangements have a multitude of benefits for employers and employees.

Employer Benefits

  • Reduces absenteeism (as employees can often still work if they are at home with a dependent who is unwell). This assists with productivity with less disruptions to continuity of work
  • Better work-life balance increases employee morale, engagement and commitment
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Builds your employment brand and attracts top talent
  • Increases your potential candidate pool to people who live in other locations or too far away to consider a daily commute
  • The opportunity to reduce your office footprint and associated costs

Employee Benefits

  • Reduces the time required to commute and the expense of petrol and parking
  • Better flexibility to meet family and personal needs
  • Increased control of work schedule and environment
  • Ability to work at times of highest energy and not during troughs – for example, starting early when energy levels are highest, and then having a longer break in order to exercise to re-energise

Flexible work practices can also make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability.

However, to make flexible working arrangements work for your business, you must look to overcome some of the disadvantages:

  • Employees who do not work well without supervision. It’s always important to set clear goals and expectations. If the employee cannot meet these working from home, this must be addressed. If the problem is ongoing, then it’s time to review the arrangement. Flexible working arrangements are largely a ‘privilege’ and not contractual, so going back to a traditional model is appropriate if it’s not working for either party.
  • Where the role is client-facing, client availability and relationships may suffer from the employee trying to compress their time in the office. Again, this is something to be addressed and discussed – this may include clear goals for client-facing time to ensure it doesn’t drop off. It’s not practical for all office-based roles to include work from home or flexible hours, however, this it can usually be accommodated to some degree. It’s about finding the ‘sweet spot’ that works for the employee and the business.
  • Feelings of unfairness when some roles are able to work from home or choose their hours and others cannot. This is probably one of the most difficult issues to address. Consider what benefits you could implement for onsite staff to help offset these feelings. For example, a well-stocked kitchen, or an upgrade to the coffee machine. Where work from home isn’t possible, consider if flexible start and finish times are. You may wish to also consider an additional benefit for 100% on-site based staff only (be careful to communicate to the team that this is to offset the travel time that flexible workers gain through working from home some days).
  • Health and safety concerns. If working from home is going to be a long-term and regular arrangement, you must be satisfied that the employee is doing so safely. You can review our guidelines for Safe Work from Home here 


Reducing cost and saving time through virtual meetings and other tech solutions

Video conferencing has been around a long time, but the use of video calling and virtual meetings for team meetings, training and recruitment seems to have taken a lot longer to gain momentum than perhaps we might have thought.

Why? Maybe it’s the belief that the human connection can only be fully achieved face-to-face. This is still true, but if lockdown has taught us anything it is that far more can be achieved via video calls than we ever thought possible.

As we all look to cut costs wherever possible, now is the time to re-look at all of your normal practices that require people to travel from one location to another (even if that is within the same city) and consider if that can’t be achieved through video call or another on-line solution to reduce time and cost.


Updating and streamlining your other processes and systems

Following on from the above, we must all examine where else we can streamline and improve our processes and systems. Get your employees involved in looking for more efficient and effective solutions to literally everything you do. Incentivise this focus on continuous improvement where possible.

Look at your organisational structure. If you’ve had reductions in employee numbers or needed to pivot your business and offering, does your current structure still make sense or does it need to change? Look at the functional responsibilities of roles and teams and re-organise where necessary.

Where changes to work practices interact with your employee policies, ensure that these are updated to reflect your new ways of working. For example, many businesses will need to update:

  • Flexible working policies that may have previously stated that working from home was to only take place on occasion and with express management permission.
  • Expense policies may need to be tightened
  • Travel policies temporarily updated to mandate that essential travel only is to take place and cost-reduction measures are implemented (e.g. lower budgets for accommodation, rental cars etc.)
  • Health and Safety policies will have temporary changes and a ‘Covid-19’ specific policy created with clear guidelines and expectations


Capture those Culture gains

If you’ve ever watched Survivor, you know that in times of adversity, groups of people can go one of two ways – we either thrive and come together or we fall apart and turn against each other. During the Covid-19 crisis you may have some employee behaviour from both camps and any divisions need to be addressed.

Whether you are looking to nurture those Company Culture gains or need to start to re-build, we have some ideas for you here


Employee development – why it is more important than ever

Many businesses are unfortunately in the position of needing to reduce hours, pay or carry out redundancies. This can have a very negative effect on productivity and reduce the trust within your work environment. One way that you can look to re-build this is through investing in employee development. This both demonstrates the value you place on your employees while also benefiting your business through increased productivity and performance.

Employee development does not need to be a costly exercise. Some ideas include:

  • Online and virtual learning options – on-line seminars and short courses, virtual conferences, TED talks
  • Coaching and mentoring – either an internal program (informal or formal) or involving external contacts
  • Increased one-on-ones and performance appraisals. Getting more disciplined in your focus on setting objectives and monitoring progress against these costs nothing. In return, it will deliver results to both the employees development and your bottom line
  • Give learning lunches a try – these can also be virtual. Use an external speaker (again, virtual may be a cost-effective option) or simply have employees share information and learnings from projects they’re working on. If an employee attends a seminar, have them share the knowledge with the team and distribute their notes and reference material


Positive People have been working with and helping to grow SME’s for 25 years. We have the experience and systems to guide, support and provide customised HR solutions for you.  We deliver a range of services across the full HR Management spectrum. Our services are tailored to meet the particular needs of your business and we take the time to get to know you and your business. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

Preparing for Alert Level 2

Preparing for Alert Level 2

The transition from Alert Level 3 to Level 2 will represent only a small change for some employers, but for others there will be a lot to do to prepare.


Staggered returns and shift/hours changes to allow physical distancing

Due to physical distancing requirements and decreased workflow, only a few employers have been in a position to have all of their staff return to site at the same time on the same hours as before the lockdown.

If you re-opened at Level 3 with a skeleton staff which will ramp up under Level 2, or if you are not able to open until Level 2, here’s what you need to know if you want to stagger your teams’ return to work:

  • You must establish a fair selection criteria for deciding who will return to work and for what hours:
    • Firstly, what are the roles that are required?
    • If there is more than one person in the same role, you may choose to base this on tenure (longest standing employees given the option to return first), or you may rotate – week about or some other practical arrangement.
  • You must then communicate with all employees regarding the proposedplan for their return to work. This letter should outline your plan, include the rationale for what you are proposing, and include a feedback form where the employee can accept the proposal and/or provide comment (ideally allow 24 hours for feedback). The letter should include all proposed changes to terms and conditions, including:
    • The payment arrangements for each employee. Consider what you will propose for people able to work full-time hours, people working reduced hours, and those still unable to carry out work – bearing in mind that if you received the wage subsidy, this must be passed on in full, regardless of hours worked or not.
    • Will you be requesting or directing (with 14 days’ notice) people to take their Annual Leave entitlement?
    • You may, for example, want employees to take one day per week, with half the team having a Monday off and the other half Friday off
    • Are you proposing a temporary change or reduction in hours? This may be to allow for physical distancing, a reduction in workflow, or both.
    • Are you proposing a change in role responsibilities? You may be able to re-deploy people into different roles or re-distribute work. Your operation may have changed to look quite different under Alert Level 3, which will change employees’ duties.
  • After allowing your employees to respond to your proposal, you must consider any feedback received
  • Confirm your final decision in writing and implement the plan


High-risk employees – to return or not to return?

At this stage, the recommendation at Alert Level 2 is that high-risk people should stay at home where possible. However, like at Level 3, the Covid-19 website outlines that high-risk employees should agree alongside with their employer whether they return to work or not. Our recommendation is that, if it’s practicable, allow your employee to make the decision and then build a plan around their preference. If they are returning to work, extra care should be taken to ensure that they are safe. Involve the employee themselves in the process of coming up with a plan that works for the business and the employee.


Planning and communicating for new work practices as a result of Covid-19

Good communication has always been vital and key to a successful business. It is even more crucial during times of change and adversity. We recommend that you:

  • Sort out your communication channels – ideally use as many as possible to ensure you reach everyone in a way that works for them. While meetings will be limited in size and frequency, use phone calls, Zoom, Whatsapp groups, emails, memos, letters and whiteboards/notices in the kitchen or work areas.
  • Remember that good communication is a two-way street – ask for feedback, ideas and responses. Take feedback on board and let the team know that you are making adjustments based on what you’ve heard from them
  • Finding ways to get the team to contribute is especially important in matters of Health and Safety and is a key requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. If you don’t already have a H&S committee, now is the time to get one going. Your employees are the experts at what they do day-to-day and you will get a lot more buy-in when the messages come from within and not above.
  • Don’t just rely on training and memos – use signs and notices to communicate new ways of working as people take on new ways of working and break old habits. Consider language barriers and use multiple languages and pictures where required
  • Celebrate the bright spots and the wins. Consider instating (or re-instating) employee of the week/month, company newsletters and other ways of sharing good news stories. This is how you can reinforce your new work practises.


For those that have been working from home, we must consider if/when/how they return to office environments

Under Alert Level 2, we are still asked to work from home wherever possible. If you need the team to return to the office, think about how you can safely achieve this. It could be that people work from the office every second work day or for half of the week. These arrangements may be in place for some time, so before making a decision, seek feedback and ideas from your team.


Reducing hours, pay and carrying out redundancies

Despite best efforts, unfortunately many employers will need to look at pay/hours reductions and redundancies as a result of Covid-19 and the economic fallout. We’ve shared this before, but if you missed it, here are the steps:

  1. Plan
  • First, you will need to write a business case for why you believe change is required. Include important details such as sales figures and projections.
  • Next, write a communication plan – who is potentially impacted by this proposed change and how will you communicate with them? Individually, team meetings or a company-wide briefing? Will anyone be on leave during this time? How and when will you communicate with them?
  • Finally, get your ducks in a row. Review Individual Employment Agreements, read Job Descriptions, pull payroll information to double check details such as current pay, titles and hours. Run a risk assessment for each – is the role you are considering to be disestablished similar to another role in the business? If so, do both employees need to be included in the consultation process as two positions becomes one?


  1. Consult

Draft up letters for all affected employees. The letter must:

  • Explain the proposed change
  • Outline the proposed impact to their particular role
  • Give the reasons for this proposed change
  • Say what will happen to them if the change goes ahead
  • Include the details for how the employee can submit feedback and the deadline for this
  • Either propose a time for a meeting to hear feedback, or offer the opportunity for the employee to book a meeting if they want to ask questions or provide verbal feedback
  • Emphasise that no decision has been made, and that this won’t happen until you have received their feedback
  • Give details of a proposed timeline. Seek feedback on this as well
  • Hold your consultation meetings.
  • Ideally, where only a small number of people are impacted and redundancy is a possibility you will hold these face-to-face. You can set this meeting up ‘informally’ by simply inviting the employee to a meeting, but we recommend that you let them know that what you need to discuss may impact their role, and that they are welcome to bring a support person – allowing them time to arrange this. In large company-wide restructures, and with the Covid-19 restrictions, this ‘heads up’ will not always be possible.
  • Read through or summarise the letter
  • Answer initial questions, but try not to get into receiving feedback in this meeting
  • Hold feedback meetings. Often questions will be raised at these meetings. If you don’t know the answer, commit to coming back with it as soon as possible. You must remain open, honest and communicative throughout. If you take too long to respond to questions or do not answer them at all, you risk an argument that the deadline for feedback should be extended.


  1. Consider Feedback
  • It is important to consider feedback in good faith. If, as a result of the feedback, you want to make changes to the proposal you need to decide whether to go back and consult on the new proposal.
  • Give yourself time to adequately consider feedback – usually 48 hours
  • If you’ve received a lot of feedback from numerous employees, group it into themes and write out your response to each ‘thread’ and any changes to the proposal made as a result


  1. Confirm
  • Having considered any feedback and made a decision, you need to draft up a second letter outlining your decision. This should include:
  • A summary of feedback received and your response
  • Any changes made to the proposal as a result of the feedback
  • What your final decision is, and the outcome for the employee’s role, including timing. If applicable, you may include details around final pay
  • If redeployment is an option or a selection process will follow, provide the details for this
  • Consider what outplacement support you can offer and outline this in the letter – this could include career coaching, assistance with writing a CV, an interview technique workshop, and financial planning resources.

Note: If you have applied for the wage subsidy for an employee, you must retain them for the 12-week period of the subsidy. You may consult with the employee during the subsidy period and confirm your decision, but the last day of employment must fall after the wage subsidy ends. Otherwise you will be in breach of your obligations and will be required to pay the wage subsidy back. 


Every business is different and, as such, will have different employment issues and concerns presented by COVID-19. Positive People is available to help. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

The Employment Practicalities of a Return to Work

The Employment Practicalities of a Return to Work

* Last Updated 14 April 2020

While we wait for confirmation on when the Alert Level will drop from 4 to 3, and what restrictions will be in place at Level 3, now is the time to draft your plans. Here we cover some of the key issues to consider right now, as well as the communication process to follow.


High Risk Employees

At both alert level 2 and 3, high risk people are advised to stay at home. ‘High risk’ includes employees over 70 and anyone with a pre-existing medical condition including:

  • Serious respiratory disease such as chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Immunocompromised conditions, including cancer treatment, smoking-related illness, bone marrow or organ transplantation, prolonged use of immune weakening medications, such as anti-rheumatic drugs and cortisteroids
  • Severe obesity — a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • People undergoing dialysis
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnant women may also be at a higher risk, and caution is advised for this group as well

As many of these conditions are common, most workplaces will have a group of employees that fall into this category. We recommend identifying these employees early, so you can plan for a reduced workforce and consult with this group so they know what it means for them.


Different Alert Levels have Different Impacts on Different Roles

In addition, there are specific jobs/roles that will be impacted by the restrictions at these lower alert levels:

  • At level 3 some businesses will be required to remain partially or fully closed. This may mean parts of your operation and team are up and running, but other parts are not
  • At level 2 there is a request to limit non-essential national travel, at level 3 this is likely to be further restricted although we’re waiting on additional detail. Some roles (for example regional sales roles) involve regular travel that may not be deemed ‘essential’ and will therefore be impacted by these restrictions
  • Restrictions and/or bans on gatherings will continue at level 2 and 3. Some roles (for example training and events) involve organising and running gatherings and will therefore still be impacted at alert level 2 and 3
  • Even at level 2, there is a ‘request’ to continue with alternate ways of working where possible (i.e. working from home). At level 3, this will likely be ‘required’ in many cases. For some workers whose jobs allow for remote work, this may not be possible due to not having a suitable workspace in their home environment.
  • At level 3 (and possibly level 2), some schools and pre-schools will remain or be closed, impacting some employees’ ability to return to work and/or work from home
  • Many businesses are likely to have reduced workflow – depending on the nature of your business, this is likely to impact some roles more than others
  • Physical distancing requirements are also likely to impact some or all positions – you may need to make significant changes to hours and/or stagger shifts to accommodate the distancing requirements
  • PPE requests and requirements – depending on the nature of your work, some roles may require PPE. You will need to ensure that there is enough available for all that require it and that this supply is maintained. If this is not possible initially, it could lead to shift cancellations and roster changes for some roles
  • There will be more work for some roles/areas of many businesses – for example, Health and Safety reporting and work


Being Fair and Equitable

So how do you manage things fairly when some of your team can return to work and others cannot? Or where for some roles you have sufficient work but not for others?

Every business is different and so is every employee and every unique role within your business. There will be no one-size fits all, but you must be fair, reasonable and, as always, operate in good faith.

We suggest at this stage, you go through each employees details and consider for both alert level 2 and 3 and for any possible future periods at alert level 4:

  • Can they return to the workplace?
  • Can they work from home for some or all of their hours?
  • If they can recommence work, either from home or in the workplace, will their current hours and role responsibilities be appropriate?
  • Could an employee with low/no workload be redeployed or given additional/different responsibilities?
  • If they cannot return to work and cannot work from home at one or more of the alert levels, what should they be paid during that period?


Communicate, Consult, Communicate Again

Once you’ve drafted up the proposed plan for each position at each alert level, it’s time to put this to the employee and ask for their feedback. Remember, with any change in terms and conditions (even if only temporary) you will ideally want written agreement. If this cannot be achieved, ensure you can document your process.


Document Your Process

In most cases we recommend issuing a consultation letter with a feedback/agreement form that the employee returns signed to you, followed by a confirmation letter. You should write into this confirmation letter when the arrangement will be reviewed or, alternatively, you may include the plan for each alert level and simply review that when the alert level is dropped to 1 or below.


Dealing with the Exceptions

Ideally, you will be treating people in similar roles and situations in the same way. For example, you could decide that all those that must stay home and can’t work are paid the wage subsidy only, all those that can do limited work from home are paid 80% of normal earnings. Those that return to work or can work from home full-time are paid 100% of normal earnings.

However, it is important to be prepared to make exceptions in response to information received in the feedback stage. It is likely that you will face some challenges and need to make changes as a result. This is OK and demonstrates that you are meeting your obligations to consult in good faith. You will not always be able to share with other employees the exact circumstances and reasons that one employee has a different arrangement to others – unless you obtain the employees permission to do so. However, if you have treated everyone fairly throughout you will be able to stand by your decision knowing that you have been fair and reasonable if challenged.


Fair treatment is a non-negotiable and always enhances the culture in a business.


Positive People can help you work through the employment practicalities of the coming weeks and months. Email us at info@positivepeople.co.nz or call 09 445 1077.

Managing Mental Health and Wellness Concerns

Managing Mental Health and Wellness Concerns

* Last Updated 14 April 2020


Supporting employees with mental health and wellbeing has been an increasing concern for employers over recent years. However, the Covid-19 crisis has had a huge impact on every single one of us – in the form of varying degrees of increased stress, anxiety and financial worries. In addition, those with mental health problems and/or addiction issues may be finding themselves struggling with these pre-existing problems given the added pressures and uncertainties of the Covid-19 environment.

Fortunately, the government has recognised the scale of this issue and has allocated additional funding to mental health support and wellbeing initiatives.


If you or one of your team feel that you’re not coping, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.  


Visit the mental health section of the  Covid-19 website for more information https://covid19.govt.nz/individuals-and-households/health-and-wellbeing/looking-after-your-mental-wellbeing/


The Covid-19 crisis may also lead to increased financial distress and worry, addiction issues or family violence. For these issues specifically:

  • https://sorted.org.nz/ has a range of financial tools, resources and information or for personalised support contact MoneyTalks on 0800 345 123 help@moneytalks.co.nz, or text 4029
  • Alcohol Drug Helpline – 0800 787 797 or text 8681 for a free and confidential chat with a trained counsellor, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Family Violence Information Line – 0800 456 450 for information as well as services in your own region. The phoneline operates 9am – 11pm every day of the year


Finally, we recommend all employers consider implementing a Mental Health and Wellness Programme. This doesn’t need to be a costly exercise. Make a start with a policy and a set of guidelines that assist in building a workplace that supports mental health and wellbeing by:

  • Increasing employee knowledge and awareness of mental health and wellbeing issues
  • Linking managers to practical resources to support them in working through problems that arise due to a mental health issue with one of their team members
  • Providing a list of support agencies and their contact details that managers can refer to when someone presents with a mental health problem
  • Outlining the considerations and providing a plan for return-to-work after time off due to a mental health problem
  • Setting the expectation that all employees and managers will normalise the conversation and reduce stigma around mental health problems in the workplace


Positive People can help you to write your own mental health and wellness policy and guidelines, build a programme or support you in working through individual employee problems and concerns. Email us info@positivepeople.co.nz or call 09 445 1077.

Re-engagement & Culture Re-Set

Re-engagement & Culture Re-Set

* Last Updated 14 April 2020


Just three weeks into the lockdown and already, looking at pictures from the summer holiday season, it feels a bit strange. Images of group gatherings, arms around each other for photos, shared plates at big family dinners, perhaps an overseas trip if we were lucky…. While we long for these things to return, at the moment, they seem far off.


When will we be able to enjoy this life again? And when we can, how will it feel?


Applying this to work, after constant messages of “Stay home, stay safe, save lives”, venturing back into the workplace for those not in essential services will create all sorts of emotions. These may range from happiness and excitement for some, through to fear for others, and everything in between. In fact, we’re each likely to experience a whole range of feelings when we finally get the green light to leave our bubbles.

It’s for this reason that managers need to start thinking about how to re-integrate your team and build a culture that can thrive in the ‘new normal’ of life post-lockdown. In addition to this, given that we’ll likely be going to alert level 3, it is just not on the cards that a day after lockdown we will all return to our desks and carry on back at work as normal.


So, how can you build or re-build your company culture in an environment of social distance, remote work, staggered shifts, recessionary conditions and uncertainty?


We’re not going to pretend this isn’t a big ask. To keep it simple we’ve listed some ideas – hopefully these stimulate some thought and discussion that will lead to the starting point that works for you.

  • Accept that it might take some time and that people will be working through things at different paces. Talk to the team about this – communicate, communicate, communicate. Book extra team meetings (likely to be remote) and one-on-ones. Stick to these as a commitment to check in on your team and keep your finger on the pulse with how everyone is going and feeling.
  • Involve the team in brainstorming and implementing different processes and approaches that support the ‘new normal’. Make it everyone’s responsibility to generate the solutions to overcome the barriers we will face post-lockdown
  • All good managers put the health and safety of the team at the front and centre of their decisions. However, sometimes we can forget to communicate this, leaving employees in doubt. Emphasise to everyone that their health and safety is the most important thing and is your priority, and that it is informing every decision you make. Back this up with your actions. Get their help with assessing Covid-19 associated risks and implementing measures to eliminate, isolate and minimise. If you don’t already have a health and safety committee and a Covid-19 co-ordinator (usually a senior manager), now is the time to appoint them
  • Use the ‘Be Kind’ mantra – or create something similar for yourself. The Government’s use of this kind of cornerstone value is a masterclass in building culture and steering people through a period of change. It can be used to praise the actions of people and positively reinforce the right behaviours – a weekly ‘Kindness is Cool’ award, a chalkboard where people write up examples as they happen, etc.  A value or mantra like this can also be used to call out actions that don’t align with your culture. It’s a useful way to start a coaching conversation with an employee and sets a clear expectation that applies to everyone.
  • Create some common and individual goals. If you don’t already have a performance management appraisal process in place, look at implementing something simple and effective. Goals help to keep people motivated and on the same page. They also drive productivity and high performance, which will be more important than ever before.
  • Revisit your vision, mission and strategic plan and share them with the team. Ensure all of your communications align and reinforce this future direction. Now is the time to lead from the front, alongside AND to get behind your team so they know you have their backs. How you lead your staff through this crisis will be remembered, and in getting it right you will be rewarded for years to come. Consider finding a mentor to act as a sounding board and confidante.
  • Keep positive – look at this as an opportunity to create a new and improved Company Culture. Or if you have an awesome Company Culture in place, now is it’s time to shine. More often than not, adversity brings people together. You will see relationships strengthen, team members going the extra mile and it will all help the bottom line.
  • Finally, look for bright spots and share them with the team. Celebrate success any way you can (Team Quiz via Zoom?). Traditional social activities may be too expensive and not even possible at this time, so get creative – or delegate to those team members who are social butterflies!

Positive People have over 25 years’ experience in helping businesses build or improve their Company Culture. Email us at info@positivepeople.co.nz or call 09 445 1077.