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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

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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.