New Zealand is now operating under the Traffic Light system, which means businesses may be wondering about how this will look in practice as our new ‘normal’, and how it will play out moving forward from a logistical and transactional point of view. However, there is more to think about beyond the ins and out of the rules – here is our red hot (not to be confused with a red light) take on what employers should begin to anticipate and think about if they are not already doing so:
1. Employee wellbeing
For Aucklanders especially, moving back into a “normal” routine of work may be challenging and daunting for employee, causing unrest and anxiety as we deal with the new procedures and busy workplace.
Employers should keep the wellbeing of their staff front and centre of mind and think about how they can ease employees back into the workplace. This may be about giving more choice with rosters, providing an employee assistance programme, putting measures in place in the workplace to make employees feel more comfortable etc. Also being clear about what your expecations are of your employees, and communicating those expecations – don’t be afraid to ask them “what do you need from me?
Whether its conflict from clients or customers who are struggling with the move into the new system that businesses need to operate within, or from employees being back in the workplace with their colleagues, it is likely that feelings (either old or new) will begin to surface once the workplace is active and busy.
Employers should strategise and have a plan in place for each instance of conflict to ensure that they can be quick to react if any situation were to arise. This may be having security at the door, having clear rules displayed for customers to read and be aware of, referring employees to mediation early if there is a dispute, conflict coaching, or team building to foster a healthy and happy team etc.
3. Documenting the change
Although the day-to-day rules are well documented by the Government, employers need to be forward thinking and understand that COVID is here to stay, which means the paperwork needs to reflect the new way of working.
Employers should be looking at their internal systems and policies and making sure that employment agreements, policies and house-rules are reflecting the rules that employees are living by currently. Reviewing these will also provide employers the opportunity to be forward thinking about how they want to recruit and hire, staff and what the future operation of the business and workforce will look like.
4. Managing expectations
Opening up is exciting, but it is no guarantee that things will go back to pre-Delta “normal”. Employers need to manage their expectations and should be anticipating that these changes will have an impact on the business’s ability to operate and stay sustainable.
To do this, employers should be engaging and communicating with staff to get their ideas and possible solutions. It also means maintaining relationships with the key stakeholders in their industry by engaging and working with these stakeholders to strategise as to how the workplace can be strong, successful, and sustainable for employees and the future.
2021 has almost concluded, however things have only just begun again for many businesses. Now is the time to roll with the punches and be prepared to adapt to a constantly changing environment while also keeping mindful and prepared to anticipate and take on the many challenges that will be coming with the move to live with COVID in our community and under the new system.