Employee Engagement After The Pandemic [Free 20 Questions Checklist]

Employee Engagement After The Pandemic [Free 20 Questions Checklist]

An estimated 20 million individuals in the UK worked from home during the Coronavirus pandemic compared to pre-lockdown figures of less than 2 million.

Employees have been faced with numerous challenges concerning this sudden workplace change, including remote technology, homeschooling and homeworking, mental health challenges and furloughing. 

Here we share 20 pertinent questions to consider and answer to ensure you reach full productivity, morale, and employee engagement after the pandemic lockdown.

We’re also giving you a handy downloadable checklist with all 20 questions for you to use in your business.

Download Your Free Return-To-Work 20 Questions Checklist

Quickly download this free checklist of the 20 questions you need to answer before your employees will perform at their best after lockdown​.

Before we look at the 20 questions, a quick thank you . . .

Thank You To All Our Contributors

At the end of this article, you’ll find more than 30 excellent pieces of return-to-work advice from local business leaders.

Thank you to all the contributors for sharing your very helpful insights!

Let’s dive into the 20 questions now . . .

The 20 Questions To Answer

1. Do our employees feel safe?

Aiming for full employee engagement will be an impossible task if your employees still have nagging fears in the back of their minds about the risks of infection. Businesses around the world are busy re-assessing their workspaces, workflows to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers. You need to ensure you have all the relevant information to discuss what has been put in place to make the workplace safe under COVID government criteria. The company workplace strategy should consider who should return to work, when and how, who should continue to work from home and what measures should be in place to make these decisions. Take a two-step approach: (a) Conduct a full audit and then (b) Communicate this in detail with all employees, both at the broad level and at the immediate work area level. This is an immediate priority.

2. Have our employees been treated on a case by case basis? 

Employees will experience varying circumstances during and after lockdown and different abilities to cope with the significant change. Some employees may have been alone for weeks; others may have been juggling homeschooling and work, and others may have been furloughed. Each person should have been treated individually during lockdown, and their specific situations acknowledged and discussed. The same should apply once lockdown is over.

Rachel Rolfe, Customade Group

Remember, these have probably been the most challenging times of your employees’ careers. Taking the business issues aside, attempting to homeschool and work full time has been an experience your employees won’t want to repeat in a hurry so be prepared to listen and be flexible.

3. How can I support my team members?

It’s never been more important to check in regularly with team members. COVID-19 may have impacted some individual’s mental health, and you must support all your staff. You should discuss with each team member how they are coping, whether they want to return to work or need a more prolonged transition phase back to work and if they require any additional support.

Claire Elston. People & Development Team Manager at Prima Dental Group

Keep in touch with people who are furloughed as they can feel very alone. Make time to listen to your employees, everyone is different and the current situation affects people in different ways. Working remotely can be very tough on people that enjoy surrounding themselves with people. It’s important to feel like you have someone to talk to who can empathise with you and support you.

4. How do I encourage engagement?

Throughout lockdown, all employees should have received communication from the business whether someone was working from home, on maternity leave or furloughed, it’s essential to keep communication inclusive and consistent. You should monitor employee well-being and engagement in the form of weekly or daily calls, which should continue when workers return to the office.

5. How motivated are employees?

Motivation during lockdown has taken on a different meaning as in-person events and meetings have been impossible. Instead of going out together for lunch, you may have organised virtual social meetings or lunches to encourage team building. Individual motivation should come from giving employees feedback on their work and encouragement and praise where necessary. Employee motivation should continue regardless of lockdown or a staggered return to work.

Jon Leamon – Deputy Chief Executive – Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Don’t expect too much in the first few days from staff returning to work after being furloughed for several weeks. They may have spent their time decorating and gardening (very relaxing activities) and to suddenly step back up to full-on business tasks may be difficult.

6. Am I supporting mental health?

As defined by the CIPD here, ‘All employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. This includes mental health and well-being.’ If lockdown is over and employees can gradually return to work, it doesn’t mean that those who have found homeworking or lockdown mentally challenging will suddenly adapt to a workplace return. You need to speak to all team members and see if they require additional support such as an Employee Assistance Programme.

7. How do I approach furloughed employees?

Individuals who have been furloughed and are asked to return to work, be it at home or in the office, may have different needs to consider as they may feel devalued or alone. If they haven’t worked for some time, they will need to adjust to working again, and this must be treated sensitively. You need to speak to them individually to progress them back into work. It may be better to start them working from home and then progress to the office, but options can be discussed with each individual.

8. Have employees received enough communication?

Communicating with employees is key to motivation, and it is vital during and after lockdown, especially with teams separated. It’s crucial to ensure all employees receive the same information and to tell employees what workplace health and safety features are in place and how these work to ease fear and apprehension going forward. 

Lyndsey Johns – Group HR Controller – CCR Co. & Griffin Mill​

Since lockdown began we’ve looked at maximum engagement with employees while on furlough and ensuring transparency in what the company is doing regarding pay, holidays, furlough etc and how we have been working in the background to ensure our businesses are covid19 secure and how our processes are being adapted, putting the health and well-being of our employees at the forefront of everything we do. We have ensured that the systems we have put in place are continually monitored and updated, and employee inclusion is paramount to this. I believe robust and adaptive policies and processes are key to keeping abreast of the ever-evolving circumstances and to ensure the safety of our employees.

9. Do I need to consult with employees?

All employees should be consulted about a return to the workplace. If your company has a new health and safety or COVID return to work policy, all employees should receive the new policy before they return. 

10. Do employees have all the information they need to return to work?

Employees need to know the details about their return to work and a COVID return to work policy is an excellent way to document critical information. The policy should include guidelines about office health and safety procedures that have been put in place. It should also include how employees raise concerns about returning or if they or someone they live with is vulnerable and what individuals should do if they think they have contracted the Coronavirus etc.

Download Your Free Return-To-Work 20 Questions Checklist

Quickly download this free checklist of the 20 questions you need to answer before your employees will perform at their best after lockdown​.

11. What if someone refuses to return to work?

Everyone is different, and some employees may be desperate to return to the workplace. Others may not. If an individual refuses to return to the workplace, they need to be treated individually and sensitively. It’s important to see whether they need more information about the potential return and understand their concerns. You can then discuss if any provisions can be put in place or whether they need a more extended period working from home. 

12. Do employees understand social distancing at work?

It’s unlikely that social distancing will be dismissed entirely in the UK anytime soon, so businesses must carefully consider how many individuals can be in the workplace at the same time and abide by the distancing rules. You will need to discuss social distancing with all employees before a return to ensure they feel safe. 

13. How can I tell employees about exit plans without scaring them?

Unfortunately, there will be a fear for some time about contracting Coronavirus in the workplace. If an employee who has been at work contracts Coronavirus, then businesses need an exit plan that they can immediately put into action. Employees must understand that a shutdown exit plan is essential workplace risk assessment planning and that it’s only applicable in the scenario that Coronavirus is identified.

14. Are phased returns possible?

After a prolonged period of working from home, it will not be possible for workplaces to accept back all employees at once. To organise a phased return, you can start by asking for volunteers to come back to the office or assessing which jobs need to return first. It’s essential to stagger the numbers and in some respects, slowly test the process. 

15. How do I manage staggered hours/shifts?

It’s crucial to reduce the number of employees in the office and travelling during peak rush hours, and you can also stagger lunch breaks. You must ensure that changed working hours justify the need for safety and are not discriminatory to any employees. 

16. Can I be flexible around working hours?

Lockdown homeworking has shown us the need for flexibility and that often employees do not have to work the rigid nine to five patterns to be productive. If work can be delivered to required deadlines and employees ‘attend’ meetings if relevant, then the focus should be on producing the work instead of working to outdated set time constraints. With a split workforce of homeworkers and office workers, flexibility will continue to be essential.

17. How can I offer transport assistance? 

Transport assistance may encourage some employees to return to work if it helps them to avoid public transport. This may be in the form of staff parking or by introducing a cycle to work scheme and subsides for bikes.

18. Do I need a new sickness policy? 

COVID-19 creates another different complexity as even the potential of it impacts sick pay. For example, a person who believes they have been in contact with an individual who tests positive will be required to self-isolate, which could impact their sick pay. Therefore, the policy must be reviewed and changed if necessary, and communicated to all staff.

19. How do I manage annual leave?

Many employees will accrue annual leave during lockdown if they are not taking a holiday. Annual leave policies will need to be checked to see what the carryover entitlement is and how this will be managed. Any changes must follow statutory and contractual requirements, and again the amended policy or details must be communicated with all staff. You should follow the Government’s new annual leave regulations.

20. What if redundancies are required?

The Government’s furlough system was introduced in order to maintain full employment. However, we live in a global economy and your business may continue to feel the force of the global economic downturn. Should your business ultimately need to implement redundancies, you will need to follow due process and manage the redundancies in a legally and morally defensible manner (contact HR Star for help in this area).

Download Your Free Checklist

Remember to download this free checklist of the 20 questions you need to answer before your employees will perform at their best after lockdown​.

Need Some Help?

COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we work, and these changes will continue to shape the workplace environment. 

You need to assess individuals and continue to trust that employees are performing their jobs as they would do in the workplace. 

If you’d like a little help or just an independent outside perspective on how to put this all into action, get in touch with us here.

Advice From Business Leaders

Christopher Smith – Logical Utilities

Some staff may have concerns about returning to work. They could be suffering anxiety about how work will be after lockdown, going on public transport or may have experienced tough situations at home during lockdown. Remember to consider your team’s mental health as well as their physical health, as lockdown has left some people feeling more anxious and uncertain during these difficult times. Giving a little of your time to listen to your employees is more important now than it ever has been before.

Fiona David – Longfield

This has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, whether you are furloughed, working, looking after children, home schooling or caring for others. Many individuals may have experienced COVID directly or indirectly and have lost family and friends.  It’s ok to have good days and bad days but do be kind to yourself. Look after your physical and mental health as it’s so important.  If you are not feeling great, speak to others, whether it’s your friends, family, work colleagues or manager. There are plenty of good resources available but a useful one is this government COVID-19 mental health guide

Clare Walkeden MCIPR | Auburn Coaching & Consultancy

Get Outside – your mind, your business, your office!

Lots of us have taken advantage of being able to get out and walk during lockdown – and there’s good reason many want to keep it. Studies show that walking can increase creativity by up to 60%, so when you combine that with the wellbeing benefit of being nature and the fitness aspect you get what I call the ‘triple threat’. So let’s encourage our employees to keep their walks during breaks for downtime and wellbeing and why not try having walking meetings – for ease of social distancing and reaping the benefits that it brings for creativity in business!

Lambert David

Be kind to yourself and others, and role model the behaviour you’d want to see.

Alex Clough – Managing Director – 16 Interactive Ltd

I’m not sure if I have a tip for preparation for return to work because as it stands at the moment; we have no intention to force everyone / anyone back to the office, as I feel as it stands at the moment it should be left to the employee to decide on an individual basis as to what is best for them and their family. If individuals wish to work from the office as an alternative location to their homes then they are more than welcome; it needs to be what’s best for them and their current situation.

Ronnie Brown – Managing Director – Blachere Illumination UK Ltd

When I was getting the place ready for a phased return to work, I made up a kit of hand sanitiser, Masks, anti bac wipes and I put their name on them so they were welcomed back with an anti Covid 19 kit. We also had sanitising stations at the entrance. I wanted to make them feel safe coming to work.

Neil Burton – Managing Director, Cheltenham Mortgages – Independent Mortgage Brokers

I am a maths person – for me the biggest tip I would give employers and employees is to maintain at least 2metres at ALL times. There is currently pressure from businesses’ who need a 1metre ruling to get this changed in order to open up their business – so their comments are subjective and not objective. Any decision to reduce the 2metre distance would be foolhardy and put many more lives at risk.

I would also advise companies to set up some form of “help” for those who are struggling – it should be strictly confidential and not affect their employment.  

Going forward, I actually hope many businesses will use this moment to realise we don’t ALL need to “commute” every day – and that far more flexibility is seen as a positive step by employers.

Neil Hollands – Director – CR Hollands

The best tip to employers I would offer is to keep staff informed of developments within the company-changes in policy, trading updates, positive information, etc.

These are tricky times and many employees have taken pay cuts and are working reduced hours. Any information provided will ensure they are aware of the realities and don’t try to make scenarios up themselves which may or may not be true.

Communication with staff regarding their well being and working environment is also helpful.

Fanny Snaith – Certified Money Coach

Covid appeared so quickly, none of us could have anticipated it.  Life is like that though – we often get thrown curveballs.  The trick is to be ready – this is so relevant when it comes to your finances.  It doesn’t matter what circumstance you are in, my tip would be to set aside 3-6 months of living expenses as soon as you can.  Having these funds available when a curveball strikes can be a saviour not only financially but also mentally.  The monkey brain leaps into action when our income is threatened, so to have some liquid cash set aside to help us when we need it is invaluable.    It may sound hard, if not impossible to even imagine having that amount of money put away, but start simply – with just £1.  Take a look at your finances and see how much you can set aside IMMEDIATELY your wages arrive in your account.  The famous investor Warren Buffet said, “Do not save what is left after spending, instead spend what is left after saving”.  Wise words.

Henry Staelens – Forest Green Rovers

You can forget what work was like before lockdown – expectations and priorities have changed, people have had lots of thinking time. To prosper in these unprecedented times, employees will need to feel comfortable and safe in their working environment. It’s the responsibility of employers to remove the elephant in the room, allowing their teams to 100% focus on the tasks at hand.

Sean Taylor – Operations Director – Future Advanced Manufacture

On return to work the environment may have changed significantly, especially if the employee has been Furloughed for some time.  This could be the physical environment or working practices or even their work colleagues.  It’s beneficial to perform an induction back into the business to explain all of the changes and any additional requirements and to answer any concerns they may have.

Belinda Wilson – Glos.Info

One of my tips to help keep a virtual team feel like they are working together is to set up a Skype group for each day if you have different team members working on different days. Each person can then feel part of the whole but can get on with their own tasks independently.

I also think it is really important to listen. Everyone has different challenges at the moment and it is important to work those into the routine. For example, homeschooling and family commitments could be challenging and affect the return to work, whether that is returning to the workplace or coming back from furlough.

Generally, getting the right systems in place is important too. You might put new work from home or in the workplace systems into practice for hygiene, communication, technology, etc. Make sure everyone understands what they are and what the implications are for them and the business. We all need to take responsibility and own our situations and spaces, more so than ever now.

Jonathan Moffitt – Auditel

Due to social distancing, the number of staff at your premises is likely to be lower than normal. Switch off all devices (e.g. printer, computers, monitors, lights, machinery, etc) that are not being used. Ask your staff to check this at least once each day. Maybe this could be the responsibility of a different person each week on a rota using a checklist. It will save money and helps staff keep their jobs in the longer term.

Kathy Scott – Hands On At Work

Many people will experience high levels of stress and anxiety upon their return to work as the workplace will be a different environment to the one they were used to prior to lockdown. Making sure everyone knows beforehand the adaptations that have been put in place and what is expected of them will help to alleviate some of that stress together with wellbeing support such as Wellbeing Champions in place or a designated person people know they can go to with any concerns.

Ziad – IntoCleaning

Are the most recent guidelines from the HSE being followed and has a risk assessment been carried out?

Has the site been cleaned with a virisidal disinfectant and safe enough to return to?

If the answers to those are no, I would strongly recommend action is taken.

Emma El-Karout – One Circle HR

Astute leadership will set the pace in establishing the new world. Developing right mindsets, policies, and infrastructure to support common purpose will be key differentiators.

The world has been reminded on an unsurpassed scale that when the root is deep, the fruit is sweet. As a new world of work emerges post covid-19, humans will be grateful to each other and to leaders who choose to act for longer term interests over short term gains.

Neville Morse – Managing Director – Janes Pantry

One of the tips that we have introduced into our Coronavirus Risk Assessment is:

“Don’t get Complacent, Coronavirus is still out there”

Eleni – Kiki Kirby Coaching + Consultancy

Your people are the heart of your business. It is important during this time to check in with them regularly and consider each individual needs. Healthy, happy people and a healthy culture will drive bottom-line success.

Encourage, inspire, lead, and develop your people.

  • Busy is a choice
  • Stress is a choice
  • Joy is a choice
  • Pace is a choice

What up and coming leaders and people need the most:

  • Emotional support: provide joyful, healthy, positive support, with tough love.
  • Skills and development training
  • People receiving training know what their company believes in them
  • Value – people are want to feel valued, thank thank you, treat them fairly
Serena Gay – Founder Made4U Podcasts, Cheltenham

Why not consider publishing a series of internal podcasts for your employees to help them understand what awaits them on their return to work? Employers could use it to personally answer concerns, update people on company news and set an inspirational and encouraging tone. A lot of employees are burned out on email but listening to podcasts is fun and different and a really effective – and personal – way to convey a message.

Jenny McLoughlin – Finance Director – McLoughlin Planning

We have daily 9.15 meetings with our team and “Friday beers by zoom” each week. We dropped £20 into each member of the team’s bank account to pay for the Friday beers.

I have 3 boys and know they will open up and talk more when we are side by side, doing something like the washing up, rather than face to face. I took this approach with our team. Since lockdown restrictions have been eased we have made time to take each member out to do something they enjoy, walking, golf, cycling. Thereby giving them a chance to talk through their concerns in a non-confrontational way and to aid a more “gossipy” conversation.

Joanne Taylor – Tailormade Solutions

I have continually kept the lines of communication open and have outlined detailed plans about returning to the office – from a health and safety perspective and am emphasising that I am there to support them – I think that’s really important – that they know someone is there to help should they have any issues.

Steve – The Job Guru

I think a virtual meeting before the return to work to discuss any concerns, what the safety plans are going to be etc. will help reassure staff, get buy-in to the processes and make sure nothing has been forgotten.

Julie McCarthy – HR Manager – Operations – Publica

I like this one – taken from the Mental Health At Work Toolkit:

“Take things one step at a time.”

The way we all work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks so we will need to keep adjusting. Don’t expect everything to quickly return to normal. We have a long journey ahead. We may not be able to go back to our old ways of working for some time – and if we are lucky, this could give us an opportunity to do things differently, and better. Look out for yourself, look out for others and take each day and week at a time.

Jamie Martin – Managing Director & Founder – Correct Careers Coaching

During lockdown, innovation in technology was embraced by many businesses, where employees have not had the correct training to utilise such products effectively. Businesses that have undertaken the advancement with their ICT resources will continue to utilise these post-reintegration. Schedule time with your employees when they return to work after lockdown to develop and upskill their capabilities with this new technology. Employees will feel engaged and more confident with the present changes within the company/job role.

Nigel Eldridge – Severn Furnishing

Many employees are keen to return to work but at the same time are nervous about being in close contact with others. Assure them that measures will be in place to ensure safe distancing or, where not possible, that barrier screens or equivalent will be installed for their safety. Just do whatever necessary to show that you are helping to protect them and care about their welfare.

Andy Metcalfe  – Joint Managing Director – Speller Metcalfe

We’ve pretty much kept our works going during the lockdown, just with a reduced number at our offices and, of course, we paused our sites until we could assess the risks and address the return to operating our sites within the guidelines maintaining social distancing, increased hygiene and health management processes. All of our sites are now back up and running – albeit with a reduced number of operatives on site on most projects. The feedback has been very positive both from staff and our supply chain that they believe the measures we have introduced on working practices and protocol have reassured them that their health and welfare has been protected and they feel safe.

Of course – all those coming to work have a duty to work within those guidelines – and so far, we have seen a positive and proactive uptake by staff and workers alike on compliance with the measures required of them.

Time will tell if the level of enthusiasm for maintaining those measures starts to lessen.

We are still recommending that those who can work from home, continue to do so – but for those who are coming back into the workplace, we would comment that where possible, encourage and support every line manager to have one-to-one return meetings with their employees to welcome them back to work and to catch up on anything they may have missed or changes that they need to know about.

Returning to the office environment after such a big upheaval is going to take some serious adjustment for some staff, so it will be important for managers to have a sensitive and open discussion with every individual who is returning to work to discuss any changes or support they may feel they need.

This support is also going to be especially important for those staff who may have had their confidence knocked by being furloughed.

Jane Adams – Jane Adams Portraits

From the bottom to the top, no one person is more or less valuable than any other, despite their role.  Each one of those people and every department should believe they are working together in achieving the business goal, therefore, making the end customer content. 

Jamie Edwards – Managing Director – TenderWrite Ltd

“If your staff will be tendering or bid writing – it’s time to rip up that old content and think about what’s changed.  The ‘New Normal’ means you’ll need to change your content to reflect changes to work procedures or practices.  Thinking of submitting a bid without any reference to COVID-19? Maybe think again.  Make sure you mitigate risks in the mind of the buyer. Think about the long term – demonstrate a solid financial position, order book, and your contingency strategies. Show that you understand their likely concerns and be ahead of the curve with your responses.”

Andrew Mayman – Director – Warwickshire Insulation

I was taught early in business, your people are your biggest asset, but also your biggest liability if you don’t provide adequate support!

Lyndsey Johns – Group HR Controller – CCR Co. & Griffin Mill​

Since lockdown began we’ve looked at maximum engagement with employees while on furlough and ensuring transparency in what the company is doing regarding pay, holidays, furlough etc and how we have been working in the background to ensure our businesses are covid19 secure and how our processes are being adapted, putting the health and well-being of our employees at the forefront of everything we do. We have ensured that the systems we have put in place are continually monitored and updated, and employee inclusion is paramount to this. I believe robust and adaptive policies and processes are key to keeping abreast of the ever-evolving circumstances and to ensure the safety of our employees.

Jon Leamon – Deputy Chief Executive – Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce

Don’t expect too much in the first few days from staff returning to work after being furloughed for several weeks. They may have spent their time decorating and gardening (very relaxing activities) and to suddenly step back up to full-on business tasks may be difficult.

Claire Elston. People & Development Team Manager at Prima Dental Group

Keep in touch with people who are furloughed as they can feel very alone. Make time to listen to your employees, everyone is different and the current situation affects people in different ways. Working remotely can be very tough on people that enjoy surrounding themselves with people. It’s important to feel like you have someone to talk to who can empathise with you and support you.

Rachel Rolfe, Customade Group

Remember, these have probably been the most challenging times of your employees’ careers. Taking the business issues aside, attempting to homeschool and work full time has been an experience your employees won’t want to repeat in a hurry so be prepared to listen and be flexible.

Need Some Help From HR Star?

COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we work, and these changes will continue to shape the workplace environment. 

You need to assess individuals and continue to trust that employees are performing their jobs as they would do in the workplace. 

To ensure that employees leave lockdown and flourish in new working conditions, there are specific questions we need to be confident we have considered and provided solutions to. 

Flexibility, health & safety, ongoing communication and transparency will be key to allow employees to adapt to the new way of working. 

If you’d like a little help or just an independent outside perspective on how to put this all into action, get in touch with us here.

Download Your Free Employee Engagement After The Pandemic 20 Questions Checklist

Quickly download this free checklist of the 20 questions you need to answer before your employees will perform at their best after lockdown​.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • All of these comments resonate.
    At GB Solutions we will be radically changing the way we operate by relinquishing our large office in favour of home working and meet up space when face to face meetings are allowed.
    This clearly has implications for:
    – Training on new cloud based recruitment software
    – Training on effective use of MS Teams, Zoom, etc
    – Working out how best to train people from a distance
    -Learning to manage and be managed remotely
    – Maintaining the team ethic amongst a gregarious bunch
    – Showing compassion and empathy from a distance and supporting employees with their own personal challenges
    – Coaching on time management and how to balance work and home life when they exist under the same roof

    Personally I am very excited about the reboot we will see in the workplace and fear for anyone who believes work will soon be back to normal.

    Reply

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