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Ten inspiring ways to help your employees through lockdown

Wellbeing|Total Rewards|Talent
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Amanda Scott | January 12, 2021

With the latest rounds of lockdown and possible further tightening of restrictions, organisations are thinking creatively about how to best support working parents, employee wellbeing and the overall employee experience.

This latest lockdown feels like a return to the impossibly chaotic early days of the pandemic, which are still etched into many people’s memories. Trying to work, homeschool children and run a home has left many parents exhausted. Other people are juggling caring responsibilities, battling to work in a small space, or struggling with loneliness.

The good news is that, now that the basics of home working are already in place, employers are going above and beyond. They are finding creative and inspiring new ways to support people.

In case you’re searching for extra ways to lift some of the burden from your own people, I wanted to share some of the best ideas I’ve heard with you. Please feel free to add these to your own toolkits and let me know of any others that have worked well for you.

For parents balancing childcare and virtual schooling:

  1. 01

    The ‘Education for the Future’ programme

    One company is offering a tutoring fund to allow employees to invest in additional educational support for their children while they’re learning virtually.

    Parents have used it for virtual tutoring, to expense textbooks, to fund online learning programmes, or pay for Outschool classes.

  2. 02

    ‘All Hands on Deck’

    In a similar vein, another company has identified people within their workforce who are interested in volunteering their time to tutor a colleague’s child in a topic or area that they’re interested in.

    For example, a Year One child could read with a colleague for an hour a week while the parent has time to work. They’ve used this as a volunteering opportunity, in a year when many conventional volunteering initiatives have been paused.

  3. 03

    ‘Covid days’

    Some companies are giving parents a set number of days off for childcare. For example, one financial services company has given parents 10 days to use towards childcare and education.

  4. 04

    Remote Learning Child Care

    One Silicon Valley-based tech firm is giving workers with school-age children two to four hours each day, three days a week, to focus on their child’s education.

    They wanted to go beyond flexible working to alleviate the pressure parents might feel to make up their working hours in the evening. After all, healthy and energised people are less prone to making errors at work and are more effective employees.

For people working in less-than-ideal situations:

  1. 05

    Working from home kits

    We’ve all seen the team member who’s hunched up on the floor of their bedroom, peering into their phone screen for that Monday morning meeting. Or perhaps the colleague deploying the classic – but ultimately uncomfortable – sofa/coffee table setup.

    Almost a year on from when the pandemic first hit the UK, it’s time to reset our expectations of what proper working from home spaces should look like and the extent to which organisations need to support employees. Everyone must have a computer monitor, a proper desk and comfortable chair.

    Some companies are even sending out working from home kits that include stationary, pens and mugs. Many see this as an engagement opportunity and are gifting kits to internal teams and clients alike.

    Others are creating expense budgets for kit such as Wi-Fi boosters, presentation ring lights and microphones. This is particularly important if your company is hosting virtual events and conferences.

  2. 06

    Hardship fund

    For people on lower incomes, some organisations have put together a hardship fund to help cover the additional cost of heating and food now that families are at home more often. They are reinvesting the saved costs from office space into helping employees who are at home.

For anyone who looks frazzled at Friday night Zoom drinks:

  1. 07

    Wellbeing fund

    One employer is offering a £200 fund for wellbeing initiatives. People can spend the money on anything they feel will improve their wellbeing.

    The company’s HR team have heard of people spending their fund on initiatives like personal therapy sessions, flower subscriptions, online yoga classes and fruit delivery. One person put theirs towards a peloton.

  2. 08

    A ‘firebreak’ weekend

    Another company is planning for a ‘firebreak’ weekend towards the end of February, where a Friday and Monday will be meeting and e-mail free.

    People will be free to use those two days for whatever they like, whether it’s spending time with their family, exploring a new hobby, focusing on personal wellbeing or just taking some time to breathe.

    Why a firebreak? With Christmas over, a natural pause in the year has passed. This organisation wants to give their employees something to look forward to. Plus, they’re orchestrating another rest period when everyone can take a guilt-free break.

For people who’ve felt the pressure (that’s all of us, then):

  1. 09

    Thank you bonuses

    It has been an extraordinary year, and many people have kept working under pressure they could never have imagined. Some organisations have given a flat bonus to their employees to thank them for the year.

A final word of advice…

  1. 10

    Empower managers

    People’s living and working situations are all so different. Company leaders should encourage managers to have open conversations with people and agree what’s expected based on their individual circumstances, rather than issuing blanket decrees from the top.

    If anything, many employees tend towards being overly conscientious, putting them at risk of burnout. When added to the natural anxiety of living in a pandemic, this could be a toxic combination if it isn’t carefully managed.

    Employers should remember that, although this time has felt endless, it will not last forever. When we emerge from the pandemic, the organisations which have protected their people’s health and energy will be in the best place to flourish.


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