Last week, I was delighted to host our inaugural Partner group coffee morning. These events provide key contacts at our Partner organisations with the opportunity to meet and discuss different topics with me and peers from other Partner organisations in an informal and confidential setting.
Re-imagining the workplace post-pandemic
During the meeting I shared highlights from our research on how our Partner and Member organisations have supported their workforces during the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown. Findings from our survey, which are based on responses from 73 organisations found:
- 90% agreed that responses to COVID-19 could result in long lasting change in attitudes to flexible and home working.
- The main challenges faced by businesses in terms of their workforce as a whole were:
- Co-ordinating a consistent approach to supporting staff
- Mental health and wellbeing for all staff including those on furlough
- Managing communication in terms of effective working and ensuring all communications are inclusive
Responses that had been particularly important for colleagues with disabilities and long term conditions related to:
- The provision of adjustments including provision and portability, tracking, and set up of equipment, and ensuring effectiveness of adjustments – and also having the data to be able to reach out to employees who might most need support and adjustments
- Considering travel/working at home (79%)
- Anxieties about Covid-19 on lives/work (73%)
- Reviewing routine hours to enable work at home (67%)
We then had a fascinating discussion about the challenges experienced by Partners and some of the innovative solutions that had been developed. These included:
- How to support disabled customers in a retail environment, especially those not able to wear a mask for reasons relating to their disability (you can check out our latest guidance on this, here and I have recently blogged on the need to raise public awareness of legitimate exemptions to the mandatory wearing of face marks to avoid the abuse that sadly we are already starting to see)
- Mitigating the risk of creating or accelerating future disability or long-term conditions through the provision of adequate ergonomics assessments and support at home
- Evidence-based and person-centred approaches to managing the return to the workplace that prioritise physical and psychological wellbeing and that do not conflate disability with vulnerability to Covid-19
- Ensuring that learning from lockdown informs future improvements to policy and practice. For example, can roles that have been successfully been carried out remotely during lockdown be positioned as potentially remote roles when future vacancies are posted? How can the workplace be adapted to resemble elements that employees enjoyed when working from home? Can we enable and even promote a mixed economy of work for the future?
What next for us?
As a result of our research and conversation with Partners, we will be pursuing the themes:
- A new approach to flexible working – keeping what works and creating an environment which focuses on outcomes: what needs to be done and achieved rather than being prescriptive on where and how
- New skills needed by People Managers – including managing disabled employees (and teams as a whole) remotely
- How technology will continue to be the enabler
- How organisations can consolidate the above responses into something more intentional/permanent (where applicable)
It was great to hear participants say at the end of the call that they were keen to stay connected between meetings. I’m looking forward to the next one!