With the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, more and more companies have offered to introduce to some of their employees so-called “short-time work”, meaning usually a temporary reduction of work times and compensation when demand for services and products are low.
Let’s face it: these are challenging times. We all know that having such mutual conversations is tough, as this may affect each individual’s circumstances in various ways; yet it is also a far better option than facing potential unemployment. Another issue is that while sales may be impacted and production reduced, there are some jobs that will actually require more effort than before to maintain the client base and ensure the supply chain, so there is a necessity to improve productivity. Here are some upsides that can be helpful to remember as well as some communication points to mitigate the impact of these measures on your teams.
From an employee’s perspective:
- Remain employed and earn short-time compensation rather than jobless and claim unemployment benefit, which is likely to be lower (and if rehired they are unlikely to earn the same wage as before).
- Keeping oneself productive and relevant in the workday means maintaining your skill level and market demand.
- Catch up on all that you’ve missed in terms of work-life balance and spend time at home with loved ones.
- Get used to working more efficiently whilst working fewer hours and be more effective and satisfied with what you do.
- Recharge and focus on what matters most to free time and make room for creativity and innovation.
From an employer’s perspective:
- Protect jobs by temporarily reducing work hours and reduce labour costs in the short term so that labour is best matched to output requirements rather than cut jobs and pay unemployment benefits.
- Show your employees and the market that you care.
- Retain talent and employees with skills that could otherwise lead to a “brain-drain” or a need for costly re-skilling.
- Be responsible and sustainable by reducing overhead costs such as office maintenance, electricity, etc. as well as the carbon footprint as people stop commuting.
Communication and accompanying measures:
- Keep employees fully consulted. It’s good management practice to keep employees informed and regularly updated of the business situation so that they hear this directly from you and in full transparency as two-way communication is vital while introducing changes that should not come as a total surprise.
- Explain the rationale of introducing short-time reduced work hours and win people’s voice that it is better than other alternatives.
- Guide people on how work will be reorganised and redistributed between short-time and full-time employees.
- Communicate regularly using online tools to train people on what to expect when working short-time in remote teams.
- Maintain reasonable employee job performance levels, can certain jobs accomplish the same amount of work in shorter hours?
- Be cautious that people don’t put in the same amount of work anyway and then pay overtime for it, as some tasks just take time.
- Reward people who put the same amount of work in less time, rather than ask them to do more work.
The impact of this pandemic may still last for a long time and the sales and cash-flow of most businesses will be greatly impacted. It is important that employers and employees maintain a two-way conversation to ensure that both parties are reasonably satisfied with the agreement. For employers, the most important factors in the short term are their cash-flow and the continuation of the supply chain and for employees, the most important factors also in the short-term is their income and job security. Employees should continue to deliver their work in a timely fashion and manage their tasks and time efficiently. Employers should try to support their employees with other benefits that don’t necessarily cost money such as offering online workshops of remote working and possibly provide incentives for employees who excel in their jobs regardless of the pandemic.
In essence, the more effective the communication between employer and employee the happier and more compassionate both parties would be towards each other.