All change…again

There have been a raft of announcements this week. Everything is changing again and it’s exhausting, but how can we manage change better?

a woman sleeps at her computer with post-it notes covering her eyes


Someone sent me a meme the other day which noted that the work from home rule ends just as the school holidays start. Those facing going back to the office over the summer and having to arrange childcare cover will find things more difficult than usual because not all holiday schemes are back and running. Meanwhile, Covid levels will be rising fast so those whose households include people with underlying health issues may be anxious about sending them to schemes.

Parents are exhausted with all of this, but there seems no end in sight yet. On the one hand there’s the stress of having the kids around while you work. On the other, there’s the stress of having to find safe childcare for them if you have to go into work. You can’t win.

This week has seen a raft of announcements heralding more change. Not just the easing of restrictions from 19th July, the easing of the isolation regime from 16th August and the easing of the quarantining regime for double vaccinated adults coming back from amber countries, but there was also an announcement that the 20-pound-a-week uplift in Universal Credit will end with the furlough scheme in late September.

Campaign groups have been calling for months for the uplift to be made permanent or at least extended, given rising costs of food and consistent reports that the ending of the furlough scheme is likely to increase unemployment. While the news has been full of articles about vacancies and skills shortages, research suggests different parts of the country where different sectors are more dominant are facing different levels of available roles.

That is a lot of major changes to announce in one week. We’ve been following up with parents and campaigning groups to find out what the reaction is. So far many groups seem to be holding fire and checking what they are hearing through their various helplines.

Working Families said it has been hearing from parents whose employer is requiring them to return to the office and for one reason or another they feel unable to do so, whether it’s because of childcare or having a vulnerable person in their household/family. They added that health and safety concerns are increasing as cases are going back up and that they are starting to hear from more parents who are worried about contracting the virus at work or during the commute on public transport. Some pregnant women and their partners are also expressing concerns about going into work.

What the changes do bring is additional workload for many employers as they respond and deal with their employees’ response. For some of the latter there is joy at going back to work; others who have been working from home seem very keen to stay where they are, at least for now.  All change generates more work. A CIPD podcast earlier this week on change management highlighted the need for employers to take that into consideration, particularly given how exhausted everyone is at the moment.

It’s not just Covid changes, though. Technology is moving on apace. It can enable us to do more or to do things more quickly, but it’s important to look at how any changes might impact people’s workload. It all mounts up. There have been reports recently of different employers making executive assistants/secretaries redundant in the wake of the introduction of online systems during the pandemic. They mean employees can lodge their own requests with IT or HR or book meeting rooms or travel.

Being able to do something and having the time to do it are two different things. While each booking may take minutes at the most, it all adds up. I’ve been around for a while and been through several iterations of the self-servicing argument. Each time it has increased my workload with nothing being taken away. That needs to stop. Logic says that if you add something, you need to subtract something else. Work needs to be sustainable. Do the maths.

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