Work flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic is about more than just remote working. It requires employers to think quickly about how they can do things differently, for instance, redeploying staff to help the country get through the next months.
In these times, agility and flexibility have come to the fore. That not only means flexible working, particularly remote working, but also rethinking people’s roles and redeploying them to where they can help.
We’ve seen this week how Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic are asking employees who have not been able to work because of the coronavirus pandemic if they want to work alongside doctors and nurses at new makeshift NHS units.
Women in Hospitality, Travel & Leisure (WiHTL) announced yesterday that it has partnered with GIG – a flexible working online platform and app which allows business to quickly upscale staff at peak times – to support the redeployment of hospitality, travel and leisure employees who have lost their job due to the coronavirus crisis, across alternative sectors, such as the care, warehousing, retail and logistics sectors who find themselves under ever increasing pressure to meet consumer demands at this time.
At the weekend, I was speaking with a friend who works in the care sector who is finding it difficult to find care staff to deal with increased demand and the number of existing care staff who are self isolating or otherwise unable to work. She mentioned that the furlough scheme is making her life more difficult because people who are furloughed are unable to do any paid work or they will forfeit their 80% pay.
I asked her about some of the questions we are getting from care workers who are parents. For instance, many are afraid that their care home will go into lockdown if there is a coronavirus case and they will not only not be able to see their children, but sort childcare. Some are single parents. What do they do in these circumstances?
My friend said it would be down to discussions with employers around the possibility, for instance, of redeployment. Could they take care of bringing deliveries to a care home in lockdown? Are there other roles they could fulfill? It is this kind of flexible thinking which will be required in the next weeks, but it puts a lot of the responsibility onto employers and employers, often under tremendous stress, will need to step up.
Most are trying to help their staff and take into account different circumstances, but some are not and are making it nearly impossible for their staff. In some cases too, parents are not fully understanding the pressures on their employers. It all comes down to communication.
Over the years I’ve occasionally wondered whether my job mattered, but communication is vital in these times. People need to understand what is going on and work together to find solutions. Government needs to provide as much clarity as possible on the kind of support available, including childcare support.
Everyone needs to pull together and find ways of getting through the next weeks and months and keep as many people alive as possible.