Sharing our practice – managing Plan B as an SME

We know that as an SME, and a social enterprise at that, resources can be tight. For this reason, we have committed to sharing our processes and resources when adapting how we work in light of the new Plan B. We are not stating that what we plan to do is perfect but we hope it might give you some ideas and support. This post will be updated as and when we make changes to our process.

Managing change and uncertainty

We acted fast and honestly – like everyone else, employers found out about the new changes just after 6pm on 8th December. We waited a few hours for trusted information to filter through before acting. We used the, BBC and ACAS websites for help. In addition, we set up a line manager whatsap group to communicate quickly with people who will have responsibility to deseminate information. By 11pm, we emailed all permanent and kickstart programme staff. The email stated that facts that we knew at this point and where / when we planned on finding out more (an ACAS webinar on Weds 15th Dec – cost £175). Staff were told about tightened procedures which included daily lateral flow tests rather than the twice weekly we currently do, a reminder about regular cleaning, temperature checks and ventilation. The email also stated the changed to issolation rules for the Omicron variant. We referenced a potential temporary hybrid way of working in the future, where staff will work from home or the office when required. Finally, we shared support from the Mind website to acknowledge the mental strain such changes can have on people:

At the time of writing this, which is 7am on 9th December, we have already had one response requesting a continuation of working from the office, as home working is not suitable for them. This reinforces what we know that we have a duty of care to our staff that goes beyond protecting them from the risk of infection.

Identifying a Covid staff representative

In hindsight, we should have done this 20 months ago. We know that changes to the way people work created conflict within our organisation for a variety of reasons. This time, the board and COO will work with a staff nominated representative to ensure we do what’s best for our staff, volunteers, customers, and business. To do this we have created a SurveyMonkey form asking all staff to nominate their colleague of choice. This person will receive training and paid time to complete this responsibility. The COO isn’t part of the voting process.

Communicating with purpose

Today, Thursday, we have spent the day listening to our teams. This has allowed us to understand their concerns and what they feel comfortable with. Unlike the first time around, we know what our business needs too, and although our main objective is to keep our staff, volunteers, and customers safe; we also know what the business demands from us. Last year, we had an open conversation with no clear structure or plan, hoping this would come from the team. What we now know, is that people do not like uncertainty and appreciate a strong direction, even when it could go against their personal preferences. We know that there has to be someone in the office at all times. Our phones (despite the introduction of individual mobile numbers in 2020) still ring and people still pop in. In addition, and this might just be for our team, our staff team responds well to seeing their line managers face to face at least once a week. For this reason, a digital bubble or a communities bubble wouldn’t work. I manage both those teams so, therefore, break any bubble. Plus there is a feeling that people are sick of bubbles. AS the day ends today, we know what people are hoping for and feel comfortable with. With this information, we are in a good position to issue a rota for the last few weeks of 2021 by the end of the week.

Keeping calm

What has been noticeable today is that very few organisations that we work with are responding to the new guidelines. This allows our staff team to understand the balance between us doing everything we can to keep each other safe, but also allowing us to keep our anxieties in check.

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