Dec 18, 2020

Accenture: five actions to help get back to work safely

Return to Work
Oliver Wright, global lead Con...
4 min
Accenture’s Oliver Wright and Eva Sage-Gavin discuss five actions organisations should take to help get back to work safely...

In this extraordinarily challenging time, we’ve all had to adapt to far-reaching changes in the way we live, consume, work and socialize. Companies have had to act quickly and decisively to support their people, help communities fight the pandemic and ensure their businesses come through the crisis stronger.

As economies and societies begin reopening, a new set of challenges is emerging. Manufacturers face the need to balance ramping up operations while ensuring the mental and physical health and wellbeing of their workforce. No-one should pretend this will be easy. It will require exceptional flexibility, resilience and resourcefulness – particularly because most markets will likely experience cycles of opening and closing until a vaccine has inoculated a critical mass of the population.

These are the realities of the post-COVID world, a world in which the ability to manage and capitalize on uncertainty has become a massive strategic differentiator.

How is your business creating and executing a physical distancing strategy that allows people to be productive and feel safe? With broad consensus that we won’t go back to life as we knew it, how are you addressing fundamental questions about how your business should reset and renew for the new reality? 

As manufacturers endeavor to get their people back to work safely, consider these five actions:

  1. Maintain your COVID-19 command center. Use this resource to continue providing centralized coordination until your workforce is fully comfortable operating in the new era – a transition that could take a while. Leverage the initiatives and structures you created to deal with immediate COVID-19 challenges to help manage a staggered return to work and a regular cadence of employee communications.
  2. Keep taking ‘pulses.’ As government mandates evolve, some people remain anxious about returning to offices and crowded public spaces; others are resistant to new safety measures. As you plan, don’t get ahead of your employees or customers. Continually take their ‘pulse’ by talking to them, actively listening to what they say and guiding them to make responsible choices. Accenture research suggests that in most organizations, 20% to 30% of people will be particularly concerned about this transition. Identify them and stay close.
  3. Redouble your commitment to responsibility. Decision-making is increasingly being pushed to individuals and businesses – making the next phase of the crisis a litmus test for corporate behavior. Indeed, in an Accenture CXO global survey (fielded in June and July 2020), 49% of CHROs said that the COVID-19 crisis will impact responsible practices aimed at improving the societal value for consumers, employees, business partners and communities, such as inclusion and diversity. Become an ‘emotional enterprise’ by focusing on your purpose and your contributions to the greater good.
  4. Increase workforce resilience. The crisis has reminded us that companies are only as resilient as their workforce. Those that maintain a safety net of adaptable workers will be better prepared to ride out future shocks.

Be prepared to quickly redeploy people to areas of high demand. Review your training programs to ensure they’re upskilling the workforce for the demands of the future. Carefully prioritize who in the business needs to travel internationally and update HR and travel policies accordingly. Accept that home working, video-conferencing and remote collaboration are likely to become permanent features of your operations. Rethink how time management, performance monitoring and career progression need to change for this more physically dispersed workforce.

Just as important, consider making temporary resilience boosting policies – such as paid sick leave – permanent whilst going beyond mental health awareness to offer services that tackle root-cause issues.

  1. Prepare for physical reopening. Consider what personal protective equipment (PPE) your workforce needs and how you will enforce its use. Think about how to communicate hygiene and social distancing rules onsite, as well as when to offer body temperature measurements. Establish guidelines for face-to-face meetings, including seating arrangements and handwashing before and after. Be prepared to rethink and restrict the use of shared spaces and canteens, and reorganize supplier and postal deliveries to minimize physical contact.

Digital technologies can play a key role in ensuring safety throughout your return to work. By creating a “digital twin” of the workplace, for example, it’s possible to simulate and test layout configurations. Use those simulations to assess how well people would be able to comply with social distancing rules, particularly in high-risk areas, such as canteens, sanitary facilities and meeting rooms. In addition, consider whether you want to deploy ‘safe worker’ apps and temperature monitoring facilities to alert workers when they’re breaching proximity limits and to detect areas of overcrowding in the workplace in real time.

By taking these five actions, you will better position your company to manage the uncertainty of the coming months and ramp up and renew your operations – all while ensuring your people stay safe and well.

For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.

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Oliver Wright, global lead Consumer Goods & Services, Accenture

Eva Sage-Gavin, global lead Talent & Organization / Human Potential practice, Accenture

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Jun 20, 2021

5 Ways Leaders Can Create a Healthy Workplace Culture

5 min
As the world embraces Men’s Health Week, five experts advise how leaders can create a healthy workplace culture for employees

This week (14th-20th June 2021) is Men’s Health Week. Physical and mental well-being have been important considerations for leaders over the past year, and it is essential this focus is maintained as we build back for the future. Here we have asked 5 experts for practical tips leaders can implement to create healthy workplace cultures.


Know the early signs of burnout 

Recently it was reported by the BBC that burnout for health and social care staff had reached emergency levels. 

Monkey Puzzle Training Co-Founder Karen Meager has studied the burnout recovery process in partnership with Coventry University: “The past year has seen people suffer from job-loss worries, work from home challenges, isolation, and feeling overworked. These are continuing, and all have the potential to contribute towards burnout. Healthcare workers, executives, leaders, managers and small business owners will continue to be the top people to suffer from extreme burnout.”

“At the onset of burnout, people commonly enter a phase of denial. So leaders need to be aware of those who are reluctant to take their time off, are compelled to work all hours, or have changes in their behaviour or mood, as these can all be indications of burnout taking hold. Encouraging them to take a burnout self-test provides a starting point to supporting these employees through recovery, as is role modelling healthy sustainable ways of working.Karen suggests.


Encourage professional self-reflection 

Creating an environment that encourages self-reflection is an effective tool for promoting personal development. Journaling may not be something you instantly think of for professional development; however, it is a successful technique for adults to aid mindfulness and productivity. “Journaling is a form of self-expression that can empower you to understand your feelings and ambitions and how to deal with them, therefore promoting positive well-being and a healthy workplace culture,” describes Elisa Nardi, founder of Notebook Mentor


Just 15-20 minutes of journaling a day over the course of four months are enough to lessen the impact of physical stressors on your health,” explains Elisa. “It can also inspire creativity, aid your memory, and help set actionable goals. It is an underused tool that can help employees manage tricky workplace situations such as conflict, illness or new leadership roles.


Manage your stress and resilience too

As a leader or manager, often, your complete focus is on the business or protecting your team, but you cannot pour from an empty cup. Leaders should also have strategies in place to manage their own stress, so they can sustain high levels of positive energy throughout the day. “Fueled by a burning desire for success, I ignored all the warning signs of exhaustion, which eventually took its toll on me - I literally collapsed from stress, and I didn’t even see it coming.” reflects Sascha Heinemann, an expert in Performance Recovery and Stress Resilience.


“When leaders manage their energy, create healthy daily habits, and practice resilience, they are able to perform to their fullest capacity and to provide the best possible support for others.” 


“Taking a break every 90 minutes or so helps you to refuel, recharge, and re-energize and ultimately allows you to get more accomplished, in less time, at a higher level of quality, and more sustainably. This role model contributes dramatically to a healthier, more engaged, sustainable, and productive workplace culture," he adds.


Instil a sense of purpose for your team

The idea that success equals working 12-15 hour days and giving everything of yourself to your workplace continues to prevail in many organisations. This is not healthy, nor is it productive for anyone involved. “The healthiest and happiest workplace cultures are the ones that are organised around purpose.” describes business and life coach Anand Kulkarni. 


“Leaders should be giving meaning to the work they are doing within their business and beyond and sharing this purpose with their staff, rather than focusing on long hours, crippling workloads or someone else’s idea of ‘success’. When people understand why they are doing what they do and how this contributes to something greater, productivity and well-being is increased.” adds Anand. 


Promote well-being from the top down

Leaders need to act as role models if well-being is to become embedded at the very core of the organisation. It’s very unlikely that employees will start acting in a new way that puts their own needs first if the leadership team continues to behave in an entirely different manner.


‘Many organisations have worked hard in recent months to put new policies in place that better support well-being, promote hybrid working and attempt to set clear boundaries, but many leaders seem to assume that they are exempt from it all, that’s when it all falls over’, explains leadership experts Martin Boroson and Carmel Moore, from The One Moment Company. 


A recent ONS report into Homeworking in the UK revealed that people are on average working 6 hours extra per week, and many are working until late in the evening, indicating that the boundaries between work and life are more blurred than ever. 


Despite all of these wonderful opportunities for people to self-organise, if the leadership team continues to work in the office Monday to Friday, or are communicating at all hours, then it’s a clear indicator that hybrid working is simply a ‘bolt-on’ tactic rather than an integral part of the company’s approach to promoting the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.’

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