A people-first approach in the age of Covid-19 – a look inside the Chandler Macleod Group response

6 months ago by Chandler Macleod Group

Working from home in Covid-19

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be one of the most challenging years for businesses this decade. Balancing keeping a global business afloat whilst making the health and well-being of your staff a priority is a complex undertaking, particularly as the situation with Covid-19 is constantly evolving with daily changes to Government restrictions and regulations.

Being a people-centric business, but with vastly different business models, it was clear that we needed to put our people first if we were going to survive the crisis. Within our staffing business for example, consultants are regularly meeting with prospective staff, current clients and also current contractors – so being a conduit for the Corona Virus was something we had to quickly take into consideration when dealing with our contingency planning.

Which is why we were quick to make the decision to move to a remote working model prior to the Governments recommendation. On the morning of Wednesday 18th of March we determined that everyone would begin working from home the next day. Luckily our IT systems have coped brilliantly due to our previously high level of flexibility in the workplace.

Our dedicated response team meets daily to review updates on the outbreak and monitor reports on the almost 20,000 people turning up to work each day for the group. This allows us to make quick and effective decisions regarding the direction of the business.

"We've had to update our business continuity plans because those typically anticipate a failure in IT, or a telecommunications network going down, and how we're going to respond." Said Chandler Macleod Group CEO Peter Acheson.

Fear and uncertainty is one of the biggest issues during this crisis so the challenge ahead of us is to maintain engagement and connections within our remote staff and look after their mental health. For this reason, we recently held a group-wide “town hall meeting” with nearly 700 employees.

"We talked through what we are doing to respond to the crisis, our plan, and making sure that everybody has a plan in terms of managing process and the business going forward", says Acheson.

Some of the key concerns coming from our staff were:

  • Job security and action plans to retain people

  • Company financial performance

  • Mental health and Isolation / how long would we be working like this?

By knowing these concerns, we are now able to tailor our actions and communications to give people clarity around the situation. Some of this communication included sharing our three-stage business plan for dealing with the crisis.

Stage one of the plan was the risk management that has been in place since very early in 2020, and focuses on the health and safety of its workforce, including freezing all travel and face-to-face training and conferences.

Stage two, run in parallel, includes halting all discretionary expenditure, and freezing new and replacement hiring.

The third stage involves encouraging staff to reduce their hours over the June quarter, determined on a business unit basis, Acheson says.

Some parts of the business are working a nine-day fortnight, others have adopted a four-day week and all employees are being encouraged to use up some of their annual and long-service leave entitlements. We are asking our staff to act in the best interest of the group as a whole, and in this way we can effectively mitigate job losses.

Unfortunately, no one has an answer to the question “how long will the COVID-19 crisis last?” but our expectation is that we will be working like this at least until the next quarter said Peter Acheson.

"With the success of remote working and what we've been able to measure so far in terms of productivity, I see we'll need less space in offices... Not just at Chandler Macleod, but organisations generally." Peter Acheson, CEO Chandler Macleod Group