Kate Langton, HR manager, Phoebus Software

Lockdown isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Some may relish the relative peace-and-quiet of the home office, or the time saved by cutting out the daily commute. There are still likely to be times though, when they miss the social interaction of the workplace, the office banter, the ability just to chat to a colleague over a coffee.

For others, the sense of isolation will be more pronounced. It is one thing to have the odd day working from home. Doing so full time for upwards of three months is a different matter. For those combining it with caring responsibilities and home-schooling, talk of more peace-and-quiet or freeing up time, will seem like a bad joke.

Firms of all shapes and sizes need to be aware of the different pressures home-working can bring, and take steps to ease some of the difficulties that colleagues experience. Those that respond well will be rewarded in the long term by greater staff loyalty, and in the short term by improved productivity. A little bit of the human touch goes a long way.

At Phoebus Software, we have enabled 100% of our workforce to work at home throughout the lockdown period but recognising that people still need human contact with their colleagues, we also put in place a wide range of support. This includes access to a mindfulness app, a yoga app, and online personal training sessions. These are aimed at helping staff to manage both their physical and mental wellbeing, which we know are closely intertwined. Staff also have access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides comprehensive support across a range of issues.

We have also adapted all our people processes to ensure that they are effective remotely. For example, we now have online onboarding for new employees, a virtual shout-out wall to recognise a job well done, and all of our performance and development processes and tools are cloud-based, enabling them to be accessed remotely.

What many people miss most of all is the sense of being part of a team. We have sought to recreate that with online social events, both within teams and company-wide, so that staff can come together in a non-work environment. This has enabled them to continue to forge the informal bonds that are such an important part of building stronger teams.

For all the challenges that some of us are experiencing, it is important to remember that there are also many others less fortunate than ourselves. Phoebus Software is strongly committed to our local community in the West Midlands and this is not just shared, but one hundred per cent driven, by our employees.  Consequently, we have focused strongly on combining support for our employees with assisting the community.

The staff charity committee, which co-ordinates the firm’s charitable giving, has held a series of lockdown fundraisers, which together have raised nearly £2,500 for local causes. That is an effort that everyone at Phoebus Software is proud of.

We like to think that we have always known the value of the human touch. Lockdown has reinforced that, and the challenge of being forced apart has in many ways brought us closer together.