Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Post COVID-19

Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Post COVID-19

Managing Employee Engagement and Productivity Post COVID-19

Tanya Gray – Director of ConsultingHQ & RecruitNZ.


As many employees return to offices, employers should expect to notice some subtle changes in employee behaviour that may warrant focus for the early weeks back at work – particularly in light of potential restructures.

While the closedown has been stressful for employers, so also has the sudden separation from peers and adjustment to working remotely, in some cases under revised employment conditions & pay rates for your employees.

Employees are well aware of the challenges that employers face in the current uncertain environment – and they are aware of what that may mean for their future employment – creating a potentially stressful return to work environment for many.
Anxious employees are generally more distracted, make more errors and have less energy overall. This is a normal human response to increased levels of anxiety.

Here are our recommended actions for employers in the early stages to reassure and refocus employees.

Speak to your team as a group and as individuals.

While this may be a drain on your time, employees are reliant on you for their income and they need to know where they stand.
Commence restructure conversations as soon as possible, and be decisive about your actions and communications in this area.
People would rather know and make plans than not know and worry. The processes for restructure and redundancy is clear – the consultation & communication process takes a number of weeks, so it really is better to get your plan sorted, then executed. Be sure you remain compliant with all processes – the regulations around employment remain in place as pre COVID. Employers are obliged to follow a process with consultation & consideration.

Consider training & development opportunities

In considering your succession plan and skill gap map as part of your overall restructure planning, a period of reduced productivity for your business may be an excellent time to consider skill training for some employees to close skill gaps and test aptitude in new areas.

Enable input to innovation or pivot ideas

While this process needs to be carefully managed for expectations, high performing employees will relish the opportunity to contribute to pivot concepts for your business – these employees have most likely spend some time considering areas of opportunity during the close down. It will be fantastic for them to brainstorm ideas under supervision – and who knows, some of the ideas might be fabulous suggestions that you had not yet considered.
Enforce your operational and behavioural standards
All your employees have been absent for a lengthy period. Make sure your standards of behaviour including dress code & working hours are back in place immediately – this will give employees a sense of ‘normal’ that will help them click back into gear.
This will be reasonably easy to slide into the conversation as you reinforce new distancing & tracking protocols in place for the return to work safely guidelines.

Be available

Unless you have a reason to be absent from the workplace – and of course distancing protocols will be required, but make sure you are available for your team. While employers have had a hugely stressful time – don’t forget your entire team has also been stressed – and many of them will have been worried about you, your business and their employment. Allow people to chat and reconnect with you in their own time.

The Difference Between Redundancy & Restructuring

The Difference Between Redundancy & Restructuring


With so much pressure on employers in 2020 due to COVID-19 – the introduction of work from home, social distancing & hygiene practices to prevent a second wave during Level 3 Alert, some employers will also need to consider restructuring and potentially disestablishing some positions to navigate their business forward.

Firstly, it is important to note that employers are obliged to act in good faith and in the interests of employees as well as in the interests of their business at all times.

All considerations in regards to restructures – and potential resulting redundancies must be fully transparent.

Employers have the right to act in accordance with the requirements of their business, but a process must be followed in the area of altering the structure – whether it be for business growth or reduction.

Restructures are commonly assessed due to a change of market and trading environment, an acquisition, or a change in direction in business strategy.

Firstly, by way of definition, redundancy (otherwise termed as role disestablishment) is the outcome of a restructuring process, and would usually be considered the last resort in terms of the employee or employees concerned.

Role disestablishment does not always mean the termination of an employee’s contract – very commonly where a role is disestablished, the employee is moved into another broader (or more specialised) role.

The single most important consideration is whether or not the role is required in the immediate and foreseeable future for the business.

To begin the process of a business restructure, the business plan must first be put in place and all resources – inclusive of workforce, taken into consideration.

Where workforce is concerned, the skill matrix identifying gaps and overlaps is a key element. While a downsized structure due to pressure on profitability and business viability is in question, succession planning must also be considered and the business plan needs to examine areas of potential growth and increased margin.

In this regard, your overall restructuring strategy may well require the introduction of new or higher skills in some areas – or specific requirements for experience and expertise may be sought out for business plan progression into new avenues.

A restructure does not necessarily mean a chopping of employee numbers (although this is commonly the outcome). Every aspect of business must be carefully considered.

Where role disestablishment is the only option – and no new role can be established for the employee in the role, redundancy due to role, disestablishment takes place.

Careful communication with the employee concerned is required. Redundancy is very stressful for employees and it’s important that it is not a surprise – and equally important that all avenues for retaining or repositioning this employee are evaluated.

Employees faced with disestablishment must be paid any holiday pay owed in their final pay cycle, they must be allowed time to attend interviews if they wish to and they may also be offered outplacement support – which involves assisting them with CV optimisation, prepares them for successful interviewing and ensures they are feeling as optimistic and positive as is reasonably possible under the circumstances.

If employers are feeling unsure about the correct process to follow – ensuring compliance and risk minimisation during this process, professional HR support is recommended.
Please contact us for your HR requirements – our team of HR professionals will be happy to guide you – or to manage the process on your behalf.



We will send you directly to the Video & also send some useful information on Restructuring by email.


Health & Safety Under Level 3 & Level 2 Alert

Health & Safety Under Level 3 & Level 2 Alert

Health & Safety Under Level Three & Level Two Alert

level three employer requirements

The NZ government has announced a return to Level Three Alert for businesses able to do so safely.

In most cases this means contact-free interaction, but for those businesses who are able to maintain physical distancing between employees – and who require employees to be on-site, that may mean reopening your workplace.

There are a number of key health & safety considerations that you must evaluate and put into place before employees can safely return to work at commercial premises.

Wherever possible, employees should work by remote during Level Three.

Please note also that employees must have been trained in all aspects of workplace safety before they reenter the premises.

Here are the primary considerations for employers reopening a place of work:

  • Full risk assessment to be carried out and documented. This should include:
  • Workspace cleaning and disinfectant protocols.
  • Workstation distance.
  • Entrance and exit hygiene and traffic protocols to ensure all santising is taken place and that distancing protocols are enabled.
  • The number of employees on-site to be limited at all times, with team crossover protocols clearly in place.

Have teams stay in bubbles

The key to managing the spread of COVID-19 has been to enable a very swift lockdown of any infection. As the country emerges into level three, the nature of the bubbles will change for those who are working – but it is very important that bubble protocol is still in place as much as possible to enable swift contact tracing.

All employees must be aware that they need to stay within their team bubble – and to maintain distancing measures in the workplace.

This means that all employees on-site will need to work within micro teams – and to ensure hygiene standards are upheld by all. These standards will need to be established (or approved) by the business owner – as the person responsible for the welfare & safety of all employees.

You may find the shift splitting enables a better workflow – with smaller teams working in rotation, but do ensure that full disinfection is carried out in between teams if the equipment is to be handled by more than one person.

Pre-Return to Work Health Checks

Any employee showing symptoms of COVID-19 should be required to get a test. These are available all around the country with no requirement for a medical referral. Everyone showing any symptoms of COVID-19 is encouraged to go for the test.

Reporting Systems for Symptoms Developed after Returning to Work

Any employee developing symptoms of any kind after the return to work must follow a standard process to notify the business owner or designated manager. The entire team bubble needs to be isolated until tests can be conducted and the results returned (usually within 24 hours).

A positive test will mean that the entire team in the bubble concerned will have to wait 14 days in isolation before returning to work. The Department of Health will advise their protocols should this occur, but a full contact register will be required from the employer.

When in doubt, the person in charge on-site MUST call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice.

Contact Register

Every employee in your place of employment will be required to maintain a full and complete register of every contact made to enable fast contact tracing. It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure this is done. To contact track on a daily basis is the most effective way of managing contact lists.

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

In most cases, high levels of hygiene, physical distancing, and physical barriers (contact-free delivery management for example) will be sufficient. If your employees are unable to manage to distance and are not essential workers, they should not be returning to work.

Employers will need to ensure however, that employees are clear about hand hygiene standards and that they adhere to them, plus exit and entrance sanitisation protocols.

Other safety considerations

Standard safety protocols outside of COVID-19 are still a primary concern for the employer. Make sure that you are not introducing other safety risks in changing the workplace to allow for workstation distance. Also, consider any safety risks due to reduced team sizes. As always, safety must come first in every workplace. If you are unable to operate your business safely – with reduced numbers of employees on-site, each distanced from the others, you may not restart your operation.

Communication Essentials for Remote Team Members

Communication Essentials for Remote Team Members

Communication with remote employees is a complex topic.

hr for performance management

People are people and react in different ways to different types of communication. Choosing the right method will be key to your success in keeping your team positive and proactive if they were suddenly required to work remotely.

In recent times, many employers and employees have been required to adapt to a remote working situation without drills – and in some instances, even without much notice. This is completely different to employees choosing to work remotely!


From an employer’s point of view, in a digital world, employees can be allowed similar levels of access as they are in the office.

Some people need lots of contact, some people need clear and repeated direction and some are able to carry on and just require check-ins.

The same will apply in a remote situation, with a degree of amplification.

Those who need continued contact and reassurance will probably become somewhat anxious, while those who are happy to keep calm and carry on will need to be called in for their check-in!

The key is to keep people connected and on track – bear in mind that some will feel out of sorts, so having a Zoom Room or Hangouts open during standard office hours & rostering your managers or senior team to be present in those spaces across the day will keep most in a zone of comfort.

Some digital tools that your managers could investigate to keep their team members focused and relaxed could include:

  • Morning team briefings via Zoom with follow up notes in the chatbox distributed to all.
  • Shared files on Google Drive or Office 365 updated in real-time.
  • Slack Channels by key sub-topic to keep the team updated – just as they would across the office. Slack integrates with Google Drive, Gmail, MS Onedrive, Outlook Calendar, Dropbox, SalesForce, Zoom, Asana & Trello – it’s a brilliant tool for managing communications across multiple topics without being overwhelming and even has an in-built App for Polls & Surveys called Polly to capture feedback and team culture.
  • Voxer is a wonderful app that is super useful in situations where the use of voice is better than typing messages, but a record of the conversation is required. Voxer has the option of typing text style or via voice communication and can be used one to one, within a group conversation or a one way broadcast to all from a group manager.Vocal communication can sometimes be more effective in communicating a message than written communication, where the tone of voice helps the receiver understand the unwritten emotion or attitude – and it is of course much more time efficient for busy managers.
  • Finally, enabling TeamViewer on computers may also assist where people get stuck and visual insight to what they are working on is required.
    Be sure to advise people before jumping on a TeamViewer link so they can clear their screen of anything that may be confidential – and assure them that they must approve the connection before you can view their screen so they do not feel invaded.
    Instituting Quiet Time Zones in each day will enable focused productivity. Zoom Rooms should show an on screen notice to ensure everyone is clear that it’s a no-fly zone until the next catch-up.

Virtual Afternoon Tea Zoom Rooms – created especially for team chats will help people feel connected by seeing everyone on screen – but you will need to invite them to speak one at a time (people can initiate private chats with any particular person in the chatbox if they wish to during these, but most tend not to be comfortable in doing so at first).

Other things that will help keep people stay in office mode will be to ensure employees maintain your required dress code – including uniform if they usually are required to wear uniform, ensure that office hours are maintained – including clear breaks, and that designated manager roles are nominated so employees know who to go to for things like technical problems and how to best reach out to that person.

By creating out of office protocols and embracing new modes of communication, you may even find a new way of managing business communications after the team has safety returned to your premises.

Finally, when ‘back to normal’ is re-established – make sure you celebrate and get feedback on everyone’s experience.