This last year has been a sobering experience for all of us where each of us has been transported into one of those disaster movies like Outbreak or Contagion facing fears, mortality and sacrificing freedoms in order to keep safe. Whilst the rhetoric is indicating that we are near the end of this chapter we all know we are not there yet with talks of a third wave sweeping across Europe and so, what has HR been focussing on during the pandemic?

Flexible working / Homeworking

Lock down has seen us setting up new homeworking practices – getting technology for the job, helping managers support remote workers and keeping remote workers involved.

Key workers

Deciding whether our people are key workers and then possibly helping them come to terms with the thought of attending work when they feel at risk or exposed.

Shielding / Isolating

Absence management has been a major issue focusing on sickness but differentiating between “normal sickness” and COVID 19, isolating when not sick but potentially exposed to COVID 19, looking at shielding for vulnerable workers or those shielding vulnerable loved ones. Since shielding has finished, the mental health factor has been even more acute as our people consider the safety of themselves and / or their loved ones

Keeping in touch

Whether staff have been on furlough, shielding or working from home the feeling of isolation was clear for everyone. Just having conversations, ensuring employees know they are still part of something and valued. How are you? And taking time to listen.

Redundancy / Job uncertainty / Furlough

Counselling and pastoral care. Communication and consulting new rules and regulations around furlough, setting up paperwork and agreements.

COVID 19 safe working environments

Health and safety has been a major element (even more than usual) – understanding the elements of each role and being able to identify risk and then mitigating that risk. Communicating with employees when gathering information and ideas and then through to buy-in at implementation

Mental health

All of the above have attacked people’s health and wellbeing, whether it is uncertainty around job security, feeling isolated, feeling exposed to a potentially deadly virus, feeling safe at work. All these and other factors have meant that HR have been counselling more than ever.


How do we deal with the no jab no job debate, looking at how it impacts on equality and diversity, how it impacts on staff morale?

Back to the day job

Whilst we are not back to normal and we are not sure what that normal will look like. The traditional HR world is still rumbling on.

Making sure that the HR resource assists in the achievement of the business goals through its people.

Recruitment / Interviewing / Induction

Getting the right person for the job – best candidate or best fit? ensuring that the new person is settled well into work and given every chance to thrive

Learning and development

Growing and developing people allows the company to grow and develop as well – allowing succession planning and growth.

Employment Law

There will always be law and it will always be developing through case law – this is the minimum standard for HR

Contracts / written statements / pay statements

Getting the paperwork right and keeping it up to date including GDPR obligations

Managing performance

Managing people to succeed, setting standards, goals and helping your people achieve them and celebrating that success. Engaging “high flyers” and supporting “under-performers”

Absence management

Reporting procedures, keeping in touch, support, paperwork and return to work interviews

Discipline and grievance

Maintaining standards and workplace culture, finding the balance between effectiveness and rules. Setting a culture where people love coming to work and enjoy being part of a performing team.


Managing the end of the employment relationship for whatever reason including notice, holidays, paperwork.

Straight Talking HR provides support and training in all these areas plus more strategic work such as employee involvement and employee engagement and staff surveys.

The New Normal

As we travel down the road map to coming out of lockdown I think we will see a lot of issues around mental health, attendance, flexible working and just getting used to being back in the place of work.

HR will have to work hard and early (now) in regards to communication. Theoretically the advice to work from home ends 21st June 2021 and so what impact does that have on employers and workers alike? Clearly, this will impact more office based staff and the discussion will have to be around whether the business is better served with people on site or whether it is just as effective with remote workers. HR will need to guide managers through the skills of managing remote workers in regards to performance, attendance, engagement and general communication.

Now we have a COVID variant that is causing concern, and there is a thought that maybe we aren’t as far down this road to unlocking as we thought and so the cycle begins again.

My advice to HR and all managers – just keep talking and keep listening. Keep your mind open to all possibilities in regards to how we work. Always look to say yes until you have enough good business reasons to say no, in that case when you say no you will be able to offer a full explanation which is usually more understood.

If you have any questions or enquiries regarding this or any other HR / people issue then just send me a contact form or give me a call (contact details are on the home page)