What to do if a team member needs to self-isolate

Tuesday 27 October 2020
It’s a new management challenge for 2020, which requires agility, flexibility and communication. Here’s how one Lancashire-based company has managed self-isolation
Person in. mask at laptop

Stockport Homes has had thankfully few cases of Covid-19 among its staff, but the organisation is quietly planning for it every day. Some people with mild symptoms have been able to work from home in self-isolation, but for others within frontline services, it’s trickier.

Where employees have self-isolated and haven’t been able to perform their usual duties, managers have kept in regular contact and helped them to find things to do if they wished. Diane Laming, Stockport Homes’ group head of people and organisational development (OD), explains that the organisation has taken a proactive, multi-department approach.

“We've taken a joint approach in terms of communications with staff. In the beginning, we were sending out daily communications through our insight tool, which is our newsletter on our intranet system,” Laming says.

Constant communication

As part of this ongoing contingency plan to manage any cases of self-isolation, the company has monitored the constantly updating guidance and tried to take a practical, case-by-case approach whenever self-isolation was a possibility. To aid managers, the central leadership team issued FAQs to help managers and their team members make a decision within each incident.

The company generally has high staff engagement levels, and with staff isolating and working remotely, it has been imperative that managers can maintain that engagement, Laming explains. “There are lots of people who are shielding or have vulnerable people that they live with, and it’s important to put advice and support in place for those people and give them reassurances about their jobs and helping them work where they can.”

Create flexibility

A good number of Stockport Homes’ staff are in frontline services, which has been the biggest consideration when it comes to cases where staff have had to self-isolate. Managers have been carefully managing workloads to ensure services are not disrupted. Plans are in place to shift certain teams onto frontline services if necessary, and at certain times during the pandemic, teams have chipped in across areas that they wouldn’t usually work in. “The frontline services will always take priority,” she says.

Where normal services have not been possible, employees have helped in other areas, such as delivering shopping to vulnerable residents. “Everybody's pulled together really well during this time,” says Laming. “It's all hands to the pump, basically.”

Empower and collaborate

To maintain staff engagement, Stockport Homes created a flowchart to help them determine for themselves whether they need to self-isolate. The discussion becomes more of a two-way conversation between the employee and their manager, focusing on practical assessment, rather than an arms-length, one-size-fits-all policy approach. “We've had people who haven't understood the guidance as it changes so fast. You have to keep evolving and refreshing the information and advice you provide. You must make sure that managers understand how to deal with an incident if it occurs.

“If someone needs to self-isolate, they get the support as a priority,” says Laming. “The odd case will be unusual and it’s harder to determine whether that individual will self-isolate or not. We're not telling people what to do; we're giving them the guidance to help them make a decision.”

The crucial thing, she explains, is that managers have the right conversations with their teams. It’s important to keep people informed about what will happen if they do need to isolate and take a collaborative approach if self-isolation might be necessary. “You've got to make sure there's a consistency in what you’re doing...I've heard horror stories, about people that haven't heard from their manager in all this time. It's about managers being visible and giving those reassurances to people who need it.”

For other articles exploring challenges posed by Covid-19 for managers, visit our Leading Through Uncertainty hub.

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