With cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant spreading across the UK, few were surprised when Boris Johnson announced a delay to the easing of lockdown restrictions at the start of last month.
Although extending restrictions by a further four weeks may seem minuscule compared to the three lockdowns we’ve all lived through over the past year, the delay has created problems for businesses who’d opted to hold summer parties with their employees soon after 21st June.
The impact of the extension of restrictions on summer parties
Since the first lockdown started on 23rd March last year, business leaders have fretted about the pandemic’s impact on company culture, particularly after almost all London offices cancelled their Christmas parties following new restrictions in December.
As a result, many had chosen to hold parties shortly after 21st June to reconnect with their teams and give their employees a space to interact with one another again after a year of mostly communicating via a screen.
How the extension of restrictions will impact employees
Naturally, given the extension of restrictions, these parties will be postponed, but this doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t try to reconnect with their teams and show appreciation for their employees until after 19th July.
The easing of restrictions doesn’t mean the mental health issues created by the pandemic have disappeared: research released in May from Group Risk Development found that four in five employees currently have health and wellbeing concerns. Equally, 62% said they suffer from stress and anxiety, with 21% saying this was a direct result of the pandemic.
Many employees might have been looking forward to the work summer party as an opportunity to return to some semblance of normality. And, due to the extension of lockdown restrictions, their morale may be low, which could impact their productivity and the company culture.
How businesses can support their employees
To counteract this, companies will need to check-in and engage with their employees more frequently and show the same amount of attentiveness and understanding they’ve shown throughout the pandemic. This might include arranging an informal online meeting with colleagues to catch up and check in on their wellbeing or a one-on-one discussion where they can air any anxieties or worries about the extension of restrictions.
Alternatively, if employees feel uncomfortable about opening up to their employers, then business leaders should offer a free Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) ‘ a 24/7 confidential access line to help and advice whenever they feel they need it most from trained mental health professionals.
Alongside offering employees a space to speak, business leaders could also send out care packages to their employees after delaying their summer parties. With COVID-19 cases rising again, some may feel anxious about going outside and socialising as much, and many will worry about the isolation they experienced during the three lockdowns returning.
Businesses can help to nullify these worries by sending out gifts, vouchers or experiences to employees instead of or in addition to hosting a summer party to show their appreciation and to give them a taster ahead of the rescheduled summer party in July
The extension of COVID-19 restrictions may lead morale to drop among employees, particularly for those who’d been looking forward to the work summer party at the end of June. With this in mind, business leaders must ensure that they continue to support employees and give their teams a space to voice their concerns and anxieties. Thankfully, with transmission data looking positive, we can all look towards the rescheduled summer party in July and August with optimism.