Managing through the coronavirus crisis

ILF Scotland talks about how it is addressing the challenges raised by working through the COVID-19 pandemic.



We are asking some of the most progressive employers how they are managing through the coronavirus crisis. Independent Living Fund Scotland which helps disabled people to live independently, won’s most recent Top Employer Award for larger SMEs.  Executive Business Manager Aileen McNiven outlines below how it is responding to some of the challenges posed by COVID-19. Are you continuing to recruit and, if so, how are you doing this and onboarding people?

Aileen McNiven: For now, ILF Scotland will recruit and onboard staff as is necessary. We will take all the guidance to ensure our onboarding process is safe. Importantly, we will try to ensure our culture and values are conveyed during what will be new and challenging onboarding processes. Are you offering any extra support to people working from home who are trying to do so while managing caring responsibilities and if so, what or is it business as normal? 

AM: Yes, we are sharing Scottish Government advice and guidance through formal channels, and tips and guidance are shared more informally among our staff through our Yammer dashboard.

Staff are being encouraged to work as flexibly as they need and if they find it a challenge to manage all their hours/work due to childcare or caring responsibilities then they have been asked to liaise with their manager and let them know. There is no pressure to be ‘business as normal’. HR is accessible any time for  HR guidance or health and safety guidance.

We will allow employees to carry leave forward for up to two years, although we have set guidelines to encourage our workforce to take their annual leave for their own mental health and wellbeing. We believe that rest and recuperation is vital, especially through this challenging time. We are Category 3 – key workers – so we continue to be very busy supporting all our disabled recipients in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Display Screen Equipment and any other equipment have been provided, such as laptops, phones, etc, to enable flexible remote working. How are you supporting employees’ with mental health issues arising from the current situation?

AM: We have commissioned some e-training through an organisation we regularly work within the Mental Health & Resilience space to create a Youtube webinar for ‘Trauma/Stress and Distress’ to support our workforce through the distress of COVID-19.

Lots of guidance is given about taking regular breaks. This is done through 1-2-1’s via Skype. We are chatting regularly and encouraging people to take time off and to go for their one piece of daily exercise. We encourage them to do this any time – including during the day/working hours. We are not expecting everyone to be working normally. However, due to the nature of the work and legislative change some staff are working more than their normal hours and we need to be very watchful of this too. How have you adapted your communications processes to support employees working remotely?

AM: We have a twice-weekly communication going out (to reduce email traffic) which signposts important information and advises of the latest guidance. We have made sure everyone is on Yammer for more light-hearted support such as yoga, exercise, sharing photos, etc. What are the main challenges you are finding with adapting to all the changes?

AM: Making sure we are thinking of everything we can to support our colleagues. We are managing to carry on as normal, but it will be challenging to sustain this for six months. Therefore, we will need to consider different strategies to mix it up and keep staff motivated and safe. Have you furloughed any workers? If so, how easy has that process been and how are you continuing to keep in touch with them?

AM: No, not yet. We are key workers – so very busy at present. Are you yet thinking long term about preparing from the transition back to normal working and how you support that?

AM: Yes, we are thinking about it, but there are no strategies confirmed just yet. Our Senior Management Team are meeting regularly as we go through this together. This is something we will look at very closely in the next week or so. We will need to make sure our workforce are safe, looked after and are supported across the board.


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