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Pandemic people power

When the global Covid-19 pandemic struck, the energy networks put plans in place to keep Britain’s energy flowing. But behind the scenes, extensive work was taking place to ensure 36,000 employees were safe and supported.

National Grid, like all of ENA’s members, provide a critical service with many key workers, so it was vital to act with pace, clarity and support, so employees knew how to keep themselves and the public safe.

The immediate response from National Grid’s management team helped every employee – their stance was ‘Do what you can, when you can’ and their CEO also confirmed no employees would be furloughed. This immediately reduced pressure and anxiety on those trying to juggle commitments. However, it needed to be carefully balanced with those key workers who were still having to attend work in person and having the fear of being infected.

The company quickly conducted a survey to understand the dependencies of their workforce, to better understand what flexibility would work best for their team. A staggering 92% of employees responded and 26% requested additional flexibility within their working patterns.

The organisation responded to these employees individually, to understand what their immediate needs were and how they could be supported. Managers were equipped with guidance on alternative working patterns and a variety of flexible working arrangements to ensure employees had options that suited them. This included staggering hours or working alternating mornings, afternoons or evenings.

Overnight National Grid went from having 4% of their workforce in formal flexible working agreements to 26% needing informal flexible or home working arrangements. In some cases, the company’s key workers needed to attend a site every day during lockdown. To reduce the risk for these individuals and their families back at home, the company transported individual pods for these individuals to live in for nine-week periods. This means staying away from home, so their families were sent care packages to show the company’s appreciation.

In addition, every employee had access to a Coronavirus website that provided help with home working: setting up your home office, emotional well-being, body posture, mindful eating, stress risk assessment and staying connected. Line managers implemented daily team check-ins to ensure team members stayed engaged and any issues with well-being were identified quickly, and the company had weekly Coronavirus calls with their UK Executive and the Director of Safety to give clear guidance on what employees should and should not be doing.

During the pandemic National Grid introduced a new women’s development programme ‘Strategies for Success’ that had originally been planned as a classroom-based training but was quickly converted to an online offering to ensure this vital programme wasn’t “deprioritised” because of the pandemic. The same happened with their ‘diverse leaders’ programme supporting ethnic minority leaders in the business.

The company continues to survey employees on how they want to work in the future. This has National Grid looking at a variety of flexible arrangements, with plans to pilot new approaches and technology that will allow their UK teams to work more flexibly and in a more agile way.

“Amazing during Covid: engaging, inclusive, with a real consideration for mental health and well-being.”

Graduate (via GlassDoor), National Grid