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How Payroll Professionals can Manage the Anxiety and Uncertainty that Surrounds COVID-19 

2nd Nov 2020
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The payroll solution that provides all you need for Auto Enrolment.

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The announcement on Saturday regarding a new second lock-down for England, the re-installation of the furlough scheme and the delay of the Job Support scheme can only compound how stressful 2020 has already been for those working in payroll.  

Record levels of anxiety were reported during the first lockdown, and what with a second lock down in England payroll professionals are still concerned. Research shows that one in five people – and more than one-third in full-time employment- are worried about losing their job, and one-third of adults in the UK are concerned about their finances, such as bill payments and debt.  

Working in payroll brings a unique set of responsibilities, and during times of distress, these obligations can become overwhelming. On top of carrying out all the usual payroll tasks, organisations must now handle multiple queries around lay-offs, furloughed workers, government payments, and adjusting to the new working conditions. There is also trying to keep informed with a slew of government regulations that directly impact employment laws. This all places an enormous burden on payroll professionals who must manage all these changes while also handling their circumstances. 

Tips for protecting your mental wellbeing  

Thankfully, there is a wealth of advice readily available and accessible to all on the internet about handling stress during challenging times.  

Here is a recap of the top recommendations from across a variety of business and medical sources. 

Recognise it 

A common mistake by many professionals is a reluctance to admit to vulnerability. Brené Brown’s TED Talk on this subject is one of the most popular TED talks of all time. Taking that first step is tough, but necessary if you want to avoid further complications. 

Practice acceptance  

The truth is that we are living through a pandemic, and it is affecting every aspect of our lives. Diminishing its impact or minimising the ramifications of COVID-19 is counterproductive. Payroll is different; working environments have changed, and may never go back to pre-COIVD 19 ways. Now it is about ensuring you can manage the new set-up and still complete a payroll run.  

Experiment with relaxation techniques 

Each of us will respond to different methods. Now that we are spending more time at home, and possibly sitting at a computer for longer, it will help perform some exercises that will combat fatigue. Here’s a suggestion from the Harvard Business Review : 

Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Working from your legs upward, systematically tense and relax each major muscle group. Hold the tension for 10 seconds; release tension for 20 seconds. Each time you release muscle tension, think “relax” to yourself. This skill and many other relaxation strategies can help reduce symptoms of anxiety. 

Focus on solving each problem in order of priority 

I spoke to one payroll professional who reported a dramatic increase in emails from employees regarding paid leave. Now, on top of all his usual list of items, he has to respond to these questions. And it is daily this barrage of queries, meaning that there are times he is spending a significant portion of his week on tasks that his time away from other work. To better manage his time, he developed a system, almost like a triage, whereby he can answer these emails in a timely fashion and yet also get his work done. 

Try mindfulness practice 

Again, thanks to the internet, there is no end to the number of resources available to start you on your mindfulness journey. Even f you only use mindfulness for a ten-minute break, the benefits are astonishing. There is also a wide selection of apps to try- 12 best mindfulness apps to help you keep calm during a crisis

Get active 

One of the less obvious impacts of COVID-19 is that for many payroll professionals, their daily commute involved some form of activity- walking to and from the train station or cycling. Working from home has many advantages, but it has reduced the need for this level of activity. It is easy to forget to move when you sit in front of a screen for eight hours. Remember to leave your desk and go for a walk at lunchtime. Take a break from sitting every hour- even if it just to stretch your legs or walk out to the kitchen. 

Maintain strong work connections 

For many employees used to the banter and camaraderie of the office, the isolation of WFH has hit hard. Apart from needing the interaction for personal reasons, there is also the need for professional purposes. There are significant changes to the employment laws, and making sure you understand how these are changing benefits, taxes, and pay is tricky. Be sure to reach out and at least virtually meet and collaborate with your colleagues. 

Leverage technology to streamline your workflows 

We have all become familiar with Zoom calls, to the point now where I have almost forgotten what it is like to have an in-person meeting. Zoom and other online tools are just one of the many ways technology enables organisations to continue to function despite the changes. For many payroll professionals, the pandemic has accelerated their move to use the cloud and the adoption of other technologies. For example, BrightPay Connect, a cloud portal add-on to our payroll software, offers a range of additional features that includes an employee self-service app where employees can apply for leave, view and edit their data, access a secure payslip library, and view HR documents. Employers can access all past and upcoming employee leave, upload and share documents with employees, and view any outstanding payments due to HMRC. They can also see employee leave requests, or requests from the payroll processor if they use one. To allay compliance concerns, BrightPay Connect automatically backs up the payroll data to the cloud and keeps a chronological history of all backups so that you can restore previous versions if needed. This is a great step towards GDPR compliance for businesses that are trying to modernise their data protection practices.  

This is a small sampling of what BrightPay Connect offers. For its full range of features, sign up for a free software demo


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