Consulting with employees
Many workers have been accustomed to working from home for almost 15 months and some may be reticent about returning to the workplace; albeit, even with hybrid working there will be an expectation that at some point they actually attend the workplace.
Concerns may include:
- May be still awaiting full vaccination.
- Colleagues haven’t been vaccinated.
- Potential for increased exposure to the virus.
- Employer’s ability to manage social distancing and COVID prevention measures.
- Addition of domestic responsibilities taken on during lockdown, eg caring role.
- Social anxiety.
- Unfair treatment of colleagues – some employees may have needed work during the pandemic whilst others were furloughed.
- Using public transport.
There are a number of strategies to help boost employee confidence and allay any return to work concerns; these include:
- Demonstrating compliance with Government’s COVID-secure workplace guidance.
- Agreeing a delay in a return to work for vulnerable employees, or for those employees who live in the same household as a vulnerable person, until they have received their second dose of vaccine.
- Promoting vaccination take up.
- Determining a policy on COVID testing and isolation arrangements for those testing positive.
- Communicating with the workforce and explaining COVID prevention measures in place.
- Staggering start/finish times to accommodate post-pandemic public transport issues and to help manage numbers at the workplace.
- Reminding staff with caring and parental responsibilities of their entitlement for time off for these purposes.
- Reviewing training and development needs of employees to help them regain full competence.
- Offering financial management workshops/advice to help those transitioning from furlough to salary, dealing with debt issues or facing a drop in universal credit.
- Offering occupational health support.
There are both benefits and challenges of hybrid working for the employer
- Scope for recruiting from a wider pool of talent – both within the UK and overseas.
- Increased job satisfaction and employee engagement.
- Better employee mental health.
- Opportunities for more diversity and better inclusion.
- Potential savings achieved by downsizing office space, along with lower utility bills.
- Greater business agility.
- Facilitates social distancing of employees.
- Encourages collaboration and teamwork.
- Can offer a practical option for employees with disabilities or chronic health conditions.
- Lower absence rates.
- Reduced corporate carbon footprint.
- Maintaining effective communication and ensure inclusion.
- Creating a level playing field for workers.
- Dealing with resentment amongst workers whose roles aren’t suitable for hybrid working.
- Managing increased demand for flexible working alternatives.
- Cost of investing in digital infrastructure and delivering remote IT provision for workers.
- Cyber/data security issues.
- Providing appropriate telephony solutions.
- Determining how performance will be measured and monitored.
- Ensuring employer business insurance will cover business equipment in a worker’s home.
- Maintaining a shared social identity to ensure team effectiveness and performance.
Overall it is hoped that a blended mixture between working from home and the ability to work from a fixed office will bring overall benefit to both the employer and the employee. Both should benefit from a hybrid working approach as long as it is tailored to fit the needs and expectations of both parties. Perhaps when the balance isn’t achieved then their may be reservations on both sides that the benefits become weighted in one direction and maybe that they are being manipulated for the sole benefit of either.
Some of the big multi-nationals such as Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley giants are looking at implementing a more blended, hybrid way of working, post-pandemic and that may signal the future for all office-based organisations. That then may have a knock on effect on the size and scope of business premises moving forward, and leading to a more flexible and ‘mixed-use’ approach to work-spaces. A room which can be a training room, a meeting room and then hot-desking workstations would be the kind of environment businesses may look to inhabit.