Returning to Work… Soon. The New Challenges

I was speaking with a Lawyer the other day about how everything has changed in the employment landscape at the moment, and not just that, more so about how a lot of things moving forward are likely to change.

The interesting thing is that a lot of people are working from home, both employers and employees, with the occasional stint of being in the office when needed. At first it was a bit of a novelty, then time dragged on. Some people loved working from home and the ‘freedom’ it brings whereas others have really been hit mentally – they miss the interaction with their peers.

This brings me to two primary things that I (giving my two cents) can see happening in the months ahead:

  1. Flexibility in Working Conditions – Some employees are going to ask for flexible working arrangements. They proved they can work from home and be productive (in some cases even more productive), then why can’t they do that from home when we return to regular work? There are arguments for and against this – what makes a team, how are people going to truly interact and retain the culture / vibe of the office if they aren’t here? Does Zoom / Skype / FaceTime / WhatsApp compensate for being ‘part of the team’ when we all return? Do you really feel that having a Zoom meeting with 5 ‘work from home’ people and 25 staff in the office works for team morale? If you let one person and not another does that really work? If you have 20+ employees, a large office space that you pay rent on and expect people to fill, does that also hit you as an employer? Lots of questions to ask. I think the deciding factor is – what is the market going to do – what will your competitors do to make a more attractive workplace for your employee to consider, and do you want a hybrid structure with your workforce?
  2. Cultural change – This brings me to the next thing – culture. We’ve been practicing social distancing. Have you walked through the shops lately and noticed people intentionally walking away from you? You may have unknowingly been doing it yourself. Imagine a lunch room now and all the people in the kitchen making coffees and lunch, what germs are in that fridge now (that were always there) that you’re now worrying about? Will you sit together again and have a laugh? Rick was so funny during our Zoom meetings but do I really want to stand at his desk and chat? I don’t know where he’s been! What about birthdays and events, the things that brought teams together to have a moment away from the daily routine to laugh and share a moment in person? I really feel that the HR Managers and Business Owners / Managers need to look at how they will reintegrate staff as well as their plans to conduct team building activities, otherwise I feel there could be a real change that happens culturally in the workplace.

Really, it’s up to you and your team to consider the options. There genuinely is a lot of opportunity to mix things up a bit, within reason.

Maybe you can have a flexible workforce and rotate your team to have a work from home day fortnightly, weekly or even monthly whilst retaining your team culture. I think it’s going to come down to people caring about each other and supporting the return to work activities we’ll all be undertaking.

Take care and stay safe!