After a successful rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, and the end of the Job Retention Scheme, most employees are beginning to transition back into face-to-face working for the first time in 18 months. This is understandably anxiety provoking for employees who have got used to the comforts and convenience of home working and is creating logistical challenges for business owners and managers who are navigating their way through the new landscape of face-to-face working post pandemic.
It comes as no surprise that 52% of employees say they would prefer a flexible working approach after the pandemic with some freedom to work at home, alongside the workplace. Many employees have grown fond of the comforts of remote working and the lack of lengthy commutes, the improved work-life balance, and the costs savings. Therefore, the prospect of returning to the workplace permanently is a cause for low morale among many workforces. Employees are voting with their feet and a staggering 94% of workers in a recent survey said they would actually go as far as quitting their job if their employer didn’t continue to offer some form of remote working, it’s been dubbed as “the great resignation”.
Despite the promise of hybrid working, it seems that managers are now keen to get their employees back to their desks by the end of September, and many large corporations, except for a few, have left the decision to the discretion of individual team managers.
Whilst remote working has proven to be successful for many businesses, after over 18 months of remote working, managers are seeing the true benefits of office-based working and are keen to get employees back together.
There are several strategies to consider when bringing your employees back to the workplace, and whether you bring everyone back all at once or conduct a staggered approach.
Whatever approach you choose, it is important to appreciate how much your workforce will have changed when employees come back together as they have got familiar with working at home in their own space or alongside other family members who have been home working or home schooling. There will be some new employees who haven’t even stepped foot inside the workplace yet so some onboarding processes for these instances will need to be considered.
Social opportunities such as coffee breaks, cake stalls, communal lunch breaks or after work drinks can be a good way to build interaction and engagement as many employees will have worked quite independently for the last 18 months and lost touch with the social aspect of work and may struggle re-integrating and new employees may not have even met some of their co-workers before.
Training is another proven way to boost morale and engagement as 75% of employees say their employer would be more appealing if they offered training to staff. Regular 1:1 catch ups are also beneficial to establish what employees are enjoying and what they’re struggling with.
Transitioning employees back into the workplace will not come without challenges, there will be some reluctant employees but there will also be some relishing the thought of returning to “normal” and mixing with their co-workers face-to-face again. There are different ways to consider such as staggered or flexible returns and ways you can build engagement such as training and social events. However, it is looking likely that Covid-19 has changed the shape of workplaces and it will take months if not years to return to the pre-pandemic workplaces we are all used to.