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Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan and circumstance.
With the UK beginning the journey along the roadmap out of lockdown, organisations are keen to understand what steps they need to take in order to make 2021 a success. there is a renewed sense of optimism for organisations who are looking ahead at crafting the future working culture of the workforce. This is an exciting time for organisations who after 12 months in “survival mode” are looking to embrace the new normal. The prevailing trend for businesses is not the question of how do we go back to the old way of working, rather, leaders are now asking how do we take the lessons of the past year and break out of the mould of the traditional 9-5 office model. For businesses and their people this forms part of the greater question of what actual form the new normal will take and what implications it will have for them in a post pandemic world what should this new culture look like?
The most obvious answer is that the new normal will look different for every business. Obviously, not every industry will be able to shift to a remote model long term, with industries such as manufacturing and distribution always requiring a majority, on site presence. The question for these industries will be in how to utilise technologies and practices adopted over the course of the pandemic in order to supplement the wellbeing and producitivity of their on-site staff. The past 12 months has demonstrated the ability of organisations to adapt and manage and maintain their processes on an ongoing basis, in order to safeguard their continued success. As we look towards what the model for the new working world might be, it will fall to business leaders and HR teams to decide what form it will take for their business and what factors they will need to take into account, in order to safeguard their workforce. 95.5% of HR professionals we surveyed stated that they felt their organisations had adapted well to remote working, with 53.3% also saying they were confident that their businesses were well prepared for a return to the office.
Clearly, there is optimism about a return to the workplace but for many organisations, there remains a great degree of uncertainty regarding the makeup of the new working structure. The danger for some organisations is becoming stuck in a survival mindset, with the expectation of a return to pre-pandemic operations. Conversely, some organisations may now see that working from home the entire time is here to stay, when actually a flexible working pattern would suit them better. Organisations who are looking to make the future as successful as possible shouldn’t consider the shift to flexible working as a burden or a necessary expediency as it was with the first lockdown. As we come out of the pandemic, business leaders should embrace this expectation of change, and make the great shift towards flexible work in a way that suits them.
The prevailing feeling amongst many is we will see a move towards a hybrid model of working where employees split their working week between working from home and the office setting. This will present unique challenges for each individual organisation as we look towards the future. Flexible working as a whole looks to remain a permanent fixture of work culture and although the hybrid working model won’t be applicable to every employee in every industry, there are still some universal points that are worth considering for businesses as we begin to look towards the new normal:
- Open and honest communication with employees- Flexible working looks to be the future for many sectors and although business leaders would benefit greatly from embracing this adaptation, it is important that you are keeping clear and direct lines of communication open with employees. Utilise your HR systems to hold regular forums with your employees, take into account dual circumstances and feelings regarding a return to the workplace. Flexible working is absolutely a boon for businesses but it has to work for employees as much as employers. Even if you can’t make every change employees are asking for, communicating your thought process behind decisions fosters trust and engagement.
- Ensuring working teams are scheduled in the office collectively- A key function of HR moving forward will be ensuring systems and processes are in place to effectively manage the movement of employees in and out of the workplace. Ensure goal setting and team planning is left as seamless possible by scheduling team members to be working in the office on the same days. Collaborative working will still be propelling business recovery going forwards, and encouraging in-person team working will spark the new ideas your business needs to gain a competitive advantage.
- Adapting working hours- A return to the workplace doesn’t have to mean a return to rigidity. Allow employees the flexibility to adapt their start/end times to suit their needs if in the office. This can help greatly reduce employee anxieties around returning to the workplace as they would be able to avoid busy commuting periods, ensure childcare needs are met or get to that 5-a-side football game they’ve been missing for a year. Perhaps set core hours in the middle of the day in your business that employees need to be present for, but occasional late starts or early finishes can allow your employees to reset the work-life imbalance.
- Desk booking- Utilising HR systems in order to implement desk booking services will ensure an easy and safe flow of workers in and out of the premises and allow teams to arrange their schedules in advance. You can track which employees are in the office at the same time in case of further outbreaks or positive cases, allowing you to sanitise only the required workspaces and allowing only the necessary employees to self-isolate if needed.
- Reports on flexible working- With flexible working becoming a key element of the organisational structure moving forward, it is important that businesses have systems in place to support the new hybrid working model. Time and attendance systems working in tandem with your HR team give you the visibility you need of who is in the office at what times. Attendance information being collated in real time will be a huge asset for HR teams who will be able to easily access information contact between employees, greatly reducing the risk posed by potential infection flare ups.
- Equipment management- Auditing and inventory management of office equipment will be a huge boon to HR and IT teams when setting up a hybrid working model. Cloud based systems can be utilised in order to track employee requirements for equipment to ensure a smooth transition between work from home days and days spent in the office, tracking and investing in individual needs will save your business valuable resource instead of bulk-buying unnecessary office chairs. This also enables office spaces to be suitably furnished with appropriate levels of equipment when teams are in, such as dual monitor set ups for hot desking.
- Encouraging the use of annual leave- Make sure employees are making most of the annual leave offered by organisations. Making sure that your people are taking time off from work to recharge is going to be key in monitoring the mental and physical wellbeing of employees moving forward. Giving your employees freedom and visibility via self-serve over their absence allowances and requests also ensures that your HR team aren’t fielding questions from employees regarding outstanding leave requests.
- Ensuring the office is future proofed for hybrid working- Consider the processes and equipment in place in your workplace currently: are you set up to accommodate a mix of remote and on premise workers? Video conferencing equipment and systems will be a key feature for organisations moving forward, in order to ensure a shared employee experience regardless of location. Meetings will regularly have a mix of in-person attendees and people dialling in – how can you make sure that those dialling in feel engaged in the meeting and that they are able to make the same contributions as those in person?
- Social activities- Even with a return to the office, it is likely that there will still be restrictions in place regarding the traditional social spaces and activities within organisations. With the added wrinkle of mixed remote and on site working, this presents HR teams with the unique challenge of how to foster an inclusive and socially focused working environment. Going forward, it seems likely that organisations will need to factor in a continued use of virtual platforms- similar to those that they pivoted to during the height of the pandemic- this ensures that each employee, regardless of location, is receiving the same level of engagement.
- Fostering a shared employee experience- When developing the future hybrid working model of the workplace, HR professionals will be mindful of the diverse needs of their individual employees. Multiple factors ranging from personal health to availability of transportation will dictate the ease with which certain employees can be in the office at any one time. HR teams and leaders should ensure that they are utilising systems and processes in order to ensure a shared employee experience. Cloud based HR systems allow teams to effectively manage team goal setting and employee assessment even with a split workforce.
As we can see, there are a myriad of factors to take into account when developing the structure of your future workforce. Regardless of your industry, the adoption of new technology is the one constant that organisations will be turning to in order to make the transition to new normal as seamless as possible.
Organisations across the country are looking towards the future with a sense of excitement. It is clear that as we move out of lockdown, there is a huge opportunity to reshape the structure of what the “normal” working week looks like. For more information on how to safeguard your workforce and the considerations you need to take into account when preparing for the future of flexible working, take a look at our new whitepaper.
Want to find out more about how you can make flexible working a success? Read the whitepaper to discover what considerations your business needs to be taking into account for its own roadmap out of lockdown, and the steps you need to take to safeguard your people whatever your plan and circumstance.