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Four ways to navigate the return to the workplace

Written by Asam Akhtar on Thursday, 12 August 2021. Posted in HR, People

As “Freedom Day” has now come and gone, businesses are making some big decisions about how to bring people back to work.

Four ways to navigate the return to the workplace

As “Freedom Day” has now come and gone, businesses are making some big decisions about how to bring people back to work. But, it’s not as simple as reverting to pre-pandemic processes. Health and safety are critical concerns. Remote workers are reluctant to give up flexible work hours. And, expectations are high as priorities and lifestyles have changed. 

With 85% of current homeworkers wanting a hybrid approach to work, a new era is emerging. In fact, three in four (70%) UK workers believe a hybrid model would benefit them. 34% say it would improve their mental health. Businesses and their leaders that fail to understand this shift and the evolving needs of employees could see their top talent walking out the door. 

So as a leader, how do you make this transition? Here are four things to consider.

Health and safety first

First, the obvious -- health and safety measures need to be implemented and enforced to protect employees and prevent business disruption. Social distancing, routine lateral flow tests, and regular cleaning all help. 

For those who are looking to manage capacity or implement health screenings, there are technology options purpose-built for the hybrid work environment. Look for solutions that give you visibility into the foot traffic - who and how many people plan to work on-site each day. This will help you right-size the space layout, staffing, lunch orders, etc… and prevent the workplace from getting too crowded.

Invest in employee commutes 

Commutes have an impact too. The traditional commute is costly and mentally draining. Workers are looking for more sustainable, less stressful ways to travel. 

As a result, there’s been an uptick in demand for employers to support alternative travel methods. According to research from DASH Rides, more than four in five (82%) homeworkers want employers to revamp employee benefits and perks to include travel or cycle-to-work schemes. With employee benefits playing an increasingly large part in career decisions, to retain workers you’ll need to find ways to reimagine the commute.

Adopt collaboration technology 

Thanks to the pandemic, distributed working was adopted at speed. Unfortunately, it’s become standard industry practice with no infrastructure to properly support it. Many businesses are still struggling with legacy tools that are unable to accommodate new working models. Employees are less productive and less focused. 

What’s the solution? Investing in collaboration technology and work management tools that support hybrid work can help reduce some of the pain points and friction. Work management platforms like Asana provide teams with insight into individual and collective projects for seamless collaboration, regardless of whether you’re in the office or at home. 

Protect the company culture

Hybrid work doesn’t just endanger productivity; there’s also a risk of eroding the culture you’ve worked so hard to create. Take active steps to preserve your culture and a sense of community through workplace incentives, group socials, or rewards to ensure teams feel seen and recognised. Social support can be just as important as technical support in helping ease the transition.

Take this opportunity to examine your culture and assess whether it still makes sense - does it align with the company mission and objectives? Is the company saying one thing but doing another? ‘Returning to the status quo’ shouldn’t be the goal. There are always opportunities to make culture more inclusive, progressive, and healthy. Though employees may be returning to old workspaces that doesn’t mean practices shouldn’t be updated. This moment in time is your chance to be proactive and to build happier, healthier teams.

About the Author

Asam Akhtar

Asam Akhtar

Asam Akhtar, Channel Manager, UK & Ireland at Envoy

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