The demand for flexible working is not just about Covid

Lockdown is easing in the UK, yet only this week we have seen spikes in new Covid-19 cases in Spain and across Europe.

The demand for flexible working is not just about Covid

The ability to work from home has always come at a price. Be that an uncomfortable conversation with a manager, or with specific requirements around which day this be allowed to happen, the overall feeling is that its more effort than its worth, and not something to trouble management with. Yet Covid-19 has forced us to retreat inside our homes for more than 5 months, and the slow return to work the UK is currently experiencing comes with a heightened expectation from employees to make their working arrangements a lot more flexible. 

It goes without saying that for many there is still a concern around their health, and the prospect of commuting back into the office is of real worry. But there are also a lot of people who have got comfortable with the idea of more time either side of their working hours, and have spent this learning new skills, taking time to exercise, or by spending more time with their loved ones. The onus is with businesses’ who have already witnessed the success of WFH and who have an opportunity to put in place flexible arrangements to cater to employee concerns, be them health related or to do with maintaining a healthy work life balance.  

A flexible rota 

Many companies fall into two brackets when it comes to actioning their return to work. There are those that have told staff not to expect consistent office days until the new year, and there are others that have put in place rota’s that split teams to allow for social distancing, and highlight cleaning days. Regardless of which your company chooses, a rota of some form needs to be in place. 

With this comes the need to consider what your employees want. If you are closing the office until 2021 but staff are allowed in before then, teams need to be able to organise their working weeks that best suits their business meetings, pipelines and to do lists. Equally if teams have been split and told their office days will be a specific one or two days a week, how flexible will this be to change?

We have all got used to in some way or another, the freedom that comes with waking up and not having to commute for 30 minutes to get to the office. Employers should anticipate this, and if not done already attempt to understand their workforce’s preferences. Whether this be through individual calls with line managers, or through a quick online survey, the information and data retrieved from this activity will shine a light on how best to handle your return to the office, and how flexible you need to be with implementing a rota, or any plan for that matter. 

Plan ahead

Never has HR technology been more sort after or more needed in the workplace. Identifying where employees are and whether they are in the building is an obvious must during times such as these, but the impact to employee health and wellbeing is greatly needed, and has arguably been growing steadily due to a shift in societal attitude to mental health issues in the last few years. 

Now is the perfect time to implement software that helps drive data that can identify employees that are at risk of burnout due to untaken holiday leave, or who need support and signposting to useful resources where they feel comfortable discussing their own wellbeing. During Covid, several virtual GP applications have been widely used that once connected with a company’s HR system, have allowed employees to organise online health check-ups, and stopped unwittingly spreading the virus through unnecessary doctor surgery appointments.  It is simple technology like this, that put into the hands of staff really highlights a move to make employee health a central focus for businesses. 

Systems like these benefit the employee and will help facilitate a working from home culture. But the data can also be harnessed to help employers ensure they have a happy, efficient, and productive team working for them. Using HR tech to better understand their workforce undoubtedly impacts business outcomes for the better too. 

The work from home culture, while not previously favoured has proved successful and something that the majority of staff want to apply into their work routines to some degree. If companies are really worried about employee engagement and productivity levels, then there is software that can help them here. However, what seems more pressing is putting the individual first and understanding where they are most comfortable and where they feel they are most productive. I don’t think anyone is calling for the end of the office, but changes to internal processes and adapting to the preferences of your team will make a return to the office (whenever this might be) more successful. 

Steve Arnold
Steve Arnold

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