Now that we are edging ever closer to some semblance of normality after a tumultuous year filled with uncertainty, employers and employees alike are beginning to look ahead at what the post-covid workplace will look like now that the work from home genie is out of the bottle.
Many formerly office-based employees have spent almost the last 18 months working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and plenty have found a liking for it. Working from home has been seen to have granted a much longed for flexibility and improved life balance for many employees and, naturally, a significant number are not keen to let this go.
In response to their employees’ feelings, many businesses are beginning to redefine their work structures. Going forward, the concept of the traditional, office-based Monday to Friday 9-5 seems archaic already: decades of the status quo upended in just 18 months.
Forward-thinking employers are rolling with the tide of these incredible changes and are introducing measures to deal with the ‘new normal’. Below are four approaches that we expect to become commonplace in the post-COVID corporate world:
A Hybrid Approach
Likely the most common approach to be implemented in many offices across the country, and indeed the world, is the hybrid approach to homeworking. This will involve staff splitting their work week between the office and home. This approach allows flexibility for both employers and employees in that there is a shared space that allows staff to collaborate face-to-face, yet also appreciates the mutual satisfaction gained from remote working.
Some employers may choose to mandate employees to work in the office on set days of the week or month, while others will leave it to staff to decide. There is no right or wrong to this approach, every business is different, and it is something to be worked out between employers and staff to ensure the best outcome for the business and its personnel.
Fully Home-Based Working
It is not uncommon now to see some businesses deciding to make the switch to fully remote. Many businesses have seen productivity increase and their business rates and expenses decrease with the advance of remote working. Thus, some companies have decided to save on leases and other businesses overheads and abandon the traditional workplace altogether.
As with any approach, there will be pros and cons to this arrangement. The training of new staff may be trickier, as it can be difficult to learn from more experienced staff without the organic nature of a shared space, where questions can be asked, and ideas bounced without the need for a pre-arranged video or telephone call.
However, many businesses have taken very well to working from home, and it all comes down to what suits each company on a case-by-case basis.
Full Return to the Office
There will absolutely be companies who will prefer a full return to the office and the old ways of doing business. Many employers are anxious for a return to the pre-COVID work environment for a plethora of reasons. Perhaps these employers have seen a drop in productivity, or their clients are dissatisfied with a lack of face-to-face interaction with staff.
While these reasons are understandable, employers who decide to mandate a return to the traditional 5 day working week in the office will likely face pushback from employees that have seen another way to work and live. These employers risk staff dissatisfaction and perhaps, a high turnover if they do not offer flexibility in a working world increasingly geared towards just that.
Flexibility is Key
Post-COVID, it seems apparent that the key to retaining and keeping employees happy will be flexibility. There is certainly no way to please everyone all the time, however, you would be hard-pressed to find a person who did not appreciate a flexible approach that allows them some freedom of choice over their own working arrangements.
Employers who resist this newfound focus on flexible working in all its forms could find themselves struggling for staff as employees ‘vote with their feet’ and move over to the many firms that are offering a multitude of options to balance their work and home lives effectively.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to go about navigating the post-COVID workplace, and each business must decide what works for them on an individual level. However, there are many options to consider and for employers who are reluctant to leave the pre-COVID world behind, it is unlikely that the cat will ever be back in the bag now that flexible working is becoming the norm.
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