Return to work – the new normal.

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What happens when, as a business owner you decide it is time to return to the office or make the decision to work fully remotely or a hybrid version of these two scenarios?

We have all had quite a tricky 18 months one way or another, no one appears to have been unscathed. HR professionals are now experts on navigating updates on covid and furlough rules on the Gov.UK webs pages. Employers have likely experienced a variety of unchartered scenarios including mental health issues and new ways of ensuring operational managers motivate, manage and retain teams with the very different employment landscape of remote working and a difficult recruitment market.  

What next?

How will you manage the next chapter as the workforce unfurls towards new normality?  

We have listed some of the questions (and answers) we have been asked as a provider of outsourced Human Resources…

How can you manage the expectations of employees, especially when not everyone agrees on our proposed way of returning to work?

Listen in a non-judgemental way. Remote working does not suit everyone. Some people benefit and are motivated by the buzz of an office with others in close proximity. Some are lonely and struggle without the company of work colleagues. The best thing is to maintain an open dialogue with your employees, you cannot please everyone all of the time, but a well thought through compromise for some people may make them feel more comfortable about returning to work following furlough or a period of time at home. The aim is to maintain productivity. For example:

Remote working the whole time?

Meeting colleagues in communal working spaces to collaborate on projects, or once a week in the office, if you still have this space? Or, have a remote version where you have Google meets or an open Zoom call so you can chat about work issues and recreate a remote office environment.  Allow flexibility in line with business needs. Very few businesses or industries require the traditional methods of working from a static location.

If remote working is not possible?

Be mindful of your team’s anxiety and fears about returning to work – enable them to stagger start and finish times so that they can avoid busy travel times. Develop clear guidelines in relation to health and safety, social distancing, mask-wearing and cleanliness in the office or manufacturing environment. Complete your risk assessments and ensure they are readily available to all. Put on your Breathe account or HR Information system as company documents if you have not done so already.

Ensure your policies are consistently applied to all workers and employees. Be mindful of your team’s welfare – Covid has not disappeared, we are experiencing different challenges because of the lifting of the restrictions.

Jab, or no jab policy?

Be careful not to be discriminatory. Just because you as an employer may think everyone should be jabbed… it is not a universal belief. Be mindful of excluding or highlighting the fact that some people have not had jabs by enforcing mask wearing for those who do not partake. Views are divided. Emotions and anxiety levels are high, be mindful and diplomatic.

What happens if there is a Covid outbreak at work?

You should have a contingency for this eventuality, depending on your team size, you could have a rota where employees work from home and swap periodically with office workers. As we know – government guidelines are constantly changing. Only this week there was a U-turn on the right to work checks – with the remote check timeframe being extended.

Make sure you are up to date on the regulations in relation to track and trace and be mindful of confidentiality and GDPR issues. Is it necessary to have visitors at work? Could this be discouraged to minimise the risk? Some people are still very sensitive about being around people unnecessarily.

If you would like to discuss your return-to-work challenges or would like a helping hand with communications or specific situations with individuals. Call us, we are here to help. 0118 324 2526


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