As returning to the workplace becomes more and more imminent, companies must prepare to welcome employees back within their walls. And while everyone is relieved at the idea of deconfining, resuming activities that use to be natural, comes with its share of questions and challenges. Can we really go back to the way things were? And what if returning to the office actually awakens new opportunities?
How to choose a workplace re-entry policy?
Teleworking is at the heart of all concerns. For those who worked remotely during the pandemic, will this formula be sustainable?
Many scenarios are being considered, depending on the type of business, the type of management, and the nature of the work to be performed. Faced with a full-time return, a hybrid formula, or sustained long term telework, one thing is certain: no one is indifferent to what we’re facing: a potentially official start to forever changed labor conditions.
Some employees are impatient to find their bearings, and the social aspect of the office plays a defining role here. In addition, certain technical and personal nuisances can motivate workers to want to return to their on-site office.
Meanwhile, others dread returning to their usual place of business. Seduced by increased autonomy and the ability to work more flexible hours, some are considering changing jobs, if they’re no longer allowed to work from remote locations. Among the arguments, better work-life balance is often put at the top of the list.
A hybrid model combining telework and an in-office work presence seems to attract a good number of employees. If for many this option appears interesting, it is still necessary to foresee the rules and regulations framing this model.
Data and strategic thinking
Before establishing a work organization policy, the company should take the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned during the pandemic. By evaluating productivity over the past few months, managers can draw certain conclusions that support decision-making and guide the choice of strategies deployed to organize the work.
Data from various studies can also be thought-provoking. Here are a few:
- According to a survey conducted by Deloitte Switzerland, 41% of workers say they are more productive when working from home.
- A two-year study, conducted by Stanford University before the pandemic, showed that, when they had the conditions to do so (dedicated workplace, access to adapted technologies), people working from home were 13% more productive and had 50% less risk of quitting. Nevertheless, the context of the health crisis revealed that some face-to-face meetings were essential.
- The Bureau of Economic Research observed a 10% increase in working hours during confinement.
Communication is crucial
Managers should ask their employees exactly what they expect. Beyond surveys, that do not necessarily reflect their reality, it is essential to initiate honest conversation where the needs of the company, and those of the employees, will be expressed and addressed.
Whatever formula is chosen, the company should provide all employees with clear, detailed instructions to avoid any misinterpretation of the established policy.
Time is required to adapt
It is important to keep in mind that any transition, desired or not, comes with its fair share of stress. Resuming face-to-face activities is no exception. To this end, several companies are also evaluating the possibility of a gradual return to the workplace.
Reducing trauma trough transition
During the confinement in March 2020, no adaptation period could be granted and consequently, for some, serious stress and anxiety became overwhelming.
While returning to the workplace does not represent the same issues, acting hastily may aggravate various negative or anxiety-provoking reactions.
By clearly articulating the steps you plan for reintegrating the company space, you will ensure a smoother transition. However, keep in mind that flexibility will remain essential.
Prioritize health and a sense of security
Employers should ensure that health recommendations are followed and that employees feel safe in their work environment. Although the risks associated with the coronavirus have decreased, the fact remains that the virus will still circulate, which may worry a large number of employees.
Managers will be called upon to transmit all the necessary information, to foster compliance with health and safety regulations, while also providing the assurance of a safe environment.
An opportunity to be seized
Returning to the workplace is something to celebrate. Despite the challenges, it will be interesting to see the opportunities that arise for companies and employees.
Redefining your business
Deconfining can be an opportunity to have thought-provoking conversations on how work is organized, while providing the chance to review company culture.
It would be relevant to revise how your business encourages employee engagement, while also evaluating the means you have to increase productivity. For example, performance indicators might be adjusted to support a more goal-oriented approach. Then, another beneficial point might be to rethink work-life balance policies, examining the possibility of adding some flexibility to work schedules.
Recruiting farther and wider
With effective teleworking, companies could bypass a labor shortage by opening up to a larger pool of candidates. Remote work could then be a solution to overcoming the challenges of finding the right people.
Further, overhauling recruitment policies could mean instilling a more ethical and inclusive approach.