For more than a year, lockdown, self-isolation and social distancing rules have dictated what we can and can’t do in our daily lives. For many, that’s meant more than 12 months of working from home and dealing with the challenges that brings – from needy pets to back-to-back Zoom meetings.
Covid-19 has turned our worlds upside down. But while we’re not out of the woods yet, there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
With the success of the UK’s vaccination programme going strong, our thoughts are turning to a return to work.
This month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak called on Britain’s employers to think about allowing staff back into the office. If not, he warned, staff could end up “voting with their feet” and defecting to rival firms offering an office-based desk.
Do employees want to get back to the office?
The great work-from-home experiment of 2020 (and the start of 2021) has confirmed that staff are able to work effectively and productively when working remotely. But as rules change, the idea of greater work-life separation becomes a reality again.
The news that companies are making plans for a gradual return to the office will come as welcome relief for those keen to escape the isolation of remote work. For others, it could feel like yet another seismic shift that’s potentially even more disruptive than the initial move to home working.
So do workers want to get back to the office? Research suggests that the majority do – if only for one day a week.
Astudy by workplace platform Envoyreveals that 94% of people want to work in the office at least once a week once restrictions are lifted. Perhaps more surprisingly, 46% said the ideal number of days in the office was a full five days per week.
As we seek out the next normal in our working lives, employers need to make decisions about how the new world of work will look.
Tips for a successful return to work
The truth is that some employees will be feeling more apprehensive about a return to the office than others. And that’s completely understandable. It’s up to employers to make the transition as supportive and streamlined as possible.
Here are three points to consider when planning the shift from home working back to office working.
1. Greater flexibility
Companies that were resistant to flexible working in the past may need to rethink their policies post-pandemic.
Different people have had very different experiences during lockdown – some have relished the chance to spend more time with families, others have felt frustrated and isolated living alone. Greater flexibility covers a range of situations including childcare, caring for a relative, financial worries or health concerns.
There is no one-size-fits all solution, but if organisations are to retain – and gain – talented employees going forward, they need to agree on a new normality with their staff.
2. Clear communication
Communication is absolutely crucial for businesses as they open their doors to employees once again. Moving back to office life signals a major change in people’s routines; staff members will be looking to employer communications to answer their questions and alleviate any concerns.
Make sure all communication is clear, on point and designed to instill confidence in staff. Giving employees the tools they need to raise issues and share their experiences before they’ve even stepped into the office (through one-to-one meetings or surveys, for example) will help normalise their fears, demonstrate you are listening, and show their opinions matter.
3. Additional support
It’s important to understand that each individual member of your team has unique needs in terms of their wellbeing.
As well as having open channels of communication, you must be prepared to spot any warning signs. If an employee is struggling with their mental health, employers need to understand how best to support them and take action sooner rather than later.
Remember: it might be nothing, but then again, it might be something. Something that can be remedied if dealt with promptly and with the right support services and tools.
Working towards a streamlined transition
The Talent Microsoft team is looking forward to getting back to the office and we’ve been busy planning how our new normality will look.
From mid-April, staff have been invited back into the office one day a week. From May that will increase to two days a week, and from 21 June onwards we’ll be offering flexible working patterns in which employees can choose to be office-based either two or three days a week.
Flexibility is at the core of this transition and was revealed as the number one priority by staff in an internal survey. As such, a five-day week in the office has become a thing of the past – the thinking being that if teams are performing well and hitting their targets, then there’s no need to change that.
Talent Microsoft has taken the time to carry out one-to-one conversations with team members to make sure they feel supported, and teamed up with a company that will provide every employee ten free counselling sessions and 24/7 GP mental health support.
A supportive, streamlined transition back into the office is vital for collaborative productivity, employee wellbeing and experience of company culture. Talent Microsoft can help your business take positive steps towards achieving those goals.
If you’re a Microsoft professional looking for a new challenge or a business looking for Microsoft experts to represent your brand, we’re here to help. So, get in touch.
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