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Planning for a return to work: What needs to change?
Across the globe, businesses of all sizes are slowly beginning to bring staff back into offices. In the UK as lockdown restrictions are easing, and a return to the workplace is moving closer, it is important to consider your approach and what support your employees may need.
Health and safety should be a key factor in preparing for your return to work, and in line with this, it is also important to consider the circumstances of your employees. This is particularly true for furloughed employees. Communication has been crucial throughout the pandemic, and as we move into the next phase, should form the foundation of your plans to return to the office.
As you prepare for this big change, leaders should be asking: how do employees feel about a return to work, do they expect changes in the way work gets done, and how can we make this transition successful?
Here are three key areas you need to consider as you transition back into the office.
Sentiment of professionals in the market
It is easy to assume what your team wants to see moving forward and how they feel about a potential return to the office. However, what one person feels, or needs can be completely the opposite for another, which is why it is important to ask. Pulse surveys and regular one-to-one catch-ups with your employees about how they are feeling, what they want, and what they need to thrive is so crucial in a changing business world.
In a PageGroup survey* of professionals in the market, when asked how they felt about returning to their usual workplace, 42% identified as slightly excited or excited about and looking forward to returning to work. However, another 18% of people identified that while they are excited, they are also feeling a little nervous.
We also asked how professionals felt about the prospect of resuming their daily commute, returning to their personal workspace in the office, and socialising with colleagues. Overwhelmingly, responses were largely positive and notably, more than half of respondents said they are looking forward to socialising with their colleagues.
Adapting to changing expectations
Although many of your employees may want to return to the office, businesses need to recognise how the world of work and the expectations for flexibility will have shifted as a result of the pandemic.
It is important to understand what your people want and need, and how they believe working arrangements could be better managed. This does not stop with the work from home debate, but also policies, procedures and processes for the way work gets done and output is measured/delivered.
For example, our candidate survey** found that three in five professionals would like to work from home more than previously. However, just one in ten said they would want to do this full time, with 43% saying they would like to be able to work from home when they needed to and 23% specifying they would like to be able to work from home two days per week in an average week.
A review of your current dynamic working policies may need to take place and a higher level of flexibility to better allow employees to shape their working weeks could be one solution.
These changes do also require thought into the following areas:
- How to interact with remote and office-based staff
- Integrating work remotely and in the office
- How to set the tone for culture for a hybrid workforce
- Facilitating flexibility and collaboration
- Ensuring processes are most efficient
Continued success and productivity
Your people’s wellbeing and happiness at work are fundamental to a successful and collaborative working environment. The decisions you make in regards to whether your people will return to the office, continue to work from home, or a more flexible working arrangement will be adopted, need to consider the flow-on effects and how the business world around you is evolving.
The success of your decisions can, of course, be measured by looking at staff turn over and the bottom line, but earlier indicators include people-focused measurements such as:
- Job satisfaction
- Work relationships
- Work-life balance
When surveyed on how changes to working arrangements during the pandemic impacted these areas of their work, the majority of professionals noted no changes. However, notably, a large group also noted increases in their productivity (42%), motivation (36%), work-life balance (40%) and wellbeing (31%).
When returning to work and determining the best approach to manage teams both in the office and operating remotely, employers must consider the following questions:
- How do you continue to ensure ideas are generated and discussed?
- How will you attract talent from different pools with more flexibility?
- Can you facilitate home working in the longer term and on a larger scale?
- What can be done to protect employee wellbeing and ensure burn out does not become an issue?
- How do you keep employees engaged over a sustained period?
The return to work must be planned and communicated effectively with your people. Utilising their feedback on the experience of working from home can help reshape your policies. Collaboration between employee and employer will be key in redefining the world of work moving forward.
If you would like any more information, or to find out how we can support you at this time, please get in touch.
Alternatively, explore our insights capabilities and get your FREE job market report from Page Insights here.
*Survey conducted throughout June aimed at job seekers in the market.
**Follow up candidate survey released July. Results include responses from 1st July – 12th July