On 5th March 2020, UK businesses nationwide shuttered their offices and workers were instructed to work from home full-time, a shift in the working ‘norm’ never before seen or anticipated.
Nineteen months later, the world is opening back up, with life in the UK most resembling its pre-pandemic ‘normal’. However, whilst in many areas we see the public keen to return to the status quo, this cannot be said for the majority of office workers.
Employees’ expectations have changed. Many have found over the last year and a half that their work-life balance and productivity have increased as a result of remote working. As we begin to re-integrate employees back into the office, companies must review their HR strategies to incorporate remote working and to ensure an equal approach to future working plans. These policy changes need to be driven by HR, rather than being reactionary, and must focus on employees as individuals rather than as a cohort. Not all workers will be able to work remotely or flexibly in the future, and therefore to ensure that all workers’ needs are addressed, businesses will need to consult and communicate with their employees to find functional solutions for the varying realities of their staff’s lives.
Not only do HR strategies need to be reviewed moving forward regarding ways of working, but managers and leaders will also need to be trained on how to manage staff within these new working models. From the offset it must be clear what is changing within the organisation and why. From there, HR leaders will need to ensure that managers within their businesses have the right skillset and adapted behaviours to be able to manage a dispersed team. In such a time of change, managers need the right support and to understand their responsibilities and what is expected of them. An organisation will not be able to thrive within the new normal if they do not invest in training and development to support their managers in the evolving workplace, therefore businesses should make this a priority this year.
The pandemic created a national reset in all areas of life and over the last 18 months we have all been learning the new language of living and working with Covid-19. To begin with, there was the crisis phase and the initial panic of moving our entire lives into our homes and our work online. Then, there was the housekeeping phase, where issues pertaining to who should continue to work from home, who wants to work flexibly, whether employees have the right equipment to do so and more were addressed. Whilst we have found solutions to many of these problems, we are still very much within this phase, as the pandemic continues to affect our lives for far longer than we initially anticipated. Going forward HR leaders will have to continue to question how people’s views about work have been affected and continue to change due to our evolving ways of working. Insights into this will only continue to grow in value and will play a key part in all business’ success as we continue through to the end of the year and beyond.