• The Business Owner

The workplace post Covid-19

As the vaccination for Covid-19 rolls out the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel is coming into view and our thoughts can tentatively begin to return to future plans. Whilst many of us are looking to return to the things we loved before the pandemic began, are we seeing a shift in thinking around going back to a physical workplace? And how will organisations manage the workforce that has faced very real personal changes and navigate their way through all the different belief systems and experiences the pandemic has created.

Return to the workplace

Whilst the balance has very obviously swung the other way and we have demonstrated that working from home can work is the solution to the new workplace less binary than before, and is a hybrid model a reality? In a LinkedIn study of UK C-level executives from mid-sized companies, it found two-fifths expect employees will be resistant to going back when offices reopen. “With a more flexible future likely, the biggest challenge companies will have beyond safety concerns is how they can create inclusive workplaces and cultures that work for remote workers, hybrid workers, and office-only workers,” says Janine Chamberlin, senior director at LinkedIn. And yet it would seem that despite research and evidence many leaders want to get back to how we were prior to the pandemic.

Whenever the return begins there will be many hurdles to overcome and according to PXhub.oi the employee engagement survey tool, the three biggest concerns for employees returning to work are:

○ Contact and proximity to others

○ Shared spaces being contaminated

○ Travel to and from work especially where the use of public transport is common.

For businesses some of these issues will be far more easily overcome than others, and perhaps this will lead to more flexibility around working hours and where we work initially, but once we look at the longer-term picture will there be an expectation on employees to adapt and return to our pre-pandemic ways? The greatest tool a business can use to gain employee buy in, is to ask and respond to employee experiences.

It is important to remember that the 8-hour working day was developed in the Industrial Revolution some 200 years ago. We now live in the Technological Revolution and have seen only too well how effective that technology has been in our lives throughout the pandemic, so are we now ready to look at a new model? Hybrid hours and hybrid workplaces?

What else will the post Covid workplace bring?

The pandemic has been a leveller in terms of who we are beyond the working person - we’ve all had a window into each other’s lives and witnessed the lives we are all juggling, as well as the mental health impact Covid-19 has had on so many. As the workforce begins its slow return to a new normal, organisations will need to navigate the realities so many have faced, and anxiety will be one part of that very real picture. All of this will push the need for well-being higher up the agenda as we consider our duty of care to employees. From sickness absence and compassionate leave there will be a real emphasis on businesses to better understand the needs of employees and offer a more compassionate workplace. Equally will be a need to understand that without careful consideration a rise in grievances and disciplinaries may be very real as all the different views of the last year begin to collect under the same roof again. So, whilst compassionate workplaces may seem fluffy to some, the reality is far from true.

In fact, according to the CIPD “Negative interactions and work environments often result in toxic and bullying workplace cultures.” Compassion leads to the long-term benefits of an organisation. It is vital therefore that going forward from the pandemic we look at ways to put well-being higher up the agenda and adapt our practices to enable the sustainability of the future of work in our workplaces.

For more help on any of the topics discussed here, get in touch with Fresh Seed.