The traditional employee-employer relationship has been shaken up in an unprecedented manner over the last year or so; and finally now it seems as though swathes of society are able to enter back into the working world they knew and (hopefully) loved pre-pandemic.
With the working environment across many industries having changed hugely, employers in lots of sectors are facing fresh challenges in facilitating the safe and well balanced working culture their employees deserve and demand. However, as with any challenges, these things can – and will – be overcome… it just make take a new perspective to do so.
Challenge #1: Employees struggling to or resisting returning to the workplace
Every employer other than those in key industries should have either implemented remote working or furlough. Now that coronavirus restrictions are easing and people are able to return to their normal working environment, many employees are finding themselves very unsure about returning to their ‘standard’ workplace – and it’s not uncommon to hear of people requesting full-time remote working.
To overcome this, employers need to remain flexible and treat every employee as an individual. If possible, offer part-time or phased returns to work and ensure that processes are in place to care for staff’s wellbeing and mental health as much as their physical hygiene. If teams can be encouraged to socialise again in a socially-distanced manner, this too can help improve confidence for office returns.
Challenge #2: Employees having ‘fallen out of practice’ with standard working processes
Remote working has certainly thrown up difficulties for some in the performance monitoring of staff as there hasn’t been the usual face-to-face opportunities nor the ability to ‘check in’ quite so easily. Even staff who have worked consistently throughout lockdown periods may suffer from being a little out of practice with standard working practices and processes, and those who have spent an extended time on furlough almost definitely will have.
Holding refresher courses are a great way to remind employees of processes and procedures, but it may be enough to have an open door policy and invite people to ask for help as and when they need it. If your company doesn’t already have it, mandatory annual training can be an easy way to build constant reminders and professional development into the workplace.
Challenge #3: Employees looking for a renewed sense of purpose
Living through the historical event of a global pandemic has given people the world over a new sense of what is truly important to them, and what they want. While this doesn’t necessarily mean employees will resign as soon as they’re invited back to work, it may mean that they’re more likely now to seek flexibility in their employment or want to work through new opportunities and responsibilities.
Employers should be as flexible as they can but also demonstrate the value of their staff at every given opportunity. Engaged, empowered employees are more likely to remain loyal and to give as well as take through changing working practices.