Flexibility Matters Sussex has championed flexible and remote working for over 6 years, but sadly the pandemic thrust us all into this combination overnight - what a change!. As we come out of lockdown the biggest fear for employers is how they are going to make their employees feel safe to return to the office and more importantly will they want too?
In a recent TotalJobs survey, 48% of employees said they had not been told what their businesses 'back to work policy' was and 43% of employees didn't trust their employers to prepare adequately to make them feel safe to return.
I asked Sussex business owners about safety, productivity and plans for the future and how they are communicated with their teams
Safety was top of mind, but business leaders also felt that financially and economically it was imperative that a return to the office was initiated soon. There were many creative ideas of how to manage the return, with safety at its heart through; core days, core hours, team rotations, hot desking, continued WFH, reducing costs through downsizing office space and the need to create team momentum as spirts begin to flag. One younger HR contact described how lonely she was feeling WHF and really missing the camaraderie of an office. In the tail end of lockdown, this combination of isolation and fear of the unknown is as hard to manage as was total lockdown.
On the positive, productivity whilst WFH seems to have been the winner, particularly in those sectors who traditionally have had little flex. My contacts seem genuinely surprised by how well their teams are working and that business had been maintained and so much had been achieved. With productivity in mind I asked how managers had coped with scattered and remote teams? And the responses were mixed, with the emphasis that 'this is not normal' working. I am concerned that this means that those businesses will all be back in their offices under management's eyes asap.
I hope not, if we can make this work in stressful times, surely we can work remotely and flexibly without the threat of a pandemic, lockdown and the complication of home schooling and illness. We have been working in this space for over 6 years and believe that flexible and remote teams can be very effective and that the key is communication, trust and results focussed work. However, blended workforces, WFH, complicated rotations of staff, and socially distanced offices really do prove a challenge for HR and for business leaders. We would love to hear your thoughts?