We are only now starting to see a potential return to normal life, post the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst we may have the tools to fight the virus, it’s not going away and there has to be some changes to account for this. For example, those who are particularly vulnerable or cannot get the vaccine, still have to balance normal life with protecting their health. How will this affect the workplace?
Separate to the issue of health and safety is the effect that lockdown has had on the workplace and its culture. The majority of workers spent lockdown working from home and integrating business and homelife in a new way. Whilst some employees are content to return to “business as usual” there are many others who want to create a new normal.
The effect of the pandemic has been unprecedented and has offered an opportunity to rebuild business and employment in a new form, but what form will that take?
Going forward, health and safety in the workplace is going to be more important than ever before. Industries such as manufacturing and service don’t have the luxury of allowing their employees to work from home. Therefore, in this instance, modifications to the workplace and it’s practices may be the best solution to ensure Covid is kept at bay. This could mean greater space between workers and customers, more emphasis on hygiene practices such as hand washing, mandatory mask wearing and better ventilation, just to name a few.
Companies based in office environments have more flexibility when it comes to remote working. In this case, employees who are particularly vulnerable to Covid, for example older workers and those with pre-existing health conditions should be allowed to work at home more often. The Covid-19 virus isn’t going anywhere and even when fully vaccinated, some workers are still vulnerable to the infection. This is an important consideration for every business owner, going forward.
Remote working was becoming more and more popular even before the pandemic, but lockdown has pushed it front and centre in the business world. Many employees enjoyed working from home as it allowed them to spend more time with family, reduced the cost and effort of commuting and generally provided more independence and freedom. Whilst many business owners would prefer everyone back in the office, it’s probably not possible to put the genie back in to the lamp. The best solution is to work with employees, to create a system that delivers for everyone.
Lockdown forced businesses and employees to embrace technology such as Zoom and remote systems, therefore we know the infrastructure is there. Companies could provide workers with the option to work from home if they choose to, at least part-time. If your employees are delivering the same amount and quality of work and still hitting all of their targets, why refuse their request to work from home. In fact, there are potential benefits for the company itself. Not only could this save the business money by allowing for downsizing, it will also boost morale, increasing the chances of a happier, more productive workforce.
Best of Both
Many business experts are proposing the idea of a hybrid solution that provides the best of both worlds. This would involve prioritising the time that workers spend in the office, so that both the company and its employees can get the most out of it. Whilst remote working is ideal for some, it can come with its downsides, for example loneliness, the inability to work face to face with co-workers and the lack of accessibility to supervisors.
Fortunately, there are ways in which to work around these issues. For example, managers can schedule team meetings for times when all employees are in the office. Allowing everyone to catch up, socialise and bounce ideas off each other. Managers can also have an open-door policy on Zoom, meaning that workers can call at any time during the day, even for just a quick chat, mimicking the ease at which you can do this at the office.
Team building and socialising can be incredibly important, not just for the mental health of employees but also the productivity of the workplace. Therefore, why not schedule regular short Zoom meetings with the entire team. Better yet, plan coffee meetings, activity days or even a meal out.
Many business leaders are dubious of a post-covid office but it’s possible that these changes could be beneficial for everyone involved.