How do employees feel about returning to work in an endemic Covid19 world?

With Freedom Day imminent, the question on most employers’ lips is how to manage the transition of their workforce from remote work to back to the office full time or on a hybrid model.

Why does it matter? According to the latest, Deloitte survey there are currently 67% of staff working 100% remotely and 80% of all staff would consider a job move in 2021/22.  One of the most important considerations employees will be taking into account for their employer of choice will be the company’s Covid record and response to the new normal.  As a recruiter, without exception the first question I am asked when approaching people with prospective employment opportunities is:

“What is the company’s approach to flexible working?” – In the battle for talent, ignore this at your peril!

Interestingly, although staff now demand flexibility around working location, 64% also state that maintaining an attractive company culture is a key satisfaction criterion when assessing jobs.  Whilst there are many ways to maintain an esprit de corps, more regular interaction with colleagues than 100% remote working offers, is undoubtedly the key issue.  Virtual meeting fatigue is rife and 85% of staff, according to Newswire, want some sort of return to a physical workspace.

CONUNDRUM? 

Maybe not so much – it is a fine line to tread but there are options:

Flexible start times – City Mayors have historically pressed companies to adopt flexible start times to avoid the peak hour commuter surges.  Transport companies would benefit from smoothing out people flow, and life could be an awful lot more pleasant if we weren’t sniffing armpits due to overcrowding on our transport networks.

Hybrid working can centre on interdependent employees sharing core office time to ensure productivity, and further improvements in IT capability and security allows for greater flexibility around physical locations.

Office cleaning and regular health assessments – can help us prevent infection threats.  Identifiers of how comfortable staff feel with social distancing already exist and mutual respect to ensure this is managed are all within a company’s control to manage environments that allow people to feel safe.

The questions being asked of employers may look different and appear new, but it is worth noting that an employer’s number one priority to their staff is to provide a safe working environment.  It is the working environment that has changed and is no longer determined by the physical space inside office walls. Whatever blended approach you take, one thing is certain – don’t throw away your masks just yet!