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From Monday 19th July, the day some are calling ‘Freedom Day’, the UK will see the remaining coronavirus restrictions lifted, as part of this, a gradual return to the workplace over the summer has been recommended by the government.
As an employer you should start to plan the extent of your return to work, and how you can do it in a way that cares for your teams and looks after their wellbeing. Between seeing more people than before, commuting on public transport, and dealing with new ways of working, there are many things about returning to work that could cause anxieties amongst your team.
Here’s how to look after your employees when starting to return to the office…
Is a full return to office the right thing for you and your employees?
When you’re planning your return to office, it’s worth considering if a full return to office is what’s best for your employees and your business. The CIPD is calling on employers to build upon the last year of remote working and adapt your ways of working. Employees are likely to want greater freedom and flexibility in how, when and where they work.
Many companies including Coventry Building Society and Asda are introducing a hybrid working model, with a mix of working remotely and office work. Some businesses, like Facebook, have announced that they’ll let all staff who can work away from the office do so if they submit a request.
It’s not surprising that many companies are looking at changing their way of working, with 85% of remote workers wanting a hybrid approach going forward (The Office for National Statistics) and 56% of employees feeling happier when working from home (Microsoft Surface and YouGov).
But there can be some drawbacks as remote working can blur the lines between our home lives and our work lives, where as an office can provide physical separation. According to Ezra, 29% of office workers saw a positive impact on their work-life balances when they returned to their workplace.
The best thing to do is to work with your employees to see what working arrangements they want and how that works with your goals.
Returning to work - advice for the short term:
Your employees’ expectations around work including how they do their jobs and managing their home and work responsibilities may have changed since pre-pandemic. So, in the short term, here’s how to manage the return to office:
- Encourage your managers to speak to your employees individually to see how they’re feeling and if going back to the office would affect their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
- Ensure your workplace is safe, which could include potentially rearranging desks and common areas, continued social distancing and increased cleaning.
- Monitor the ongoing government guidelines to ensure you are complying.
- Listen to any concerns your teams may have about travelling, particularly those using public transport.
- Don’t rush back in straight away, it might take some time for your teams to adjust between what they’re used to now and their work arrangements longer term. For example, if they’ve agreed to two days in the office, start smaller with one day a week or even just a morning or afternoon. Allowing them to adapt to the new routine.
Longer term plans:
While you may be looking at bringing some of your employees back in the short term and what that means, you should also be planning for the future. It’s important to ensure you build on the success many companies have seen with remote working and look to see what you can implement long term.
Whether it’s hybrid working, fully remote or flexible work, your team's working environment needs to be good for them and you. Here’s some ways you can do that…
Flexibility should be here to stay:
Flexible working is good for both your business and your employees. There will be some of your people or your individual teams who are more efficient and productive at home, whereas other people might gain energy from the buzz of an office. Trust your people to know where and how they best work.
Don’t mistake physical presence for engagement:
For those employees who want to work from home it doesn’t mean they’re any less engaged or committed to work than those who prefer an office environment. Make sure you look at their outputs, and to give your staff equal praise for good work wherever they’re based.
Encourage your staff to keep up with healthy habits:
Whether it’s a run in the morning, making a nutritious lunch, or a fitness class at lunch, there are many habits that people have formed in the last year. Work with your employees to ensure they can keep these up and incorporate them into their workday, wherever they’re based.
Celebrate hard work:
Make sure to recognise your team’s hard work. A recognition platform where employees can celebrate each other’s accomplishments can help keep them connected.
Make your office somewhere your teams want to be:
As we’ve been doing our jobs from home for over the year, try to look at the reasons why your teams might want to come in. Whether it’s places for collaboration, learning or celebrations.