The imposition of lockdown has changed the way we work. Many of us will now know how to work remotely. But how do we change it back? More importantly, do we even want to change it back? The answer is probably no, not entirely. The reason being that what we’ve actually learnt from all of this, is a smarter, people-led approach.
So with lockdown gradually easing and furlough schemes winding down, businesses are entering a new stage. As a result, they’re looking at people’s engagement, use of technology and how to evolve as a business as it will all be different to how it was before Covid-19.
Furthermore, being furloughed will have affected people in different ways. Some will have loved it, others can’t wait to get back to work. Many will have been feeling anxiety about being furloughed: why were they chosen? Will they feel capable and confident when they go back? What will happen after furlough comes to an end?
Therefore it’s important for employers to also find a way to support people as they return.
Inevitably, employees will need time to get back into the swing of their roles. They’ll also have to get up to speed with the new way in which the business operates and how projects and relationships have developed.
In addition, employers will have a lot to communicate. This needs to be done in a sensitive and supportive way, as to not overwhelm staff, who may already be feeling anxious. Some companies have even taken the initiative to use a buddy system to help get returning staff up to speed. Other businesses have taken advantage of technology and have set up virtual workrooms, where staff are online alongside their colleagues all the time.
Both are great ways to make it easy for the returning staff to reintegrate into the business after furlough.
A new approach to work remotely
As it stands, the government guidelines are still that people should still work remotely working if they can. With that in mind, most people coming off furlough will work remotely. Interestingly, many businesses have seen productivity rise as the flexibility of working from home allows people to find patterns of working that suit them.
However, for this to continue, returning staff will need time to master the technology involved in remote working – if they haven’t done so already – and find a more permanent pattern that makes them most productive.
While flexibility is one of the benefits of the new, remote way of working, and it may work in some people’s favour, on the other hand many will be keen to return to set hours to stop work encroaching on family life: there’s a fine line between working flexibly and just working all the time.
Therefore it is essential that everyone finds the right balance for them.
Indeed, the best approach is to have an open dialogue between employer and employee. That’s especially important when supporting furloughed employees trying to find the right balance as they enter the flexible, remote workplace.
While some people miss the office environment and others love remote working, most would like a mix of the two. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every employer and employee. But what we have learnt from all this, is that flexible working is effective and it will no longer mean just the hours that people work but also where they do it.
The focus now needs to be on developing a blended pattern of working. One that will suit everyone and one that is sustainable. Significantly, the reintroduction of furloughed staff and the limited return to central offices does not mark the end of the lockdown, but rather the transition to a whole new pattern of business life.