This (and everything in between) is the dilemma many newly-minted work from home employees will be potentially deciding upon return to work post Covid-19.
In previous BLOGS I wrote about getting the office physically ready from a safety point of view for a return to work. Another, most recent BLOG dealt with the employee-employer relationship in figuring out exactly what a return to work looks like by person or position post Covid-19. In other words figuring out in advance what arrangements are agreed on in regard to work from home/work in office post Covid-19.
This leads us now to this BLOG which deals more with the requirement to set policy in this area and also to integrate this into the strategic plans of the business in terms of employee engagement, mentoring, performance management, recruitment, retention, career advancement, commuting, training, etc.
With this much time now elapsed since work from home started, employers are much more educated on work from home practices and pros/cons than ever previously imagined, largely because this was ‘forced’ upon them.
The good news is – TwoGreySuits is now populating the website with relevant information for companies to develop/define their own return to work plans. There will be educational documents, policy development considerations and also quite a few sample policies to draw from. There will not be a universal policy in this regard as it would be too vague in applying to all companies to be meaningful and would not serve any valid purpose for what is required here – an individualized company specific return to work plan including a new work from home/remote work policy. Each TwoGreySuits’ client Association’s members will have free access to a TwoGreySuits webinar in either April/May/June which deals with developing return to work/work from home/remote work policy. See your Association for more details. Public members of TwoGreySuits will have their own webinar(s). (more info to follow)
The surveys and studies out there now for consumption (just google it) strongly indicate employees will be taking a much stronger stand on employer work from home policies in the future, to the extent that it will be a stay or leave decision for approximately a third to half of employees who were forced into work from home as a result of the pandemic. About half of these new ‘work form home’ employees will require the discussion about a new hybrid model splitting their time between work and home. These arrangements may be the single most significant change in our workforce since the advent of computers on desks. Reading between the lines here means broad brush (all encompassing) work from home policies without consideration of employee input and individualized case consideration could spell disaster from a retention, company culture and ultimately productivity/profitability point of view.
So, what IS the right answer here??? The right answer is having a work from home policy that will be customized to suit the needs of each individual business and the employees working in those businesses.
Believe it or not I am STILL hearing people say “well my VP is anti work from home, so, we will not be entertaining anything new in that regard post Covid-19” or “my manager has stated many times they value in office presence to the point where work from home is only for emergency cases”. Other employees have heard “ my manager has already told our department we will not ever have a physical office to return to.” These views will now be severely tested and the test may be in employees taking matters into their own hands…and even deciding to leave.
Certainly there are elements of team spirit, companionship and camaraderie that are affected by in office physical presence. This cannot be overlooked at all; it helps to define company culture; the thing that attracts people and also which can also serve to drive them away.
Having a return to work plan that prioritizes employee health and well being goes a long way in supporting a strong company culture, which in return should help retention and also serve to improve recruitment. There are many things to consider when deciding exactly how employees will return to work. Some things on the table for sure include greater employee flexibility on choosing office hours, employer paid commuting costs, even more relaxed dress codes and employer provided day care to name a few. Many companies will become more flexible with work schedules, some will even look at how work is allocated and some will focus on improving manager-employee work relationships in a remote work environment. Other companies will become hyper focused on performance management in a remote work environment, even to a fault in my own view.
All this to say – we are at a precipitous or defining moment in the employee/employer work relationship as it relates to where and how work is done and ultimately work from home/remote work policy. Employers need to prepare for a return to work that is responsive to all that has changed including the brand new expectations of employees. Doing nothing here is not an option.
By: Ron Guest, Senior Partner www.twogreysuits.com
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