The Future of Work post COVID-19 Lockdown

The Future of Work post COVID-19 Lockdown

Woman with baby working from home

With the global spread of COVID-19 in early March 2020, employers across the world were forced to quickly close offices, pack up equipment and implement short term plans to keep their businesses operating as usual. For most office-based companies, this meant a change to working from home and communicating with colleagues via video calls, and while some organisations already operate a remote working policy, for many this has been an entirely new experience and has brought its share of challenges.

Most of us are now settled into our new working environments and are used to our new routines, but with the pandemic showing some signs of slowing down and we edge towards a return to normality, we ask the question, should we really just go back to how things were or have we seen a shift in workplace behaviour that will change how we work forever?

Here’s our predictions for how we see businesses operating in the future, post COVID-19…

“Employees and employers have had to adapt to an unprecedented amount of change in recent months, change that would have been unimaginable to us in the not too distant past. Whilst this has increased productivity, accelerated the pace at which we work and created an environment for creativity, it has also brought negatives to business, individuals and families. Although we may still be feeling the effects of the recent pace of change, we must now look to what our future will look like post COVID.”

Rebekah Tapping – HR Director, Personal Group

Remote working is here to stay

It has been widely suggested that this period of remote working is a glimpse at the future and that working from home will become a more permanent change than first thought. As businesses and employees grow accustomed to this new way of working, there are clearly several benefits to continuing this, post COVID-19. One of the biggest factors for many organisations is the savings that can be made. With more employees working remotely, there is less demand for a large office building, meaning substantial savings on building leases, heating and electrical costs, maintenance and more. Don’t think that all offices will disappear though, as not everyone can work from home, but workplaces may start to look different. Several businesses might share one building, while others might just hire a venue once a month to bring all staff together.

“There are many positives to working from home, including environmental, personal wellbeing, managing family commitments etc, but it can have a negative impact on mental health with social interactions being reduced. What employees are likely to want is flexibility and the ability to control and choose their own working environment. Employers and line managers are going to find it difficult to say that working from home won’t work.”

Rebekah Tapping – HR Director, Personal Group

On the other hand, there are some employees who don’t prefer working from home, whether this is due to various distractions, the struggle of juggling a work-life balance, or just that they prefer commuting to a physical workplace to be in the company of others. In this situation, employers may look to introduce a rota with different teams meeting up in the office on different days. This is something we’ve seen more recently, enabling business to operate effectively whilst at the same time complying with social distancing rules.

At the same time there are financial benefits for the employees too – saving money on commuting, office lunches and other expenses. And, with less cars on the road travelling to and from work, there has been a positive effect on the environment and climate change.

Flexibility is key

The last few months has also seen an increase in flexible working hours. With schools closed, many parents are having to juggle work and family life and having flexible working arrangements eases the strain on these employees. Some organisations offer core working hours such as 10am–4pm but allow employees to start earlier or work later to fit in with their situations. Also, some employees may find they work more productively during a certain time of day and therefore adjust their hours accordingly. The key to this being successful is planning and making sure that the wider business and other colleagues are aware what hours staff are working.

Technology will play an important role

During this lockdown, organisations have been heavily reliant on technology to allow employees to continue working efficiently. There has been a huge demand for computing equipment and external monitors, and not forgetting video conferencing software to enable teams to communicate and hold regular catch up meetings – and this looks set to stay. As conference calls and virtual coffee chats slowly replace face to face meetings and project management moves from white boards to online, technology is playing an increasingly significant role and could become the new “normal”.

“With so many people moving to working from home literally overnight, there has been a significant acceleration of understanding of how to use virtual collaboration platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams and we’ve proved that through technology we can work remotely.”

Rebekah Tapping – HR Director, Personal Group

More emphasis on health and wellbeing

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that looking after the mental and physical wellbeing of employees should be a top priority. Being isolated from friends and colleagues has left many people feeling anxious and demotivated, which in turn has seen many companies introduce wellness initiatives such as virtual yoga and exercise classes, Employee Assistance Programmes, financial advice and other support helplines.

Employees have been encouraged to take regular breaks from sitting in front of their computers and are finding new ways to stay active while local gyms and parks are inaccessible. Before lockdown there had also been a steady rise in standing desks and comfortable seating to help employees combat neck and back pain and it’s likely that in the future, more companies will adopt these strategies. It is important that when we do return to work as normal, that we don’t dismiss the requirement and importance of health and wellbeing initiatives, after all, happy employees are productive employees.

The flipside to all this, is that some businesses simply cannot operate remotely. Those in working in retail, construction, logistics and transport, plus the amazing NHS and healthcare industry to name but a few – so it’s important to stress that every employer will look at their individual circumstances.

Will all these changes become permanent? It’s still too early to tell and not all these changes will happen at once. This period of working has giving us the chance to experience different ways of working and some businesses may have seen benefits, where others may have only been met with challenges. One thing that we can say for certain, is that the future of how we work is changing.

If you’d like to discuss more about implementing our Technology Benefit within your business, or you’d like to find out more about our other Employee Benefits, why not get in touch today by calling 01527 912 529 or send us an email to [email protected]

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