Our working lives have changed significantly in the last year and a bit. Remote working has become the norm for most, virtual meetings and digital events have replaced what was once face to face and our old commute time has merged into an extended working day.
At Human Resourcing, we’ve seen a significant upturn in the market recently which is fantastic, but one thing that’s stood out to us is that many employers are still uncertain as to when/if the return to the office will be.
Most roles we’ve been advertising are now hybrid positions; mixing remote work and a few days on site. It certainly feels like a hybrid approach is set to be a popular model with businesses in the future.
As result of the changes to how we work, what people want from employers has also shifted. Employee wellbeing and mental health support are now more important than ever when it comes to what employees are looking for from a business.
As businesses start to look at the transition back to the office whether that be full time or part time, how can they ensure that employee wellbeing is really supported?
Here are some ideas:
After over a year of working remotely, the camps are split over a return to the office. There have been several reports citing that big banks have called for their staff to return to the office full time, whilst many councils and contact centres are seeking smaller premises as they plan to allow staff to continue with remote work. Whilst many people have now adapted to working remotely, the key things that it lacks include social interaction with others, the ability to share information and knowledge organically, and many managers are reporting a drop in employee engagement. Staggeringly, ¼ UK workers said they would resign if they were forced to return to the office full time, so adopting a flexible approach to suit both the workforce and the future success of the business will be the best solution, although it may take some time to find the right balance.
Employees who feel a sense of belonging are five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. This is a key factor that has been impacted in the world of remote work, especially when the country was in lockdown. Many people felt totally isolated, and this was compounded by the fact they could only speak to colleagues through a screen or a phone. People have got used to working more independently as collaboration was so hard to replicate and management styles also had to adjust. As restrictions ease it is important that businesses start to support their teams in reconnecting both formally and informally. Whether it be setting up a weekly in person meeting to ease people back to normality or organising a socially distanced picnic to reunite teams. For employees who were new hires during lockdown this could be their first opportunity to meet the team in person. Regular catch ups will help boost engagement and get people working as a team again.
The next few months will require employees to adapt to more change and so the better this is communicated, the smoother the transition will be. Simply having a face-to-face meeting will be a novelty for so many who have worked consistently from home throughout the pandemic so re-introducing in person catch ups in a safe way is a great place to start. The needs of every employee will differ and so HR teams have a big task on their hands to ensure the wellbeing of the workforce. A consultative approach will be helpful in the initial phases of the return work as it will enable them to get a general picture of the feelings among staff. Having open communication between management, HR and employees will help staff to feel valued and that their views are being considered. Regular communication will also highlight any challenges that may need to be addressed early on.
- Wellbeing Strategy
Having a clear, carefully thought-out wellbeing strategy is no longer a nice to have for businesses, after the year we’ve all been through it is business critical. Everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been unique, some will have suffered financial loss, others will have lost loved ones. Some people will still be fearful of catching the virus and other people will be desperate to get back to having more social interaction. It’s important to consider all of these factors and build them into your wellbeing strategy to ensure that employees are aware of where they can go to get support should they need it. It could also be sensible to upskill managers or assign mental health first aiders so that there are people within the business who have the skills to deal with the complexities of some circumstances.
For many organisations, training and development of their staff took a back seat over the last year and even those who did utilise e-learning, new ways of working have meant there has been a shift in the skills employers most want from their employees. As things start to return to a new normal, it’s important that businesses identify any skills gaps in their workforce and spend time upskilling and developing their staff. This is particularly true of employees who have joined a company through the lockdown and were onboarded and trained remotely. Training and skills development are a great way to re-engage the workforce and bring a new sense of energy and enthusiasm back to the team, so building this into the return-to-work strategy will bring benefits to both employees and the business alike.
Whilst there’s no one size fits all approach to supporting employee wellbeing, having a core strategy, and carefully considered mechanisms in place to provide support will reinforce that wellbeing is a top priority within the business.
Employee Wellbeing has an impact on performance, engagement and job satisfaction so it’s important that employers prioritise it in all its forms.
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