Office spaces all over the country are still eerily quiet as a significant proportion of the workforce continues to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, as Australia continues to effectively mitigate the worst effects of the virus, companies are starting to think about what happens next – particularly around how employees can make best use of a hybrid home and onsite working arrangement.
A survey shows that up to 60% of Australians would prefer to work two to three days at home and use the office for the rest.
As government restrictions and health advisories continue to evolve around the world, it’s unlikely we’ll see a race to ‘go back to normal’ because we’re completely redefining ‘normal’ when it comes to where, when and how we work.
Over the past several months, employees have re-shaped their lifestyles to suit working-from-home arrangements and, at the same time, employers have invested heavily in improving their technology infrastructure and processes to make remote work as efficient and comfortable as possible.
When the game has changed so much, more companies are turning to the idea of hybrid solutions which would see employees return to the office for a few days a week – provided regulations allow.
As we head into 2021, it will become increasingly important for organisations to put strategies in place to ‘re-recruit’ their employees back into the office on their mission to strike the right balance between working from home and the central office environment.
Addressing the question of ‘why’?
Dividing working hours between the office and home could achieve a more varied approach to professional development, networking, and collaboration opportunities while still improving work-life balance and managing pandemic-related health and safety concerns.
A report by Boston Consulting Group emphasises that hybrid work models will be the future of work post-COVID-19, having the potential to supercharge business productivity and engagement among the workforce. The report also says well-balanced hybrid work models which deliver a multitude of benefits to businesses and employees will allow organisations to better recruit talent, achieve innovation and create value for stakeholders.
In 2021, the constructive impacts of implementing hybrid remote-onsite workforces could drive investment in new opportunities while positively influencing ‘reimagined’ company cultures. In an effort to re-recruit your employees back into the office, leaders should clearly communicate the new business goals, types of exciting projects and upskilling opportunities teams might be involved in as they become empowered by a new virtual and in-person working environment.
How can companies make it happen?
When encouraging workers to return to the office, it’s vital to appreciate there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach – everyone will now need different things to facilitate a smooth transition back. For example, working parents who have found it easier to balance childcare arrangements in recent months might have different requirements and expectations compared to your youngest recruits.
Continuing to support staff through flexible hours, mixing remote workdays with office days or even offering onsite childminding facilities could make a huge difference to re-recruiting employees who have or are planning future families. What’s more, we’ve also seen a generation of new parents enjoy quality time at home with their newborns, so expectations might have changed around what companies can do to support both maternity and paternity work and leave arrangements.
Flexible working arrangements which reduce the time spent commuting each week could also open opportunities for employees to live further away from the office. Whatever the circumstances, keeping the dialogue open with individual employees will be essential for successfully bringing staff back to the office when needed, whether it be on a full-time or part-time basis.
Crucially, re-recruiting employees as they return to the workplace will require a high level of sensitivity and responsiveness to individuals’ fears and opinions about a COVID-safe return to the office. To ensure all employees feel comfortable, companies should consider staggering start and finish times, so people can avoid peak hour travel, and a rotating approach to remote work and office work, so the office is never crowded. Employees who live with elderly relatives or people with underlying health conditions should also be offered more tailored support. It remains vital for all employees to feel safe so addressing people’s concerns and continuing to provide the necessary support is key to building an engaged and productive workforce.
Leading with your company values front of mind could also help motivate employees as they return because they will truly experience what it means to be a part of the organisation. For example, holding regular conversations with staff and being open to adjusting their working practices as needs change could turn core values such as trustworthiness, fairness and a positive culture that celebrates individuality into something more visible (and worth returning for).
The pandemic has changed the working world for good, and while we’ve proven remote work can be effective, there will continue to be many questions around the perfect balance between home and the office to maximise the benefits to both companies and employees. And this balance is likely to be different for different people. Showing that you acknowledge how times have changed and planning for how returning to the office will work for individuals in a new normal will be essential for successfully re-recruiting staff.
Need extra help to transition your workforce back to the office? We can help. Contact us today to find out more about our pre-vetted business support professionals.