Employee Relations, HR, HR Updates

Returning to the Workplace

Throughout the Pandemic, one message to businesses has been to work from home where you are able to do so, which has resulted in many organisations changing the way they work in order to facilitate online working.

This message or guidance may continue for a little longer and there are discussions within the Government that legislation may be brought in to facilitate employees being able to remain working from Home, this is less than clear at present. What is clear however is that every employee that has worked from home for an extended period has had a chance to experience something that they now may not want to give up.

However, as we start to approach the final weeks and months of the roadmap out of lockdown, businesses and employees alike are looking at ways to reintegrate into the workplace. For some colleagues, the return to the workplace can’t come soon enough for one reason or another, whereas for some colleagues returning to the workplace is the last thing on their mind or the last thing they want to do.

Below we will examine some of the burning questions employees and managers alike may have including:

How can employers encourage employees to return to work when they are set on remaining at home?

How strong is the argument ‘I’ve been doing it (working from home) for 15 months now, why change?

The message from the government is still the same, and set to remain until the end of the road map on 19 July 2021, which is to work from home where possible. There are many reasons why businesses may require their employees to return to the workplace sooner including:

  • Collaborating with colleagues
  • Mental Health considerations
  • Training
  • Increasing Productivity levels
  • The role requires level of supervision not able to be fulfilled at home
  • The role is a supervisory role not able to be fulfilled at home

Whatever the reason is that businesses require employees to return to the office, there is a process that will help with the transition and hopefully bring employees back into the workplace happy and content to be back.

  • Discuss with employees that you would like to bring them back into the workplace and the reasons why
  • Listen to what the employee has to say and what they are feeling about their return to work
    – Are they apprehensive about returning to work? (What are the reasons why? Covid? Family arrangements?)
    – Are they happy to return?
  • If they are happy to return to work agree on a date of their return to the workplace
  • If they are apprehensive about returning, depending on there reasons for being apprehensive will depend on what you will need to consider:
    – If it is because of covid, reassure them of the covid secure guidelines that are in place and discuss any specific issues/reservations they may have with them, attempt to get an agreement with them on a return, even if it is a phased return to get them used to returning to the workplace
    – If it is for other reasons, try and identify the reasons with them, child care arrangements may have changed since prior to the pandemic, however, working from home is essentially working from home, not providing child care for children, especially if they are younger children who need more care. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was widely accepted that child care would be a requirement alongside working from home, however as the roadmap out of the lockdown has gone on, it is less and less acceptable for working at home to be the sole care for children as schools and childcare facilities have reopened.
    – If there is another reason for being reluctant to return to the workplace, discuss this with them to identify how it can be overcome for a return to the workplace that suits both the employee and business needs.

Where employees have strong objections to returning to the workplace, they may cite the government’s current stance of working from home where possible, it will be for the business to identify the reasons why they want employees to return to work, and explain to employees why they want them to return now and what relevance it has on the return.

They may also state we have worked at home for 15 months, why return now? Again, it will be for the business to identify the reasons for the return to the workplace now. It may be that the business has been ‘limping’ along with the working-from-home arrangements, and the business simply cannot sustain it any more as it is having more and more of an impact on the business.

Along with getting employees back to the workplace, there are other considerations to make, such as ensuring Health and Safety requirements for covid as well as the usual health and safety considerations. Ensuring the handbook is updated and still in line with best practices should also be considered.

If you would like any further advice or guidance for either HR or Health & Safety considerations, contact your dedicated consultant today. If you want to benefit from Park City’s retained HR support service please contact us today to discuss what help you need.

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