One of the major factors that impacted businesses during the onset of the pandemic was navigating the switch to a remote work model. Your business likely facilitated the setup of home offices by procuring equipment, and video meetings soon became the norm. Coworkers who were used to conversing around the water cooler transitioned to instant and text messaging to try to keep in touch.
After this major switch, now comes the even more complex task of considering what the future of your company looks like as you move back to in-office attendance. Although many of your employees may have appreciated the flexibility and convenience of working from home, hours often became longer and terms like “Zoom burnout” and “remote work fatigue” became more and more common.
Even if some of your employees thrived with productivity and a deeper sense of independence, others found isolation and lack of structure a struggle (not to mention those juggling supporting their kids through online learning while working their full-time job). Some companies were proactive in offering reduced hours, extra-long weekends, or in-lieu days to give people more time to balance their personal life and extended flexibility for busy households.
With all this being said, what are your company’s plans for reopening? True, most companies saved thousands of dollars by switching to remote work, but is this now going to be considered a perk as opposed to an option? Will office space be scaled back as rotating in-office attendance is implemented (or eliminated)? If the big tech companies (that, let’s face it, seem to lead the pack when it comes to a lot of trends that attract and keep great talent) are switching to “remote first long term,” is it worth considering that the old office cubicle model has been changed forever?
The perks of remote office life are numerous, but as the pandemic wanes and more companies make the shift back to in-office work, many often forget that physically being present at work does come with advantages as well. For instance, some employees prefer the separation between work and home – many found that blending the two during stay-at-home orders was more of a challenge than a blessing. And even if productivity diminishes slightly, some still prefer the social atmosphere and collaboration potential of an in-office setting. This instant access to coworkers and management also makes collaboration and communication easier and more organic when everyone is in the same space.
If returning your employees to the office (even partially) is part of your plans, remember that this transition may be hard on your employees. First, outline a plan for remote work vs. in-office work and be completely transparent – think about whether offering a remote option is even feasible for your workforce and devise solid guidelines your employees can refer to.
Second, if you prefer that your employees make in-office work their new reality, ease this transition by making your workplace more enticing than it used to be. You may want to invest in workplace amenities that add value to your employees’ days, like ergonomic workstations, dedicated workout and fitness facilities, in-house catering, etc.
Third and perhaps most importantly, give your employees a say in what this transition looks like. This is one business decision that affects your employees’ health and wellbeing and allowing for their input could mean the difference between losing or retaining key talent.
While time will tell how this all plays out, we are sure there will be more adjustments as employers and companies navigate what the future holds. Even employment law will likely need to adjust. There are reports out there that if remote work is off the table, this may be a dealbreaker for up to 50% of the workforce. Perhaps the bottom line is that, as things settle back in, flexibility will continue to be the most important outlook.