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Returning to the Workplace: Board Considerations

Posted: 27 May, 2021

The disruption caused by Covid-19 presented unprecedented challenges to businesses. To keep operations going, businesses in all sectors adapted to new ways of working which in many cases left offices, stores and factories relatively empty. Now, as the threat subsides and restrictions continue to ease, many have returned to work in restaurants, stores and factories with office workers just beginning to return.

But as people return to their workplace, what should Boards be considering to ensure a smooth and safe transition that takes into account changing attitudes to the work environment? Is there an opportunity to challenge the old way of working and reduce expensive office costs? Here are just a few of the key things Boards should be considering.
 

Physical Safety

The top consideration for Boards when thinking about returning to the office should, of course, be staff safety. Policies on social distancing, ventilation, mask-wearing and even lift protocol should be thought about and communicated so that staff feel comfortable their safety is taken seriously.


Employee buy-in

Safety, however, is not the only reason many are reluctant to return to their workplace. While some people may be eager to leave remote work behind, many have embraced working from home over the last year and according to various surveys, most would like to retain some flexibility going forward. In fact, a survey from February 2021 found that half of respondents would resign if denied flexible working. Having discovered the benefits of working from home, people are re-imagining the 9-5 and most are not willing to accept the pre-pandemic status-quo. Boards should therefore consider their ongoing policies for flexible working and should communicate with staff to understand their wants and needs.

In addition, when forming policies and workplace return plans, the time needed to re-acclimate staff to the workplace shouldn’t be underestimated. For office workers that have been working from home and those who have been placed on furlough, returning to the office may require a significant shift in mindset and Boards needs to be mindful of this.


Post-Covid Office Environment

The dramatic impact that Covid-19 has had on life for the last year has led society to question and examine what we want to bring back from pre-pandemic life and what we want to discard. As part of this, the office environment and how it can be improved upon to become a collaborative and energised environment rather than a chore is also being examined.

For many, the office is shifting from a place where staff perform individual task orientated work to a place where staff come to interact, collaborate and strategise before resuming their individual work in a place of their choosing, whether that’s at home, the office or on the move.

Boards should communicate with staff to understand what they want from office life and must use what they learn to create a post-pandemic office strategy. It will also be important to explain what is driving new policies. If asking employees to return to the office full-time, without meaningful explanations this could suggest a lack of trust in productivity and may breed discontent.


Embrace change

In the early days of the pandemic, businesses were forced to react and experiment to keep their systems online and many companies introduced new products, changed suppliers or made changes to reduce costs. Boards should reflect on which of their initiatives were successful, why they were successful and whether they can continue to succeed and should be adopted on a more permanent basis. If staff feedback suggests many would like to keep working from home a few days a week, Boards should consider whether they need to update office layouts to create more collaborative spaces or whether downsizing is the right option. Ultimately, Boards have the opportunity to embrace the changing work environment and if they get it right could increase employee satisfaction and productivity, while reducing office costs.

 

TMA UK is part of TMA, a global organisation that represents the interests of turnaround professionals as its members who have the skills needed to assist in these unprecedented times. If you need assistance, please contact our helpline on 0844 804 0116

 

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