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Friday, 21 January 2022 15:22

The Great Return

In what some might describe as an ahead -of-schedule move, the Government this week scrapped it’s “work from home” guidance with immediate effect, enabling workers to return to their pre-Covid places of work. Should we then be anticipating an en masse return to the workplace and expect businesses and employees to simply discard their working from home practices?

The “work from home if you can” message was re-introduced as part of the Plan-B measures that came in into effect in December last year, designed to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. After a sharp rise in Coronavirus cases, followed by an equally sharp fall, the Government decided to ease restrictions this week, as we appear to be over the peak of infections from the new Covid variant. From next Thursday, the wearing of masks in public spaces and Covid passports for large events and nightclubs will also be scrapped.

However, just because we’re allowed to go back to the office, it doesn’t mean that we will.

As we have discussed in previous posts, now that employees have had a taste of homeworking, many companies have come under pressure to maintain at least a degree of it. At our seminar this week we shared statistics that showed how 45% of respondents to a survey stated that flexible working was their top criteria when applying for jobs. This has made it difficult for employers to withdraw flexible and home working from employees for fear of losing their talent; especially when so many companies are finding it difficult to recruit new staff.

However, research also tells us that the majority of employers would prefer their employees to return, and we have seen some strong arguments to support their case. Understandably, productivity and improved communications come top of the motivators for having staff back under one roof.

Whilst, strictly speaking, employers would be within their rights in most cases to insist that employees return, there are moral, economic and ethical reasons why, perhaps they should not.

To start with, even if your employees are triple jabbed, there’s a raft of reasons why they may not want to be exposed to the virus, which coming back to work clearly increases the risk of. For example, they may have underlying health conditions or live with someone who does. They may be planning a holiday to a destination with strict entry rules.

You’re also still responsible for the health an wellbeing of your employees. The challenge of keeping them physically safe obviously becomes greater as more people share confined spaces but we must also keep a handle on employees’ mental health. A sudden change in routine or increase in potential risk may prove challenging for some individuals. Different people have different triggers so a blanket approach may not work.

Despite the get back to work message being dropped on us quite suddenly, we recommend taking a step back to survey the landscape and formulate a plan to return to the workplace if you don’t already have one prepared. It doesn’t have to be expensive or particularly radical, but some simple steps could help to ease everyone back into a routine. For example:

  • Plan and share rotas and shifts for returners
  • Communicate these in plenty of time to give staff fair warning and time to plan their own schedules
  • Holding return to work interviews with team members
  • Offer re-familiarisation days

And as people do return, maintain your safety practices and standards such as regular testing, offering sanitising stations, keeping rooms ventilated and minimising close contact between individuals.

Finally in cases where continued homeworking has been agreed as the accepted working practice, now might be the time to formalise it with an approved flexible working plan and new contract of employment that reflects this.

We’re still at work to support with any of the issues raised here. Contact as usual on us on 01452 331331 or drop us an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Read 276 times Last modified on Friday, 21 January 2022 15:25

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