For the better part of six months everyone who could work from home has had to accept the new norm, glued to their computers, Zoom meetings galore and the somewhat challenging task of trying to find a viable space to work in an unusually congested home.
For many it was difficult to adjust at first, but a necessity to crack on, combined with the opportunity to avoid the daily commute has resulted in a certain affinity to working from home on a more regular basis.
Some companies such as Twitter have embraced flexible working after deciding that having an office space is nothing more than an unnecessary overhead. But as measures began to ease and the government called for people to get back to work, many companies were planning their return to office life… until very recently.
Here at Stand we had a week back in our new office (which we were all very excited about), with carefully planned ‘bubbles’ of six and a blend of in person and at home working. After a month of what felt like a slow return to some semblance of normality, the pandemic has reared its ugly head again, with cases rising and more stringent local lockdown measures being reintroduced, along with the government’s announcement asking people to once again work from home if they can.
The uncertainty poses some challenging questions for employers – first and foremost – how to keep employees safe and feeling motivated and engaged. For many, working at home has started to take its toll. The big learning has been that no two people’s circumstances are the same – whether you’re a working parent or navigating the complexities of shared living with dodgy Wi-Fi.
Of course, every organisation will choose to manage changes to working practices differently and much will depend on the size of the company and the culture. But as the days get shorter and darker, people’s mental wellbeing should be a key priority for business leaders. Employers must take the time now to really understand how employees are feeling and indeed, how they want to work in the long term. If lockdown has taught businesses one thing, it’s that remote and flexible working can be as effective as working in an office if the right processes and structure are in place.
With the government’s messaging at times feeling very complex, internal communications has become more important to businesses than ever. Senior leadership teams need to be transparent and upfront with employees and encourage open dialogue and ongoing consultations to ensure staff continue to feel like one big unit.
The coming months will be extraordinarily interesting as companies big and small continue to adapt to these trying times. Companies that embrace the change and see it as an opportunity to do things better will be in a stronger position going forward. Now more than ever employees want decisive and inclusive leadership from their employers. Authenticity, adaptability and ultimately strong communication are key if companies want to prosper and thrive in this new Covid era of working.