Ways of working didn’t undergo any massive change in the past century. Despite increasing adoption of digitization, majority of companies continued working from office. In developed economies work from home (WFH) model started gaining some traction in the recent years but things were not moving very fast. In India, like China, WFH was not even perceived as a mainstream method of working pre-Covid-19.
The pandemic compelled such companies to adopt the WFH almost overnight, and to everyone’s surprise, it worked well enough. Now, almost a year into the pandemic, infection and death rates are decreasing and vaccination drive is accelerating. Months of November and December saw a substantial workforce return to office.
However, a large portion of the urban workforce is still working remotely. Companies are in the process of working out which portion of the workforce must return to office and which teams can continue to WFH. Although a hybrid work environment is emerging as the dominant trend, companies must ask a substantial share of their employees to return to office.
Returning to office from remote work can be tricky. Companies must be very careful about how they communicate about this shift with their teams. Here are a few insights about getting your workforce back to office, as smoothly as possible, as suggested by INC and India Today.
Ensure a safe workplace
When telling your employees about returning to work, communicating about the safety protocols that would be implemented should take topmost priority. Companies must give utmost importance to employees’ health and well-being during returning to work and the same must be adequately demonstrated to put employees’ anxieties at rest, so that they are able to make a smooth transition without any fear.
Be reasonably flexible
Flexibility is one of the greatest advantages of remote working. When asking employees about returning to work, some degree of flexibility must be allowed, even if temporarily. If employees are expected to maintain the pre-Covid working hours strictly, it might backfire. Many employees might have children, who are at home or have other domestic responsibilities due to the pandemic impact.
Some employees may not want to lose time in peak hour commute. Whatever the case, allowing flexible working hours is likely to get a better reception from employees and simplify the transition. Moreover. Companies must also take into account that many employees might not want to return to office. In US, a survey conducted by Slack found that almost a third of employees wanted to continue working remotely and might choose not to return.
For some companies it might not be feasible to offer the level of flexibility that people got used to when working remotely. It shouldn’t be a problem as long as you provide some alternatives like flexibility in timings or allow them to work from home on certain days and work from office on other days or split their work between remote working and working from office in order to avoid commuting in peak hours.
Offering alternative services like a temporary creche or non-traditional baby-sitting services, until schools reopen can impress upon employees, companies’ commitment to ensure their well-being, and help in getting them back to office.
In the light of current events, it essential that leaders at all levels express empathy when interacting with employees, and if required, adequate training to sensitize them should also be arranged. It is recommended that managers and business leaders communicate openly with the employees and boost their morale with a “heart-to-heart” connect.
Transparency has become a priority in company-workforce dynamics today. An open, transparent and two-way communication is critical in keeping the employees informed about the changes that the company is undertaking due to the changing situation. It helps employees to be prepared for what’s coming up and the two-way dialogue rejuvenates the workplace synergy.