The pandemic has reshaped the workforce landscape. An office return might not be in the cards for now for some. This Forbes article said that companies should stop going back to the old, pre-pandemic setup.
It continued to say that “forcing employees into the office without an adjustment period, safety measures or concrete plan will not only be overwhelming but can harm the culture and morale.”
So if you are a business owner or a manager, how would you reconcile all these different concerns? The key is to adjust the metrics by which the company determines employee performance and visibility. One thing that you might want to look at is flexibility.
Yes, that “f” word might not sit well with helicopter bosses. But adjustments have to be made to accommodate the post-pandemic changes. Here are some ways to incorporate flexibility in your business operations:
1.) Blended work locations-- This CNBC article said that some workers might not come back to the office.
It added that major technology companies, including Twitter, Facebook, and Google, have told employees they can work from home until the end of 2020. In some cases, that may become forever or, in the least, result in companies having 50 percent of their employees remote over the next decade.
It’s best to allow flexibility in terms of remote work. Maybe you can do a blended schedule if employee presence is needed. Allot days for off-site and on-site work to balance everything.
Higher productivity is also linked to a flexible schedule. This BBC article, which cited a remote work experiment, said that researchers saw a 13 percent spike in productivity levels among employees who work from home at least once a week.
Going beyond as a caring employer, you can also check if your remote employees have an ergonomic office complete with a height adjustable desk, an under-desk bike, or other needed office accessories. If they don’t have such, maybe the company can offer incentives that will help them build a better home office. That is a great way to preserve the employees’ physical and mental wellbeing even from miles away. And it shows that the company cares for its workers.
As employees come back to the office, there is a need to ensure that safety measures are being practiced like sanitation and social distancing. Even the office interior and design need to go a makeover: Confined spaces have to be built with plexiglass barriers and automatic hand sanitizers have to be installed. Outdoor gathering spaces for collaboration have to be redesigned without viral transmission. This New York Times article said that there is an ongoing conversation about how to reconfigure American offices to reduce transmission in the workplace.
2) Flexible schedules -- Let’s say that you want to make the workweek shorter so that your employees can have more time to take care of themselves and their families. You can try to make the work hours extend up to 10 hours for four days. Employees can choose the four days that they would report to work. This would work well for a business that has a set amount of work to be done per day or week but still has movable deadlines.
There should be a right amount of coverage or else the operations might suffer. You can make a semi-permanent schedule that employees should follow for three to six months. This way, you stay on top of the attendance of the whole team.
This kind of schedule offers myriad benefits. This CNBC article said that having a flexible schedule will help employees --especially women-- who are struggling to juggle work and home life. With this kind of arrangement, there is no need to choose between career or home.
3) Job sharing -- If you have a full-time position but cannot find a staff to fill it, you can opt for a job-sharing setup. This is a work arrangement where two separate employees share a full-time job. They share responsibilities for one work. This is common in industries that accept students, working parents, or senior citizens.
You can also save with this kind of arrangement. Part-time workers have a different set of benefits from full-time workers. However, you might need to take on more coordinating efforts to make sure that the workers are working on the same page.
The takeaway: Try what works
All the things mentioned above have their advantages and disadvantages. The transitions may not be easy but with the straight strategies, the pros will always outweigh the cons. At best, you might need to explore the settings that would work best for your company. This is a delicate time for business owners and employees but implementing the adjustments will bring in enormous benefits.