With discussions of the relaxation of lockdown becoming more frequent, our thoughts turn to what lingering impact we will see for businesses as they attempt to return to normal.
The lockdown has proved one thing:
1. Which jobs are essential and require an employee to be on-site
2. Which jobs have a larger level of flexibility and could be achieved remotely
This isn't something that is going to be easily forgotten by employees and so we need are looking at what employers need to consider when returning to this "new" normal.
First and foremost, employers need to be considering what their flexibility options look like going forward. With employees falling into two categories during the lockdown:
1. Those who can work from home
2. Those who can't work from home and have subsequently been furloughed
There needs to be clear guidance in place when returning to normal trading so that employees understand the expectations going forward.
This should include a newly revised flexibility policy, which takes into account the recent circumstances and provides a more transparent and structured process for flexibility requests. Which includes not only flexibility of days but flexibility in relation to months, working hours and remote working.
There was always an underlying judgement when it came to flexibility requests, they carried their own "black mark" purely because they were demanding and sometimes difficult to resolve. However, times are and have been (for a while) changing, moving - quite drastically - from the 9 to 5 to a workforce that is fully flexible, for both the employee and employers benefits. This, quite unique, situation has forced us that way of working - whether we wanted to or not - and in that same regard, we have to reflect that there is no going back to the 9 to 5 (or certainly not in the "old" way).
The "new" normal may also require your line managers to complete new training to ensure they are capable of fairly and responsibly managing flexibility requests - and that you, as the employer, are clear and transparent about your expectations for your resource so that no-one can fall foul. A lot of managers can go through their careers without ever having to handle a flexibility request, so to ensure consistency across your team, having them complete a short refresher course may be the answer.
The "new" normal may also ask that you consider, in entirety, how you want your office to operate. Do you want to offer longer hours? Shorter hours? Perhaps you want to consider putting your team on core hour contracts, so that there is rotational cover of telephones or in-office support over certain hours of the day but the rest of the working day can be done remotely.
Feel free to discuss any of the above with us. We're happy to help.