Some believe workers will never want to return to the office, while others insist the office isn’t dead.
Most can agree that the truth lies somewhere in the middle – and as the world moves into a post-Covid environment, supporting workplace culture while upholding employee compliance will be a top priority for business leaders.
While the right approach will vary dependent on a myriad of factors at an organisation, leaders must be astute to the risks they may face and implement appropriate strategies to manage these. As the providers of Australia’s best compliance programs, we propose the following tips employers need to know for a post-Covid workplace:
1. Assess WFH and incorporate learnings into a new hybrid office
While a recent study from Future Forum by Slack revealed 39 per cent of office-based workers would prefer to always or usually work from the office, businesses need to analyse the specific roles of their employees, to determine to what length a flexible working structure should be enforced.
Promoting employee productivity is a focus for all employers, and businesses intending to have significant percentages of employees working from home would be wise to include work from home courses into their model to ensure staff are mentally and physically prepared to work productively when out of the office.
Engaging a training partner will enable programs to be tailored to company-specific working from home policies. It might not be significant content changes, but this flexibility will ensure content is relevant to staff, promoting better engagement and knowledge retention.
2. Manage employees mental health needs
Great employers will already have practices in place to monitor and manage the mental health of employees, however, as workplace dynamics begin to settle into a post-Covid normal, it’s essential that new support strategies are introduced to support employees in this time of transition.
The pandemic affected everyone differently, with some people grateful for more time to connect with loved ones, exercise, and cook nutritious meals, while others spent lockdown disconnected, with increased financial stress or caring and education responsibilities, and finding it difficult to switch off.
These stressors are expected to accompany employees as they return to the office, therefore it has never been more important for all employees to be aware of, and know how to manage, their own mental health needs.
Business leaders and managers have an especially important role to play in understanding variances in staff needs, and can foster a supportive and productive workplace by knowing how to identify and manage mental health hazards and risks.
3. Changes to the physical workspace
Downsizing or reconfiguring office spaces has been rife, a physical representation of the scale of effects COVID-19 has had on the workplace.
Maintaining high standards for work, safety and culture is a challenge; in this time of change within the workplace, all will have to be revamped for safety purposes. This comes with the potential to cause negative impacts on culture if businesses solely focus on reducing human contact for safety purposes.
Human interaction and collaboration are necessary in creating healthy and productive working environments, and facilitating productive flexible conditions is dependent on good governance and proactive, consistent communication within an organisation.
4. It doesn’t end with a policy
Once policies are in place and employers know what the return to the office will look like, the focus should turn to socialising policies with staff. Safetrac offer multiple courses around welcoming employees back to the office, and safety more generally; practices that are invaluable when aiming for a seamless transition. Course content can be adapted to include important elements of an organisations policies, as well as linking to the relevant policy and internal procedures.
Employers should carefully consider the shifting needs of their staff as a post-Covid workplace is established. Business leaders need to understand individuals’ experiences and support people to think about what might work best for them, in order to enforce best practice strategies to inspire productivity in alignment with internal policy.
Following the record low 7 per cent office capacity seen in October 2020, businesses are increasingly utilising training resources in an effort to achieve best practice compliance and supportive leadership, within flexible working structures. However, consistent reviews of these policies and practices are required to ensure business practices align with employees needs not only now, but into the future.