Transitioning Well | 26 April 2021
Once seen as a perk, flexible work became an overnight necessity for almost every workplace in 2020.
This pivot was particularly challenging for small business owners who had to adapt to meet the changing needs of their organisation and their people – generally without the help of a human resources team or Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
We’re now at a major turning point in the future of work. For many workplaces, there won’t be a return to ‘business as usual’ for a long time, if ever.
The challenge now for business owners is to determine their own ‘new normal’ as they juggle the needs of their organisation with what works best for each employee.
So, whether your staff are busting to get back into the office, want to do a mix of remote and in-office work, or don’t want to come back at all, read on for helpful strategies to support your employees’ transition back into the office.
Pat yourself on the back and be thrilled to have eager workers who are willing to jump back into office life.
However, for some employees, working from home triggered stress and anxiety due to issues at home, work–life imbalance or the loss of their work identity. In these cases, the adjustment period will still take time.
Some returning workers may experience a ‘reverse culture shock’ after returning to work, a phenomenon many ex-pats experience when they re-enter their home country.
How this plays out at work is that employees may have idealised what their previous lives were like and now have unrealistic expectations of the future – or they didn’t anticipate for the workplace to change in their absence.
If your employees fall in this camp, they’re in the majority. International research from the Boston Consulting Group found that 88% of business leaders expect a more hybrid way of working in the future.
Pre-COVID only 15% of companies had a set remote work policy. Now 76% of companies have one.
Hybrid working arrangements, which blend working remotely and working from the office, can provide an effective workable solution.
If implemented well, hybrid arrangements can bring big benefits to business and their people, including a more sustainable work–life balance, improved wellbeing, and increased staff engagement and retention.
There’s no surprise that after 12 months of working remotely there’s some apprehension about returning to the office. A recent Roy Morgan poll commissioned by the City of Melbourne found that 74% of city workers were reluctant to go back into the office.
This ‘return reluctance’ is especially prominent for workers who might have had positive ramifications from full-time remote work.
Research conducted by Atlassian found that 39% of women want to work fully remotely (as opposed to a mix or from the office) compared to just 31% of men. For many women, the loss of expectations of ‘presentability’ freed them up to focus on doing their jobs – a benefit now motivating many to continue working from home.
Some employees will be experiencing concerns about their wellbeing and safety at this time.
Business owners have not only a moral obligation but a legal obligation to ensure people feel safe at work. Transition roadmaps need to ensure workers are both physically and mentally supported to return to their usual workplace.
Businesses that prioritise people and culture now will reduce employee anxiety and uncertainty in the future.
If a remote or hybrid style of work isn’t an option for your company, consider a compromise or implement short-term and long-term strategies to help your individual employees in their transition.
Still not sure where to start? We recommend downloading the template from COVIDSafe Plan, which gives you practical steps to put into practice for your business.