With the vaccination drive so far proving a rousing success and COVID-19 restrictions gradually easing across the UK, many businesses are now looking at a feasible return to the office workspace. Although the overall picture differs depending on where in the UK you are — with Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all presenting different roadmaps for lifting coronavirus restrictions, it is hoped that most of the country will have the opportunity to return to the workplace by the summer.
Yet it’s important to remember that we’re not out of the woods just yet. There is the possibility of yet another wave incoming, and although the vaccine should protect many of our most vulnerable, businesses should still be prepared to return to a from-home model if it becomes necessary.
Employers across the UK are presented with a difficult choice, with many contemplating and weighing up the benefits of a full-time return to the office, sticking with a from-home policy, or moving to a hybrid model of both. Employee confidence in a return to work is rising rapidly, with 71% feeling optimistic about a return to work. Yet at the same time, many business leaders and employees have felt boosted by the possibility of remote work. A recent survey by the Office For National Statistics (ONS) suggested mixed results, where some employees were vastly more productive, whilst others struggled. What you lose in workspace sociability and culture by going remote, you might be able to gain in being able to recruit talent from across the UK. Similarly, if office space overheads are a concern, then even going to a hybrid model can cut back on those costs.
There’s also the need to factor employee wellbeing into the return to work, both physical and mental. Paying attention to their needs, whether you decide to return to the office or keep things remote is essential to a happy, healthy workforce. Some people find that the morning commute drains them of energy before they even set foot in the office. Others relish the sociability of office life. Some have cramped home office spaces, whilst others have a positively luxurious setup. Beyond that, there are many who are still anxious about a return to face-to-face life. After the last year of near-constant disruption, nobody wants to feel as if things are rushing back, so taking things slowly and communicating clearly is essential.
And how will a return to the office affect new staff? If you’ve been hiring during lockdown and expect staff to return to offices, your new hires will find themselves face-to-face with people they’ve been working with but have likely never met — it will be like onboarding them all over again, and is another scenario which requires a delicate hand.
These questions of course, are all business- and people-specific. How you respond to them is based very much on what kind of business you are and your priorities.
At Plus One Personnel, we frequently work with our clients to assist with hiring and onboarding new staff. If you’d like any further advice on this matter, or on the questions around returning to work, please contact us.