As lockdown restrictions ease and employees begin their return to work, employers are facing a new set of challenges. Lockdown has created fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt about what work life will look like after the restrictions are eased.
Currently a huge number of employers are still ignoring this, and pretending that their teams don’t have any concerns.
However, I’m going to take a guess that this will not be the case, for quite a large proportion of people!
Only those who want to help their employees transition back in to work should read on…
It seems that some people are concerned that they will return to work and then lose their job, given the almost complete close of the economy over the past few months… Looking at the data this makes total sense!
One of the biggest concern’s employees seem to have about their return to work, is the security of the job, with unemployment expected to rise from 3.9% to around 20%, it’s no wonder employees are worried about how much longer they might be required for.
According to a recent survey, one burning question is, “should I be using my time to look for another job rather than returning to work?”
This is why it is so important that management teams share plans for ramping up business with employees. Even if that starts slowly and means fewer hours of work or no overtime. This is not the time to lose skills sets out of your business, as flexibility is going to be everything going forward.
One common concern was shown in a survey of over 2,300 UK employees in the software sector. The concern was that employers might not realise the strain lockdown had put on employee mental health. Again, and as I have been saying for years, employee wellbeing has to be a key part of SME and larger business strategy.
Many teams and some of my friends question whether it is safe to return to work yet, given the daily numbers from the government don’t seem to have fallen off of a cliff edge as yet.
After all, it’s one thing to be allowed by law to return to work. However, it’s another to know that you won’t be putting yourself or your family and friends at risk.
Many concerns relate to social distancing and the numbers of people in any singular given place that you need to pass through or remain within it.
We are all familiar with the phrase ‘social distancing’. It has been one of the most repeated phrases during lockdown.
So, it’s no surprise that when Robert Half UK surveyed more than 1,000 office professionals about how they feel office life will change once workplaces re-open, many of the responses seem to focus on a single anxiety, ‘social distance’.
Here are some of the outputs from that survey:
· Being in close proximity to others (56%)
· Travel for business (57%)
· Attending in-person business events (59%)
· Shaking hands (72%)
What employees expect when they return to work:
Robert Half UK asked the same group about what they expected from their employer once they return to work.
The most popular responses were:
· More opportunities to work from home (79%)
· Better cleaning procedures (79%)
· Fewer in-person meetings (70%)
· Staggered work schedules (55%)
· Mandatory face masks (52%)
· An adapted office layout (46%)
Of course, just because a survey says that this is what a lot of employees want or consider a priority, does not mean it’s a rule you should follow as industry best practice.
Looking at the numbers and having looked over a number of different perspectives on the return to work, it’s pretty clear that HR departments and SMTs are going to be very busy evolving their businesses to help their teams feel safer.
Whilst the physical aspect of the lockdown are all to evident, one of my more major concern is the psychological outputs of the situation. Already I’m aware that the more emotionally aware around me are evaluating how going back to the workplace.
Within the leisure sector, simple decisions on operation of public toilets and how to serve a meal from a distance are all major concerns. I feel that a great number of venues simply won’t be able to cope with the practical reality of even basic open, given the constraints.
Whilst the country obviously needs to return to work, as soon as its safe to do so. I can’t help but feel that the government haven’t looked how realistically practical operations are for things like restaurants and visitor attractions that rely on high footfall and availability of facilities to attract customers. Whilst trading is vital the risk of this needs to be balanced against the wellbeing and Health & Safety of employees.
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