Post-COVID Working Practices: What’s the Right Fit for Your Business?
Most experts agree that we’re now nearing the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, though we will have to remain wary for some time to come. Now that we’ve finally reached this stage, how are you planning to take your organisation forward? There are a lot of factors to consider. Smart business owners are using this as an opportunity to radically reconsider their business models and question working practices that have long been taken for granted. Every type of work and every business team has different needs, so how can you go about working out what’s right for you?
Back to the old days
For some businesses, there’s no way to make things work other than by going back as far as possible to how things were before. Indeed, some people feel a strong psychological need for this. They have coped with the stress of lockdown by looking forward to re-joining their workmates and getting back into familiar routines. Not everything can work quite as it did before; however, while infection remains a risk. Most businesses will need to introduce stricter hygiene measures at the very least, and on-site COVID-19 testing will help to reduce risks. Changes to your air conditioning system and measures to allow employees to work at a greater distance from each other may also be necessary.
A large proportion of businesses are planning to make some permanent changes in the aftermath of the pandemic. Not simply for safety reasons but because they have found that their employees preferred working from home in some ways or because they can see financial advantages in change. In some cases, employees will work from home for part of the week, saving money on commuting and providing them with a better work/life balance, then meet up in the office to do group work for one to three days. Employees could spend time in the office on different days, enabling their employers to use hotdesking and downsize to smaller premises. Of course, you will still need to take precautions if employees are coming in at all.
For some businesses, operating online has worked out so well that they plan to continue that way and dispense with the cost of maintaining premises altogether. That can be a very successful approach. However, you should bear in mind that it probably won’t work the same way as it did during the pandemic when other people move back to physical premises, so you will have to factor that into your calculations. You will also need to take into account the effect on employees. Providing home health and safety assessments will be necessary, as will establishing the best ways of communicating with them and ensuring they receive appropriate support if they experience mental health problems as a consequence of isolation.
Individual work plans
Some employers, aiming to return to traditional working methods, have found the situation complicated by new issues facing their employees. Those with underlying health conditions have, in some cases, been advised by their doctors that they should continue shielding. Others have developed long COVID and are too exhausted to commute every day even if they are still well enough to work. In cases like these, employers have to develop individual solutions, which may involve continuing to work from home, hybrid working or flexible working with hours and location adjustable to fit changing daily needs. This approach improves an employer’s chances of being able to retain valuable staff members.
Risk-aware visits to clients
Where employees routinely visit clients on their business premises or in their own homes, further adjustments may need to be made to working practices. Because it’s impossible to tell who does or doesn’t have a condition that may place them at continued risk, employees should always offer to wear a mask. They should also use hand sanitiser immediately before entering the premises and maintain social distancing if at all possible. If visits like this are less common, carrying out a test shortly before they occur may be a practical measure.
The positive side of all this is that employers and employees are now able to have conversations about what works best for everyone involved. Numerous studies have shown that workers who get more choice about where they work – and, potentially, the hours they work – are happier overall and show more loyalty to their employers. Changing working practices to suit their needs and priorities could have significant benefits for all involved.