Stats show that up to 66% of employees have been working at home thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, as economies reboot, employers face transitioning their workforce into a new and adjusted work schedule. A new normal is taking shape, and it's up to employers to ensure that this is implemented safely.
Many businesses, including giants such as Twitter, plan to continue with remote working policies. Others are looking at transitioning to flexible work schedules.
Whether or not your company is pro remote work or not, chances are that many sectors will have to adapt to flexible working. Scientists forecast more pandemics on the horizon, and remote working is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
Fortunately, remote staffing comes with a number of benefits. These include cost savings on office space, as well as increases in productivity. At the same time, flexible work is not without its share of challenges.
Read on to find out the top flexible working challenges to pre-empt. As well as how your company can safely introduce employees back into the workplace.
PREPARE A FLEXIBLE WORKING POLICY
As your company begins its transition back to the workplace, one of the first things you will need to do is prepare a flexible work policy. Before this, your organisation will need to determine what type of flexible working meets its needs.
One of the most popular flexible working models is flexible hours. Here, employees choose which hours they come into work within a predetermined range. Usually, the employee must schedule in a certain number of hours minimum.
Other flexible work policies allow employees to work remotely from home. This can be done with or without requirements on when work is done, and how much work is expected.
Compressed work weeks, where employees typically take Fridays off, is another popular strategy. This is frequently known as the four-day work week.
Depending on your business type, you will need to ascertain which employees may participate in flexible working. It may not work for everyone.
Your final flexible working policy will need to be run by HR to ensure compliance.
ESTABLISH COMMUNICATION GUIDELINES AND COMPANY CULTURE POLICIES
Remote working has been shown to result in improved productivity from employees. However, this is not usually the case for communication.
Physical separation can often lead to breakdowns in communication. Without regular check-ins and communication guidelines, misunderstandings tend to take place.
To avoid this, companies need to establish routines and best practices for communications. For example, team leaders might be required to do daily check-ins via a platform such as Slack.
Protocols for any video meetings should also be established. The right application will need to be chosen, and guidelines put in place to ensure equal participation.
One of the concerns that employers and HR representatives have around remote work is breakdowns in team cohesion. One of the ways to counteract this is to establish a strong team/company culture.
Employers need to communicate, in black and white, any behaviour that's deemed unacceptable. To foster unity and collaboration, employers also need to actively encourage positive interactions.
In short, when it comes to remote working, company culture can't be a document that gets published and stuffed away in a virtual drawer. It needs to be referred to and implemented on a daily basis. Otherwise, cohesion breakdown is inevitable.
IMPLEMENT TRAINING FOR MANAGERS
Shifting from managing permanent in-house employees to managing teams that are at the office one moment and gone the next can challenge even the best of managers.
To prepare your managers for the task, ensure that they undergo proper training for managing remote teams.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRACKING TOOLS
As mentioned above, flexible work programs have been linked to increased productivity. However, some employees can still use this as a chance to slack a little. Others might struggle to stick to tasks when unsupervised.
To negate these possibilities, employees may want to try out time tracking software. These applications allow workers to log their hours and detail what tasks were completed when.
LEVERAGE NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Employers need to ensure that teams on flexible work schedules stay on track. They also need to ensure the safety of employees that are coming back into the office.
This means implementing social distancing policies and increased hand hygiene. Some businesses are also doing staggered shifts to reduce potential spread risks. Staggered shifts make it simple to trace points of contact if an employee contracts COVID-19.
To increase the effectiveness of social distancing measures, businesses can also use a variety of technologies. One of these is contact tracing software. By leveraging technologies like this, businesses can protect on-site staff.
INVEST IN HEALTH AND SAFETY CONSULTANCY SERVICES
Implementing thorough safety protocols across an organisation is no small task. To ensure comprehensive safety measures are in place, it is advised that companies refer to health and safety consultants.
Environmental threats such as the pandemic require more than the supply of hand sanitizer. Consulting services will assist you in responding to threats using multidisciplinary approaches.
PREPARING FOR A NEW NORMAL
Is your organisation ready for a new normal? With almost 43% of employees hoping to continue to work from home this new normal is likely to be partly remote.
Do you need to get prepared for flexible work schedules and partial physical return of employees? If so, take advantage of our contact tracing tool and health and safety consulting services.
If you are handling an increased amount of workers comp claims, you can also look into our workers' compensation and injury management services.