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Returning to the Workplace – Employee Reluctance

As COVID active cases appear more and more under control, many employers are looking to a return to the workplace. What happens when employees resist the return? Other than the legal and health issues required by an employer for a COVID Safe Workplace, how can you overcome resistance from your employees?

Firstly, is the return to the workplace absolutely necessary? Can you objectively justify the need and evidence that productivity can only increase by working back at the workplace?

One common resistance may be that an employee believes they were capable of performing at full productive capacity from home and therefore does not see the need to return to the workplace. Whilst they may have been productive at home, are you able to evidence that this was also during a time of reduced overall business activity and therefore the functions they would perform only at the workplace were not necessarily required whilst they were working from home.

Perhaps evidence may include the fact that suppliers or customers were also working at a reduced capacity and this reduced the need for your staff to function within in the workplace however now that this has changed, the requirement exists for your employees to return.

As an overview, if you can evidence with data why it is essential that employees return to the workplace, use it to strengthen you case.

Secondly, discuss their reluctance. Understand their reasons for not wanting to return. Some examples may include:

  • Commute by public transport or other where COVID safety would be beyond both their own and the employers’ control;
  • Cost savings such as travel, laundry expenses etc;
  • Reduced meetings and other distractions that would occur if in the workplace resulting in greater productivity from home;
  • Easier to manage commitments such as child care and other activities;
  • Greater flexibility in when and how work is performed when home based.

Consider the reasons provided. Determine if there is any way you can assist with their concerns ie., part time at workplace, part time at home, change of work times to reduce commute times and crowd numbers.

Thirdly, consider ways to entice your employees back. Hold welcome back events such as morning teas and lunches. Ensure your management are meeting with employees regularly to discuss any problems or concerns they are facing with the change of coming back to the workplace. Remember it is natural to make routines around your situation. If employees have been home based for months, they will not be in a routine that requires travel to and from the workplace, or they have possibly cancelled any childcare provisions whilst they have been at home. This will mean that some of your employees are also dealing with the impacts of a change in routine for dependents.

It is important to reinforce the good things as well as the operational needs of working together in a central location.

This article was originally published by HR Advice Online. For more information about our partnership, click here.

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Posted in The world @work

Outdated office routines: How to manage the top 5 workplace traditions we love to hate!

While the world @work has evolved significantly over the last 30 or so years, some of the quirks of the office remain pervasive. Here is my take on some of the Most Hated Office Traditions as surveyed by CV Library and reported by HRD Editor Australia. You can read the full list here.

Survey says…

9-5 working hours (53%)

I once worked in hospitality and despite the unsociable hours, early mornings, late nights and ever-changing shifts that included weekend work, it was never boring or predictable. Many organisations now offer flexibility, with core hours that allow employees to manage their own start and finish times whilst working the same number of hours over a week.   

Long meetings (34.6%)

When you work on projects, meetings can be useful for sharing ideas, setting strategy, technical problem solving and quick decision-making. However, they can also be disruptive to workflow, unproductive and eat into the time available for the tasks required for delivery. Schedule meetings on the same day(s) where possible and allocate blocks of time in your schedule for focused work on specific projects. 

Professional dress codes (30.6%)

I’m split on corporate attire. As a guy, I find it’s like wearing a school uniform: An easy decision process when getting ready for work, but it can be pretty uninspiring wearing suits every day. On the other hand, the call centre workers in our building take relaxed to the extreme. You never know what they’ll be wearing when you see them in the lift, but you certainly know where they work! Our workplace has casual Fridays once per month, some professional services firms do them weekly, while other businesses have redefined the dress code altogether. For men, this could mean chinos, polo shirts or jeans and a smart jacket.

Having to work in the office every day (29.7%)

If you’re regular reader of this blog you’ll know we’ve written plenty about flexible work – currently the top response on a candidate’s wish list. If you have the option to work from home or another office, use it as I do to focus on those steps in a project where you need to work without distraction, then come back to the office during the collaborative phases.

Set lunch hours (17.8%)

While many workers don’t take lunch breaks (you should) or eat properly (ditto) during the day, others are constrained by set hours that don’t suit them. If the operational needs of the business don’t allow you to set your own schedule, try mixing it up by arranging swaps with colleagues. Personally I’m not a big coffee drinker (only one per day), but I don’t mind doing a tea round (7.7%). It’s an opportunity to take a short break, walk away from my desk and get some fresh air.

I will be taking this question to my colleagues Family Feud style at our next team meeting, survey responses to be provided on notice.

What aspects of your workplace work well for you? Which ones do you love to hate?

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Posted in The world @work

Money can’t buy you happiness, but flexible working can.

Flexibility now ranks top amongst what’s important to employees (even more than pay), but what does it mean in practice?

Flexible working arrangements can come in many forms. For some people being flexible will mean compressing a five day week into four days; for others it will just be having a long lunch break to fit in a gym session. For many it is just being trusted to get the job done in the timeframe required, no matter where or when you do so. Trust people to do their job and more often than not, they will repay by putting in greater effort whilst working.

For employers, the tangible benefits of workplace flexibility include: reduction in absenteeism, increase in employee morale, higher engagement, greater commitment and improved retention. In fact over 55% of millennials are expected to stay more than five years when given more flexibility at work [Deloitte Millennials Survey]. However there are downsides to promoting some aspects of flexibility, such as working from home. When people are not present in the office it can impact the social aspect of working face-to-face in a team. Despite our connected business world, working remotely online can lead to disconnection or even loneliness. Roles that require regular open and collaborative communication can also be frustrated by flexible working.  A lot of managers report finding it hard to adapt to managing people who they can’t see, which means we still need to work on addressing those concerns.

On the upside, allowing employees to work flexibly can have a massive impact on people’s health. Stress is well-known to be one of the biggest causes of illness, leading to a number of other physical health related problems. For those of us who never seem to have personal time, flexible working hours reduce the stress caused by other pressures in life, allowing us to adapt our schedules to accommodate commitments such as family, sports activities, other hobbies and interests or just get a few chores done. It further relieves pressure on transport infrastructure, saving commuting time, which has environmental and health benefits for those travelling as well.

A major downside to flexible working is that it doesn’t suit everyone, nor every job. Flexible working doesn’t work for people who can’t motivate themselves; some people need supervision to get on with the job. With flexibility comes responsibility, so while there’s no harm in putting on a load of washing while you work, other distractions (your phone, social media, online shopping, what’s going on outside…) are still present. Some managers are still beholden to presenteeism, so if you’re not seen, you may be overlooked to contribute on interesting projects or miss out on career development opportunities.

I understand that flexible working isn’t for everyone and some jobs just aren’t that flexible. But I do think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and more people should be given flexible working opportunities. Would anyone begrudge that spending a few more hours each week with their families and friends, enjoying hobbies, reading, exercising and travelling wouldn’t have a positive impact on their professional life? To varying degrees it’s already happening in some industries. It’s up to us to make it work.

 

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work