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Returning to the Workplace – Post Covid-19 Restrictions Advice

Returning to the Workplace – Post Covid-19 Restrictions Advice

It is expected that the majority of employers will now be looking at returning to normal as soon as possible. One of the biggest factors in doing this is bringing employees back into the workplace and moving away from what for many has become the default position of working from home. 

Employers’ plans in relation to this are likely to differ based on a number of factors. Some will be keen to return as quickly as possible to a pre-Covid position, whereas others will see the benefit in changing the previous approach, perhaps with a move to hybrid working, as an example. 

For those employers looking to return to the pre-Covid position and bring all their employees back into the workplace as soon as they can, there is the possibility that there will be resistance from those employees that are unsure or concerned.  Employee resistance may prove to be a real test for HR Managers, HR Consultants and Heads of Department.

Other employees may simply have become comfortable or ‘used’ to working from home and may have different reasons for resisting the return. 

For this reason, asking ‘why’ will become so important.  It may sound obvious but many HR Managers and HR Consultants who don’t ask ‘why’ may end up falling foul of employment law.  For those that wish to work from home for important reasons (such as medical conditions) then understand why can ensure you follow a path that will not result in unfair dismissal or discrimination claims.  In the vast majority of cases enforcing a return will still be lawful but there will just be a particular way of going about it.  Asking ‘why’ will help employers get it right.

It is clear that for some businesses, there will be numerous benefits to returning employees to the workplace.

These will include, but will not be limited to:

  • Better teamwork. It will be far easier for employees to work on projects or particular pieces of work where they can do so at the same location. This may be because it is easier to collaborate on documents or files, because it is easier to have meetings and discuss matters in person, or simply because the employees can discuss things immediately in person when they are in the same location. 
  • A more social element. Whilst not directly related to work output, the fact that it is easier to socialise with colleagues and talk about matters that are not work related from time to time will have a positive impact on the mental health and wellbeing of employees, and will in turn improve attitude, focus and productivity.
  • Less distractions. Although to some extent this appears at odds with the point above, being in the workplace undoubtedly means there are likely to be less distractions than working from home where the distractions can be numerous, whether that is the TV, a games console or children and pets. This will lead to better focus and productivity.
  • Better access to training and support. This point is less focussed on formal training matters, but in circumstances where an employee needs to be shown how to do something rather minor, such as how to use a certain system or carry out a particular task, being able to show that employee in person what to do is more efficient than needing to either try and explain over the phone or relying on strong internet connections to allow a video conference to work effectively. Additionally, if an employee has technical issues, such as an IT problem, they are not stuck in a situation where they have no means to access support. Being in the workplace removes that hurdle completely.
  • Improved efficiency. On a more general note, employees will be able to work more efficiently in the office. There are several factors which can contribute to this, including access to better equipment and a proper workstation, which may not be available when working from home, and being able to discuss matters quickly with colleagues in person rather than needing to wait for a response to an email or arranging a call. 

Whilst it will change from employer to employer, you may find that there is a benefit to writing to your employees to remind them of the benefits of returning to the office to ensure that there is minimal resistance from those that have become comfortable with working at home and do not wish to change that. 

There are different ways that this can be done, but it needs to be done fairly and proportionately, for example, you cannot target those employees that you think will be difficult with this communication. 

We would highly recommend having trusted advisers in your corner to help you get this right. Wilford Smith’s business-focussed services specialise in Employment Law, Commercial Law, Company Law, Commercial Conveyancing and Regulatory and Criminal Investigations.

We can be your trusted adviser in all areas.

 

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