By Dr Lynda Shaw, neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist.
For many of us Coronavirus has turned the way we work upside down. With more of us negotiating how to safely go back to work versus working from home, office workers and business leaders have never needed to be so flexible. But should we go back to the office or continue to work from home where possible? Here are some of the things employers and employees need to consider.
AS AN EMPLOYER:
- Be Flexible. It is very hard to create a case that your employees can’t work from home as they have more than likely proved over the last few months that they can do exactly that with great efficiency. Some people may be shielding, may want to avoid public transport, might need greater flexibility because of school issues and others might really want to go back to the office. Hybrid working (part time at home and part time in the office) is gathering strong momentum. Consider individual cases and keep communication open.
- Showing safety is paramount. It is very important that you are clear about how you are keeping your employees, clients and visitors safe by creating a Covid secure space. Clearly explain the extra precautions you have taken to do this. Reducing hot desking, shift creation and extended choice of working hours are in top demand. Health, hygiene and responsible management have never been such a top priority and you will be judged by your workforce, clients and colleagues accordingly.
- Construct a code of conduct – Be clear with your team about their hours and the need for them to be flexible too. Create set days when catch ups are necessary. Having a clear code of conduct is key.
- Reduce unconscious biases – Elevating diversity and inclusion has never been more important. Most biases are unconscious but can influence decisions in staff development, training, recruitment, promotion and rewards. Avoid having a bias towards workers who only share your views. Reduce opportunities for bias through self-evaluations, 360 evaluations, open communication and being aware of biases. There may be a tendency for more results-based working especially as budgets tighten in the recession but be careful about increased anxiety and stress when adding extra employee monitoring and performance-based roles.
- Build a strong relationship with your team members – Building trust between yourself and your employees ultimately creates loyalty which encourages staff retention. Experienced and loyal staff are more likely to go above and beyond and produce a healthy productivity output in a strongly bonded team. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Care about their anxieties – some of us will be struggling more than others about our constantly changing world or will be feeling more vulnerable. Each set of circumstances will be different. Show you care. Equally encourage a healthy work-life balance as this is vital for everyone’s mental wellbeing.
- You will be judged on performance – Employees are less likely to be jumping ship right now as job security is highly valued but equally bosses will be judged on how good an employer they are during this difficult time.
- Communicate to motivate – Stay in contact with your team often. Working remotely may mean it is harder to keep on top of tasks and track everyone’s progress. Find a way that works for you. A virtual daily update in the morning is often a good place to start. Offer employee rewards and share positive feedback (and negative if needs be).
AS AN EMPLOYEE:
- Working from home may seem like the perfect idea but it is possible that if you are working at home whilst all your colleagues are back in the office that the case of ‘out of sight out of mind’ may come into play and you could sadly be overlooked for great projects or even for a promotion. Make sure you are not being kept out on a limb and that a two-tier workforce doesn’t form.
- Be flexible – Just as you want flexibility from your employer make sure that you can offer the same in return when possible. Fairs fair and you need to strike a balance. Give your thanks to office leaders who have offered you requested increased flexibility.
- Avoid isolation – Isolation is associated with cognitive decline and lack of motivation which are damaging in multiple ways. Not being around colleagues or in an office environment can make you feel isolated. Ask questions, arrange virtual meetings and stay in the loop, otherwise you may be left feeling undervalued and isolated.
- Utilise the benefits of working from home – By all means enjoy the opportunities and benefits of working at home. Equally it is the perfect opportunity to show how motivated and diligent you are. Feeling as though you have more control over your hours and work projects should increase motivation.
- Prove your commitment – Be careful never to breach the trust given to you by your employer if you are working from home or alone in the office. Maintain deadlines, respond to emails and keep your phone on you at all times. Work your contracted hours as if you were in the office. Prove you are committed, efficient and serious about working from home.
- Avoid distractions – If you are working from home you are likely to have chosen an area to work in which has minimal distractions. If you are going to be working from home long term, make sure you have all the equipment you need to work efficiently including a good desk space and chair. Distraction can cause cognitive fatigue which can increase the risk of errors within your work.