What happens next…? Some initial thoughts

HR can provide advice and guidance to their leadership teams about what aspects of the current working situation they should retain or discard. I think being deliberate about what that looks like will be the key to the retention of staff. If the leadership aren’t clear about what their expectations are – let’s say about working from home – then staff may make assumptions, leaders may then get cross because “that wasn’t what I wanted” and then a decision is made to scrap working from home altogether because “it didn’t work”. What actually happened was someone made a very minor mistake, it was agreed that it was because they worked from home and it derailed the best opportunity anyone has (ever) seen for a universal working from home policy.

I should also add that I am well aware that HR have been busier than usually recently (can’t imagine why…) but here are some things that I’ve thought about that you may need to have answers to:

COVID-19 the reason everyone can now #wfh?

Everyone has had the opportunity to work from home for a long enough period for its novelty factor to wear off, to understand how it best works for them and what they like and dislike about it. I would like to think that there will be an upswing in the number of people, men included that want to work from home after isolation has ended. The question is, how will leaders and HR teams manage this and set expectations early about what this will look like?

I may be very naïve, but I hope that the results from the WGEA report for 2020/2021 demonstrate some improvement in the uptake of flexible work arrangements for both men and women. Might it be possible that the last 4-6 weeks of working from home instigate the biggest increase to the answer for question 14.1 in the WGEA questionnaire about flexible work options? I am excited to see the results.

For sustained change to occur, I think deliberation consideration need to be given to the following:

  • For working from home requests, think about who, what, when, where, how (not why – surely this question is obsolete…)? I would encourage you to have conversations about what your new way of working might look like. Asking your staff now via an online survey about what they want is a great opportunity to increase engagement and find out what expectations you will need to manage (for staff and leaders alike)
  • ow will you manage those people that don’t want to return to the office?
  • Where previously a well fleshed out “business requirements” excuse was good enough for rejecting a flexible work arrangement. You will need to do FAR better. That excuse will not cut it anymore.
  • People will want to go back to the office to interact with each other. How will you make this work, what options are there? Will you need to increase your social budget?
  • Flexibility will no longer be viewed as a nice to have with a throwaway sentence at the bottom of a job advert. It will be absolutely required. Those organisations that don’t will likely suffer to attract and retain talent.
  • What will be the implications for introverts in the mass return to the office? Will they rather stay at home? How will organisations meaningfully interact with them? Will offices be overrun with loud extroverts?!
  • Do you think you will see an increase in the number of flexible work requests? There may be individuals who now want to work fewer hours as they’ve been asked to work reduced hours for the last few weeks. How will you manage this?
  • Now that you’ve had an opportunity to see what work actually needs to be done, might you need to re-design roles?

In the rush to get people working from home, conversations didn’t take place to discuss what will work best, what support is available, what is expected, how often people need to check in. People have made it up as they went and, dare I say it, had to be agile and flexible in making it work. There was no other choice. Now there is choice, what deliberate decisions are you going to make?

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