Returning to the office - working models for the short to medium term

After months of working from home, most people have now found their new normal. At the same time, many companies are now planning for a safe return to the office. However, what that office environment will look like will depend on the strategies implemented.

We discuss several options organisations can consider as they plan their return to the office in accordance with any local Government regulations and advice.

1. A full return to the office

14% of companies indicate that they will choose not to adopt a more flexible work approach after Covid-19. The most traditional route of the four, companies choosing a full return to the office will need to closely monitor government regulations while increasing office attendance.

A staggered return of employees is a must while social distancing rules are in place. 39% of companies plan to split their employees into different shifts based on specific criteria, such as job function. 38% will use importance to business continuity as the criteria for staff returning. Safety is not only a concern while people are in the office. The use of public transportation can also put people at risk. 35% of companies will therefore allow workers to travel outside of peak hours.

2. Partly flexible

86% of companies want to offer remote working to a greater degree after Covid-19. A partly flexible approach is favoured by most workers. 40% of professionals would opt to work at home at least one day per week. 27% of employees would like to limit working from home to a few days per month.

There are different ways of keeping workplace flexibility in place, such as creating smaller work groups so that people only come into the office for specific meetings or projects. This would result in people working from home a fixed number of days per week, or letting people book in office time based on their own needs.

3. Permanent flexibility for some

Moving entire teams to a remote working model can allow businesses to reduce their office space, resulting in significant cost savings. Personal preferences and working personalities aside, some jobs can be more easily carried out from home than others. An analysis of which roles transitioned smoothly to remote working can help in deciding which teams or functions can permanently be carried out from home. Based on our research, designers are most eager to work from home permanently (37%), followed by technology professionals (30%), and professionals in telephone customer service roles (27%). People in these departments do not need their colleagues next to them on any given day.

Professionals least interested in working from home on a permanent basis are HR professionals (11%) and people in admin and business support roles (16%).

4. A fully remote workforce

Companies that have adopted a 100% remote model can mostly be found in the tech sector, but not many organisations are expected to take the leap and drastically change to a fully remote working model. Those that do cite cost savings from less office space and the ability to recruit beyond a narrow geographical area, as the main motivators.

Providing clarity

Once an approach has been chosen, it is key to set new ground rules and clearly communicate these to all employees. Keep communication two-way and continue to monitor the effects of previously made decisions on both employee health safety and mental wellbeing. Make sure you can explain why certain employees have different privileges than others. It is vital to realise that it is going to take time to adjust to the new situation. Some of your employees may have caregiver responsibilities that they cannot change from one day to another. Others may find it difficult to focus in an office environment after months of working from home. Empathy, transparency and clear communication are key in creating a smooth transition for everyone involved.

Download our ‘Returning to the new world of work’ e-guide for more practical advice for business leaders. 

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