Posted 12 months ago by Karl Burnett

5 Ways to prepare for a successful return to work

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Years from now when we reflect on the year 2020 we will be reminded of the global pandemic COVID-19; the deadly virus that caused millions of deaths worldwide and catalysed a recession. It will mark the year, whole offices sent their workforces home for weeks and months on end and the ‘remote worker’ was adopted as an entire collective for those who weren’t essential workers. For professionals, this will be defined as the year that drove both societal and organisational shift; changing the way we work forever.

However, we aren’t there yet. We aren’t looking back and reflecting, rather we are living and navigating it right now and we are still trying to work out what the future of work will look like whilst simultaneously working out how to return to work succesfully.

What we know now

 Despite the initial uncertainty that first came with working from home, like any big changes that occur, we have now adapted. In adapting we have become confident in our new places of work (the home) and the central role in which technology has played, allowing us to do our jobs. Where there may have been some scepticism about employee capabilities working from home on a long-term basis, it has now been squashed by proof of concept. 

A big eye opener is the fact that employee happiness has increased during lockdownwith a home happiness score of 73 percent, compared to previous happiness scores in the workplace coming in at 65 percent. Therefore, it should be no surprise that almost two-thirds of employees would prefer a working-split between remote working and time spent in the office once the lockdown has come to an end. Whereas before it would have been subject to a companies’ own personal etiquette in terms of where one should work, now as companies restructure their business models for the future, they will have to think about the wants and needs of their employees first. 

A+E Network’s Vice President of HR Karl Burnetthas shared the 5 things that A+E Network will be doing in order to ensure their return to work is a successful one.

Company Culture is paramount 

‘Company culture is the lifeblood of any organisation. It is the strength of that company culture that gets you through the tough times. When you are suddenly no longer able to build that sense of community with face-to-face contact, you then have to work even harder. As a result, putting your people first and making certain that you communicate through a variety of methods is essential.

 At our recent board meeting, despite the economic climate, it wasn’t Finance at the top of the agenda, it was People. I think this is a real reflection of who we are as a company’.

Choosing where to do your best work is shaping the future 

‘The more choice we can introduce into the workforce the better. The office is far from dead - it is still a really important hub of activity for most companies. The framework needs to change but the workplace is still needed for collaboration, networking, learning and being social. It’s the place where we come together and share ideas. We carried out a survey of our employees and the most popular choice is to spend three days in the office and two days at home. Giving our employees the choice of where they feel they can carry out their very best work is an indicator that we are evolving with the change brought about by the lockdown’.

Be Agile 

‘We already had agile working in place, with no dedicated individual desks and an emphasis on collaborating and finding the appropriate setting that the particular piece of work or activity required... This agile way of working will only be enhanced more once we start implementing the various phases for those returning into the office. Our office is normally made up of around 200 people but for social distancing purposes we will only ever allow the max capacity to be 70, however when we first return we will only be allowing 40 in at one time’. 

Offer certainty in uncertain times 

‘Certainty is perhaps the most challenging thing to offer as no one really knows what the future will look like. We were clear with our employees from the very beginning that we were in no rush to return to the office. We did not want to be the first ones back. We have been operating very effectively and it was clear that our teams were responding incredibly well to remote working. We have given all staff the reassurance that they can continue full time remote working until the end of the year. This eliminated any worry for those employees who might be anxious about coming back to work before they were ready. It also allowed people to make plans around childcare and other caring commitments. At the same time, we acknowledge that many staff were keen to return as soon as government and health advice permits. With this in mind we have been working hard to get the office ready so that we can provide that choice.   

Safety first 

‘It goes without saying that the safety of our staff is imperative to us. Elaine Jackson is our amazing Head of Office Facilities Management and she has been the driving force behind our safe return to the office. Under Elaine’s guidance, we have conducted extensive risk assessment and made numerous adjustments to the office space in order to accommodate social distancing. We will have a booking system in place to allow people to request the days that they wish to use the office so as to ensure maximum capacity is adhered to. Elaine has made it a priority that we have a constant dialogue with third party providers such as cleaners, security and maintenance as well as our landlord and local authorities to ensure that our office is a safe environment.

 Finally, it is worth emphasising that weare consciously not trying to work out what the end game post-covid looks like. We are learning new lessons by the day. We know that this experience of extensive remote working has reset our expectations about how we get our jobs done – and we will undoubtedly adapt and incorporate those learnings. Having too fixed ideas at this early stage might impede a more creative view of how we want to work in the future. Rather, our main focus has been improving our capability around remote working and simultaneously putting actions in place to ensure the best possible outcome for our staff when we return so that we can have a successful future of work for everyone who makes up the A+E Network community.’  

At Career Moves we understand that everyone’s future of work will be a different one. There has not been a ‘return to work’ of this global magnitude and trial and error is to be expected. Attitudes have shifted and it is likely that things will never go back to the way that they were. Whilst we cannot change the events of the past, we can prepare for the future and in doing so we will be strengthening the happiness of our employees and therefore product of the work that they produce.

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