The remaining COVID-19 guidelines are in place till 19th July after being pushed back a month following the spread of the Delta variation of Covid-19. The current guidelines indicate that anyone who is able to work from home should do so.
The government is keen on workers returning to their respective working environments, especially within city centres to help bring business and community back alive. The government is also looking to cut furlough costs, payments of which are set to end in September ‘21.
The workplace has undergone significant change in the past eighteen months. CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development – professional body for HR and personal development) says that disruption from the pandemic has significantly altered people’s expectations around their role and responsibilities around work.
Now it is up to individual organisations to decide how they wish to proceed in terms of working arrangements. Differences may arise depending on personal circumstances and type of work, as well as the size of the organisation. To tackle the problem of navigating through individual situations, organisations adopt a hybrid working approach.
In order to meet the needs of both the organization and its individual workers, employers can choose to offer flexible, remote or hybrid working arrangements. However, employers expect workers back in the office by September ‘21.
To prepare for the return to work of most or all employees, organizations should put in place measures that can help to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. These measures include: social distancing, reconfiguring work and common spaces, changes to working hours or arrangements, increased and improved ventilation and sanitization.
Though guidelines currently advise employers to encourage workers to work from home, employers are planning for a return to the office soon. CIPD put forward three tests organisations should strive to complete before inviting their workforce back into the working environment. These are:
- Is it essential for that particular work to be done in a working environment or can the individual continue working from home?
- Is it safe to return (and have measures been put into place to avoid the risk of infection on-premises)?
- Lastly, is it mutually agreeable for both employee and employer to resume in-person working?
Alternatively, to comply with guidelines, organisations may take a long term approach such as natural wastage, early retirement and changes to working hours to reduce the number of people in the same place at any one time.
Workers have said the perks of working from home range from not having to commute to have more wiggle room to balance family, leisure and work. The pandemic has given employees more autonomy over their working lives than ever before.
Remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic has proven that workers are able to be productive and effective from the comfort of their own homes. Employers asking workers to come back in implies a lack of trust.
Interestingly, employers may state ‘company culture’ as a reason why they require staff to come in but too many employees – this culture revolves around surveillance and monitoring that comes with being in the office. Working from home gives workers more agency of their time which perhaps slightly shifts the power dynamics present in a workplace.
To maintain an effective yet satisfied workforce, employers have to be able to offer a blended or remote working arrangement to avoid the risk of losing employees to other organizations that are more able to meet employee needs.