As restrictions continue to ease, there’s no short supply of information for business owners around what measures they’ll need to put in place for when staff return to the office. Safework Australia has a dedicated section on their site detailing the various new Covid-19 related rules and regulations companies need to comply with. Our previous blog also explored a number of measures companies will need to consider in various areas of the office, and practical tips to keep staff engaged with the new rules and regulations being put in place.

Whilst businesses will inherently comply with these regulations to remain open and operating, it’s becoming more apparent the extent to which these new measures will impact both the physical office environment and each employee. It brings about a whole new set of challenges, obstacles and questions.

A common challenge companies will face is a hybrid style workforce. This is a result of leading experts, such as Robert Keft from Safety Australia Group, strongly encouraging businesses not to have all employees to return to the workplace at the one time. This means some staff will continue working from home indefinitely, while others will return to the office fulltime, or the third scenario is a mix of both where employees are bouncing back and forth between working in the office and from home for specific days.

Broadly speaking, prior to Covid-19, it was normal for most employees to work in the company office and only a minority of staff, if any, would work remotely. This approach was completely flipped in March when we saw everyone being forced to work remotely, with only a minority of staff, if any, working in a physical office.

Having a hybrid style workforce requires flexibility and careful consideration in order to create a balanced solution that incorporates staff’s needs. This is not an easy task and raises a lot of tough questions:

  1. Affordability – can your company afford each employee having two workstations set up in the home and at the office?
  2. Dress code – if people are working from home wearing more relaxed attire, does the overall company dress code need to be relaxed to accommodate?
  3. Meeting rooms – are meeting rooms equipped to handle half of the meeting attendees to be working from home, while the other attendees are in the one meeting room?
  4. Rostering – how do you determine which employee works in the office on certain days? Does it need to be done on a team by team basis to allow for greater team communication?
  5. Layout – do desks and workspaces need to be moved to allow for appropriate distancing measures?
  6. Hot desk areas – if individual workspaces are temporarily removed, does that mean only a few desks spaces are required?
  7. Cleaning – can companies rely on every employee to maintain vigorous hygiene and cleaning standards?
  8. Productivity – is it more effective and productive if employees just stay home if there’s only going to be a portion of staff in the office?

Although every company will have their own challenges and questions to overcome, this next wave of transition presents an opportunity to address and correct any newly formed habits or behaviours that have impacted the overall team morale. These new behaviours could be positive or negative, it’s more a matter of taking the time as a team and as a leader or manager, to reflect on the past eight weeks to understand individual preferences and help build cohesive team environments that all team members find engaging, energising and effective. Should unwanted behaviours go unaddressed or are ignored, they can have a long-lasting negative effect that become harder to manage when eventually the whole team are back together and working in the same office location.

As people continue to work in isolation, check and ensure your team are receiving enough feedback around how they’re performing. In an office environment, you get feedback formally and informally all the time. It may also be worthwhile speaking to your team around their preferred method on receiving feedback – are they more comfortable with a phone call instead of video calls, or is a face-to-face meet up in a coffee more suitable? Understanding how much feedback your team require, and providing it in a way they’re comfortable with, will ultimately support their sense of progress and achievement.

Another key aspect for consideration is around cost-effective ways to motivate staff. With many businesses experiencing a decline in revenue, the traditional methods of reward and recognition, such as paying for gifts, lunches, awards etc., may not be viable. Budget cuts will affect opportunities for wage rises, hiring new talent and staff promotions. This then raises the question on how to keep employees engaged and motivated during this time.  Cost effective but practical ways could include:

  • providing employees time to upskill
  • internal training programs including mentoring opportunities
  • creating new forms of recognition
  • continue with performance reviews to provide direction and positive feedback
  • setting new goals to offer a sense of achievement

While your company attempts to successfully navigate these changes, it’s a good time to reaffirm and focus on what’s staying the same – it’s identity, mission and values. These things can provide an important sense of stability for team members when everything else about their work and life is changing yet again. It also offers the opportunity to connect with your business in a way that may not usually be possible.

Lastly, if your company is in a position to expand and hire new staff, then these challenging times presents a chance to re-evaluate your hiring and onboarding process. In addition to the fact that any hiring decision made in this tough climate needs to be smart and strategic, anyone entering into your company need to feel strongly a part of the company, and need to be firmly aligned with your company’s values. Revelian’s Value Assessment can help provide invaluable insight for hiring managers on what aspects of a candidate’s work environment they value the most. When you compare this with your organisation’s values, you can quickly determine who will be a great fit for your team and help make a positive lasting impact. Speak with us today if this is something you’d like to discuss further.