It is difficult to plan while we wait for clarity around possible post-lockdown workplace rules and how the country can return to normality. Nevertheless it is important that companies start to consider the long-term impact that this crisis will have on the way that a) they operate as a business and b) how their employees expect to and want to work.
In the insurance industry in particular, there has been an uncomfortableness around flexible working whether it’s from it not being offered, or being offered but people being afraid to ask for fear of how it reflects on their career. However, in the past six weeks, this has changed dramatically. Everyone who was able to is now working from home; the industry is still going strong demonstrating that working from home does work. There is no going back from this now. This is a step change in how people will work in the future and companies need to be prepared for that.
Companies need to be proactive and start to reflect on how they are going to adapt. There are operational, cultural, IT and management challenges that need to be considered as they will have significant implications on how the business operates and is viewed by its employees and stakeholders.
Even once the restrictions are lifted and people are allowed to travel back to work there will be a number of employees that do not want to travel on the tube, there will be a number of employees that still have relatives or friends to care for and there will be some that would prefer to work from home. Do you have an insight and understanding into how your employees are feeling at the moment? Do you know what they are worried about? Do you know if they want to return to the office? It would be worth the communications and HR departments working together to conduct a survey to get this insight as it will inform how your business needs to respond and what elements need to be considered. It will also help ensure that your strategy and communications complement and address what your employees are thinking about.
There will be a greater demand for flexibility around working hours and it is likely that people will want to work a day or two a week at home if they do not already. The crisis has proved that people can work from home and get their job done. This is something that companies need to be prepared for. It will not be just one person asking so what are you going to say? This is not something you want to react to; there will be too many ramifications for this to be considered under pressure. You need to involve all elements of your business, such as HR, IT, operations etc., as each department will need to be clear on how the business will operate.
Proactivity is key; companies need to be ready to address these challenges as and when the time comes. It’ll undo all their good work if they are not prepared. Try and find the time now to consider the challenges that your business will face once the government relaxes its social distancing measures. Businesses cannot simply revert to life before COVID-19; they must consider how they are going to adapt and evolve and be the business that their employees remain proud to be a part of.