In early 2020, during the initial COVID lockdown, many businesses around Australia were forced to implement a working from home (WFH) set-up for their employees as the only way of keeping their business operating. After a few weeks of ensuring everyone had the right set-up, getting communications and information-sharing strategies in place and working out kinks, by and large it was declared that the WFH forced experiment was a success.
Many workers with young families or caring responsibilities found the flexibility invaluable. They saved on commuting and saved on childcare, and they were able to stagger and vary their hours of work. They had more time to devote to other areas of their life and also found they were more productive in their work role.
With the opening up of the economy came with a solid resistance from many employees to going back to the full-time daily commute. While some people who had found themselves socially isolated welcomed the return to the workplace, a lot of people who had found an improved work-life balance were reluctant to lose it.
At a minimum, business owners should:
Be looking at what sort of hybrid workplace works for them. Carefully evaluate how much time is needed, by every employee, in the physical workplace and how much can be done remotely?
What you should be doing:
Look at the positives:
- There’s an opportunity to reduce your office floorspace.
- There’s less absenteeism due to illness as people feel comfortable working from home if they have a cold and aren’t passing on their germs.
- Your workforce is developing resilience and flexibility if there are future lockdowns o emergencies that disrupt your business.
- Offering a hybrid working from home/time in the office model will make you an employer of choice – attracting the bet to your business.
Look at the challenges:
- Safety – you need a comprehensive WFH policy and to audit your employee’s home working space regularly (this can be done virtually).
- Even though your employees can perform their role superbly from home, there’s a risk that by not being visible they may be overlooked for promotion. You need to recognise and address this.
- Information sharing can be compromised with off-site employees missing out on important, ad hoc conversations. Implement organised sharing of information and updates.
- You have to work harder to retain your culture.
What not to do
- Don’t insist that people work in the office or on-site all the time if it’s really not necessary. You will lose good employees who want the flexibility.