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Hybrid Working 1 – Looking after your people

  • 3 min read
This is the first in a series of 5 blogs exploring key considerations for employers who are establishing their post-pandemic arrangements for knowledge workers.

Whether or not you had an agile working programme before Covid, it is almost certain that your short, medium and long-term staff accommodation plans have been significantly disrupted by the pandemic. With the vaccine programme running to schedule and Covid cases continuing to fall, it is now time to review your intentions and identify the necessary actions to make it all happen.

Whilst some high profile organisations have already made a clear declaration to bring everyone back to the office (Goldman Sachs), plans for a more flexible approach (PwC) are more widespread. Whilst real estate and facilities planning will be central for all employers, this article looks specifically at the people issues.

Whereas home schooling seems to have been a struggle for almost everyone, responses to homeworking have varied. From a data sample of over 160,000 homeworkers, Leesman have found that those with a dedicated work room or office showed a much higher level of satisfaction than those in a non-specific work area. This links to levels of income and affluence whilst individual personality and nature of work are also factors.

All of these factors demonstrate the number of variables leading to the inevitable (and hardly surprising!) conclusion that everyone is different. So what have you been doing to monitor individual responses?

We know from our own experience and from speaking to many others, that the level of workstation (DSE) assessments carried out in the last 14 months has dropped significantly. Some of this may have been explained by the various lockdowns but, with the ready availability of technology alternatives (Zoom. Teams, WhatsApp, etc.), virtual assessments have proven effective.

Office Working
The net result is that the number of musculoskeletal issues arising is on the increase and, in many cases, these are not individuals who had problems in the office. Anecdotally, it also seems that some of those suffering pain are failing to report because they do not want to draw attention to themselves in a potentially unpredictable employment landscape. This might have been acceptable in the early days of Covid, when we all thought the situation was temporary, but after this length of time, there is no excuse. Furthermore, as many people continue homeworking to some extent, the opportunities for issues that are naturally observed when spending time together or that crop up in conversation diminish significantly.

It is therefore important for organisations to re-establish their assessment programme and deal with the issues as a matter of urgency. This applies both to computer users at home and in the office (or both). Since the DSE regulations require a reassessment with any change of setup, it likely that almost all personnel will need to be reassessed on returning to the office.

Office Working

Alongside physical health, mental health is now widely recognised as a major concern and it is essential that employers provide not only the mechanisms for support but also a culture that encourages open discussion. With homeworkers out of sight of their line managers and other colleagues, mental health issues can easily become debilitating if not fully supported. We work with specialists to offer wellbeing programmes suitable for all sizes and types of organisation. It is also important to mention here that middle managers may well be under the most pressure, having to maintain targets and productivity without necessarily having the experience or skills to manage a geographically dispersed team. Suitable training about management by objectives may also be necessary.

 

 

Follow this link to the next in this series.

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