With lockdown restrictions easing across much of Europe and many people starting to return to the office, the world is starting to feel a little more ‘normal’ again.
But for businesses planning their return to the workplace, it’s important to keep in mind that this move towards normality isn’t necessarily a return where we were six months ago.
To ensure the safety of employees, companies must be mindful of complying with government regulations, staying in line with local social distancing, cleaning and other requirements.
For international businesses, this is made more complex by the fact that different countries are moving at different speeds, and local lockdowns are now favoured, replacing the country-wide approach previously enforced. In Scotland, for example, companies are not yet encouraged to return to the office which meant, for our business, centres remain closed with 100% of agents working from home. In other locations, such as Germany and the Nordic countries, offices never completely closed, so appropriate social distancing and other measures were put in place.
Recent surveys have identified consistently that around two-thirds of staff sent to work from home would be happy to continue being home-based. The remainder wish to return to the office when conditions allow.
Many companies are keen to get their people back in the building, while others have accepted that at least a proportion of them will work permanently from home. Not only does this help the business comply with current, and sometimes changing, regulations but it also provides a contingency should lockdown be necessary for any reason in the future.
This is particularly important as spikes are starting to appear across various counties in Europe, resulting in doubts about whether the return to ‘normality’ is going to be straightforward. This is yet another reason why, in the haste to get back to the office, companies must not forget the vital role work-at-home has played in maintaining their operations over the past few months, and how essential it could prove to be in the event of a future lockdown.
Returning to the workplace will vary from company to company. While some didn’t want people to go home, but accepted it as the only workable option, they have been impressed with the outcome. It is seen as a new way of working, and one they have embraced.
Others, on the other hand, don’t want it and even with positive results their policy requires that people return on site. Work from home was an interesting experiment but now it’s over.
So, while we may be starting to move towards something resembling ‘normality’, we must ask ‘what will that look like?’ Coronavirus has forced people and companies to accept something they considered unthinkable. Their options were limited, leaving them no choice but to change. As we move forward, we must accept that the world around us is different and adapt our approach to how we work.