There are various challenges that employees in all kinds of employment sectors have had to face throughout the course of lockdown. In documenting the challenges firms have faced throughout the course of the pandemic, many have reported that they were extremely concerned with their employees’ health, including employees feeling isolated and under pressure with the challenges that lockdown involved.
One of the apparent changes firms have had to adapt to is that where most, if not all employees took over their workload remotely, open and transparent communications with staff have become increasingly important. Such communications have needed to be tailored with many firms reporting that they felt the ‘level of connectedness’ during this time was a variation across many levels for different people and leaders needed to be mindful of this.
As a result of the above, daily calls with team members have become the norm. The importance of keeping in touch informally on a social basis and the impact this may have on employee wellbeing has also been seen to move up the agenda.
What have firms done differently to support staff with their health and wellbeing?
Many firms have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to get management more involved within the lives of their employees and to make mental health a real focus within their organisation, which means that the imposed lockdown has allowed firms to push through initiatives they may have been wanting to do for a long time. Having our own experience of a lack of support for mental health in law firms, we’re pleased to see that law firms may be taking this opportunity to consider the health and wellbeing of their employees.
Firms have had to adapt to changes regarding childcare and have had to especially consider those employees with children and the huge difficulties that they may have been subject to when trying to cope with childcare and homeschooling whilst simultaneously working remotely. In order to support working parents, many firms have been flexible with employees working longer hours and have reduced hours for some employees in order to accommodate childcare needs. It has been reported that such changes and the element of flexibility have helped to build and strengthen relationships with clients and solicitors and communication in this respect.
Those firms that had incorporated flexible working into their employee’s working lives prior to the pandemic (like Thrive) had found the transition much easier to manage. Whereas those who were reliant on employee’s attending the office each day and did not adapt to working from home or flexibility in this sense reported that their employees struggled to adjust and distinguish between work and home life.
What other challenges may firm face in the months ahead as lockdown and restrictions are eased?
There have been numerous reports of employees fearing returning to the office with the biggest fear regarding their public commute. Many employees are concerned about socially distancing in the office and how this is going to work with limited space using when using the same facilities as others. It is important therefore that firms are able to ensure the safety of their employees and what they need to ensure is actioned and completed prior to any employees returning in order for them to feel safe and perform at the best of their ability. We have written a blog on employees returning to work safely and employers obligations in this respect, to read more follow this link here.
Returning to work and adapting to a workload that cannot always be done remotely is another adaptation firms are going to face post-lockdown. However, in our view, the focus should not be merely on this, as it is especially important to ensure that employee’s and their mental health and wellbeing should not be pushed to the back of the agenda with those returning to work.
It is important that in returning to work, employers listen to their employees who are more likely to struggle with working from home due to a lack of supervision, ensuring that all staff are adequately supported if working remotely is going to be taken forward as an initiative following the pandemic.
Is flexible working the future?
Having proven that remote working can be done without performance falling as a result, firms have little excuse not to incorporate the concept of flexible working.
It has been stated that the workforce, following the pandemic, is now more ready for change. Although many are looking forward to returning to the office as they are missing communication with colleagues, for those with responsibilities, this may not be feasible yet.
As remote working has become normal for everyone, location barriers have been broken down for those teams who work across different locations.
Firms have been able to build trust with their employees through the concept of flexibility and are now better prepared to embrace the new way of working.
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