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As we settle back in after the break, it’s the perfect time to plan how to avoid the employment pitfalls caused by the pandemic and thrive in 2022.
By Amy Butterworth, Consultancy Director, Timewise
After nearly two years spent working in pandemic conditions, it’s time for leaders to review the successes and challenges they’ve experienced with flex and make concrete improvements for the future. Taking a few simple steps now will help turn concerns about the great resignation, the two-tier workplace and fragmented teams into opportunities to create a motivated, cohesive workforce.
During the pandemic we’ve bounced backwards and forwards between working from home and returning to the office. It’s felt chaotic and stressful, but the upside of this uncertainty is that we’ve experienced a variety of new working patterns. Now is an ideal time to be candid about what is – and isn’t – working for your team.
The resolution: Implement a specific plan to improve flex working
Set an honest, collaborative tone by consulting with your teams on their experiences and openly sharing the constraints you’re facing. This will allow you to decide on and implement clear, measurable actions to meet these challenges. Could a change in working hours or regular, virtual 121s help flex work more smoothly? Find the processes and patterns that will make your resolution stick and commit to reviewing them regularly.
2. The challenge: Address the imbalance of a two-tier workforce
Thanks to the swift introduction of working from home, many companies are being confronted with an unintended, unequal two-tier workforce and the dissatisfaction that can bring. Frontline workers who are required to be present in the workplace can easily feel resentful towards the hybrid workers who remain at home without having to spend time or money commuting.
The resolution: Expand your flex working options
Hybrid working should not be the only flexible working option available to employees. It places those on the frontline in industries like catering, transport and tourism at a significant disadvantage. Forward-thinking companies now offer flexibility around the timing and amount of work undertaken, as well as the location. One of our clients realised their hybrid working plans wouldn’t suit their entire workforce so they now plan to trial part-time working, flexible shift patterns and the option to work anti-social hours as well.
3. The challenge: Engage detached, disheartened teams
Despite everyone’s best efforts, the last two years have seen the cancellation of team-building events and parties alongside the abandonment of communal office spaces, leaving workers feeling increasingly detached from their managers and colleagues. Maintaining shared goals and a sense of camaraderie is key to achieving targets and engaging employees – so what can be done?
The resolution: Set aside time to connect with your employees
The intensification of work has made it tempting for leaders and managers to spend the time that would have normally been spent on physically engaging with their teams on other tasks – but that’s a mistake. Even when you can’t bring people together in person, you need to ring-fence that time and find alternative ways to engage with them instead.
This could include simple day-to-day actions, such as building informal catch-up time into your virtual meetings and allocating team ownership for activities and goals. It could also be through fun, creative ideas such as learning circles, gif battles or online lunch dates. To engage a flexible workforce and improve team connection, you’ll need a range of in-person and virtual options.
4. The challenge: Ensure hybrid workers aren’t overlooked
Out of sight, really could mean out of mind when it comes to career progression for hybrid workers, particularly women who often combine flexible working hours with family and caring duties. LinkedIn has found that a third of UK business leaders and nearly half of UK workers are concerned about the favouritism of proximity bias – the tendency to promote workers visible in the office at the expense of those working from home.
The resolution: Give hybrid workers a clear career plan
To make sure hybrid workers have a fair chance of promotion, spend longer than usual defining, “what good looks like” with them and make sure you set measurable outcomes-based objectives. Challenge yourself to reward and recognise people for the outcomes they achieve rather than the number of hours they are present in the workplace.
5. The challenge: Turn the great resignation into a great opportunity
Triggered by a dramatic increase in remote working options, the great resignation of workers who quit their jobs in 2021 to find more flexible options looks set to continue. Rather than looking on this upheaval as a negative, this change to the working landscape can offer an opportunity for employers to attract loyal and highly skilled talent.
The resolution: Shout about your flex options to attract new talent
Design any jobs you’re advertising with flexible working built in, and make it obvious which options are on offer – whether that’s homeworking, part-time, variable hours or an alternative. Promising a vague flexible working culture is simply not enough to gain the trust of potential employees.
Action any or all of these resolutions and you’ll be well-placed to build a robust, motivated and united team, ready to take on whatever this year may bring. At Timewise we can equip you to create a successful flexible working strategy for the future of your business so you can thrive in 2022 and beyond; contact us to find out more.