What will life after the lockdown look like for Durham businesses?
• A lockdown lasting weeks (at the very least) has transformed the way many businesses are operating. • For those which survive, the workplace could look very different after the pandemic. • But where do the opportunities and challenges lie?
So many workplaces are quiet right now. Many have been forced to furlough staff whilst others have continued operations with home workers. It won’t stay like this forever, and it poses a challenging question: How will workplaces change after the lockdown?
Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept, Durham casts an eye to the future and offers some advice to local employers.
Alison begins: “Flexible working was already a growing trend, often cited as one of the most desired workplace benefits. Many a company which had resisted flexible working suddenly found it forced upon them by coronavirus.
“Now they’ve made it work during adversity, we suspect that requests to work flexibly or remotely will rocket. Employers are living through the challenges of this right now – getting the right equipment, maintaining effective communications, managing productivity, and ensuring data security. But if these obstacles are navigated, there are significant opportunities too.
“First, we know that for many people, flexible working is a desirable perk. Embracing it will likely attract a better calibre of candidate when recruiting. And not only this, but also a wider talent pool: taking in people who are technically skilled, but for whom the traditional 9am-5pm doesn’t suit.
“Another knock-on effect could be that businesses do not need to invest as much in their premises. By implementing structured flexible working, office space could be significantly reduced as fewer staff are in at a given time, enhancing profitability.
“And, whilst a pandemic is a once-in-a-generation kind of event, there are unfortunately plenty of other ways in which business can be interrupted. Having employees who can work flexibly will give you a resilience which may make all the difference should disaster strike again.
“It won’t all be good news. Some people simply won’t be suited to working from home – either thriving off the human interaction in an office, or not having the right skillset or domestic arrangements to work so autonomously. Thus, flexibility and careful management will be important.
“And when the government’s furlough scheme ends, it’s sad to say that some companies will not be able to avoid making further redundancies. This will present management with difficult conversations about complex restructuring of teams.”
Of course, efficient flexible working will not happen by accident. Robust homeworking policies, well trained management and great staff are all important. All outputs of an efficient and creative HR function within a business.