As more non-essential retailers open their doors, more of us will be going back to a place of work after either a period of furlough or working from home. In the longer term, as small and mid-sized businesses begin to phase workforces back into the office, working life will begin to regain a semblance of what it was like before lockdown.
That’s not to say that things will just snap back to the way they were. New markings in the office to keep people apart, groups who can use the office only on certain days, and plenty of other innovations to maintain safety will be present. And while those measures may disappear along with the virus, longer-term changes around work-life balance will remain. It’s important for HR teams to not just realise this but look at how they can empower employees to take control of that balance.
For some, this will include re-evaluating their outlook on life and the way they work. So, how can businesses address our work-life balance better, and how can your businesses adapt and change as we emerge from lockdown? Here are three areas to consider.
Embrace working from home
For those of us able to carry out our jobs remotely, working from home (or ‘WFH’) has become the norm over the last few months. The odd Zoom-based calamity aside, this process seems to have been fairly painless for a lot of people. Finding a place to work comfortably has probably been a bigger concern than the fact that you’re not physically in the office. There are many benefits to working from home; last year, a Stanford study which monitored 16,000 homeworking employees over several months, saw a 13 percent performance increase. This study also showed home working leads to 50 percent lower employee attrition.
What should HRs do here? Clearly, company policy needs to be expanded to allow more flexibility in working from home. In any case, ‘WFH’ will be the norm for many of us for some time to come, but in years from now, people will still be expecting more autonomy over when they work from home. Businesses can enjoy the benefits of this, but having a clear message in place around WFH expectations will be highly beneficial. Employers, after all, may well want and need the team creativity that comes from being in an office, as much as people enjoy working remotely.
Encourage and track annual leave to reduce burnout
Employees have, understandably, been canceling that holiday to the Maldives or the long weekend in Paris they had in the calendar. Furthermore, there’s a reticence to ‘use up’ holiday entitlement when travel outside of the UK is limited by several factors. However, this has an impact on work-life balance, and HR teams need to be alert to ways to manage this.
Those who aren’t taking holiday can end up having their life dominated by work, with no breaks to unwind and refresh their batteries. This can cause employee burnout, which is damaging to mental health, productivity, and overall wellbeing. It’s because of, not in spite of, Covid-19, that employees should be ensuring that they take regular periods of leave.
What’s HR’s role here? Teams need to keep tabs on who is taking a regular holiday, and who may be at risk of burnout. Schedule in wellbeing catch-ups, or issue regular updates to the wider team, reminding people about the benefits of taking a holiday, even if it’s a ‘staycation’. Team absence tracking isn’t just about absence – HRs need to be generating deeper data insights and being proactive to address presenteeism too.
Champion employee wellbeing communication
For many, the prospect of returning to work following the Covid-19 pandemic will bring a mixture of emotions. From those anxious about how they will safely commute to work, to those concerned about how this may impact their workload, work-life harmony is going to be disrupted once again.
What HR’s can do here? Communication ultimately starts at the top and will filter down to the rest of the business. Leaders need to acknowledge potential fears, and how this can impact employee wellbeing and any knock-on effect on work-life balance. HRs need to ensure that the reassurance that work routines will return to normal are accompanied by clearly signposted written information and other resources on multiple platforms. This can go a long way to reassuring teams that maintaining a healthy work-life balance remains high on the agenda of all decision-makers.
Our absence intelligence solution helps equip organisations like yours with the tools to champion work-life balance with employee wellbeing. From clear visibility of holiday entitlement and carryover, through to data-driven insights to understand the reasons behind absenteeism.
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Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.