1. Be Prepared to Be Flexible
Now that mandated WFH is over, you’re going to have to deal with mixed feelings on the part of your employees. Many will want to retain some of the autonomy they had over their work schedules during the pandemic, and reverting straight back to ‘exactly how things were before’ may not win you any friends. Businesses must learn to adapt and move into a new era alongside their employees. It will take time to implement a routine that works for your staff and your company’s bottom line - but it’s important to take the time and make the effort to do so.
If you’re going to offer flexible working to your employees, you need to do so in a fair manner. Flexible working is a very personal thing - but you can’t end up with one set of rules for one person, and one for another. Your first step is to speak to your staff and find out their needs and preferences. If you’re hearing all your employees equally, nobody will feel left out or abandoned. Remember - if your business has been operating just fine with employees working remotely for the past 2 years, you may introduce resentment if you tell your team it’s no longer possible for them to have any flexibility in working. Mark Zuckerberg famously said: “People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t.”
Start by setting out the rules you want your business to live by; this might be the option to work remotely 2 days per week, or it might be offering full-time WFH to those who want it, with the proviso that they are always online and engaged between certain hours, for example, 10-2pm. Remember - when work happens is just as (if not more) important as where it happens.
2. Rearrange Your Workspace
If you’ve decided not to bring every employee back to office work full time, then you can re-think the layout and set-up of your office space. Rather than having endless desk banks, if you have more staff WFH then you can perhaps remove a number of desks and follow a ‘hot-desking’ arrangement where no desks are individually allocated - it’s first-come first-served.
So, now you have additional space in your office. How will you use it?
You could choose to install a number of ‘pods’ furnished with either tables and chairs for more casual private or group working, or with sofas or beanbags to create a quiet space for relaxation. Or why not use the space for recreation, installing a pool or foosball table to entertain staff during their breaks and lunch hour? David Ogilvy famously said: “Where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”
By creating a new office layout, you’re indicating to your employees that as a business, you recognise that times have changed, and that you’re moving with them. Those who want to be office-based full time can still do so, but you’ve updated the office environment to reflect the new reality that flexible working is here to stay.