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Returning to the Office – How to Plan for the New Workplace

The pandemic accelerated workplace wellbeing initiatives and made room for more agile and flexible working solutions. The shift in the way we work has highlighted the advantages and limitations of the traditional office and workplace; creating divisions based on sector, roles and working style.

As restrictions are lifted in the UK, how can employers navigate the future of business, and help their employees to adapt? 

Westfield Health recently shared its finding from its latest research into the future of work, identifying the challenges faced by each sector and how businesses plan to approach the future of their workforce, compared to the support employees are looking for. The report surveyed 1,500 people across the UK about their future work plans and wellbeing needs, and identified: 

  • 13% of those currently working from home will be returning to the workplace full-time 
  • 89% of employees are happy with their proposed new way of working
  • 31% say their employer is not introducing or extending any form of flexible working
  • 66% of employees want more wellbeing support from their employer 

Faced with new challenges as we return to a ‘new normal’, there is an obvious divide emerging across flexible working policies. Just under a third of employees (31%) will have no flexible working options in place at all, despite the positive impact on employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity.  

Whilst it’s understood that not all sectors will be able to offer the same level of flexible working such as hybrid working, due to the nature of roles and responsibilities within a business, employers should consider offering a more agile approach to working styles with an emphasis on fluidity as our Senior HR/ER Consultant, Jacqui O’Callaghan, explained in an article she wrote for Business Express 

It is worth bearing in mind that employees are returning to the workplace after more than a year of disrupted routines, juggling work alongside other commitments and may have been impacted by COVID-19 directly (including Long COVID sufferers). Physical wellbeing checks should begin to become routine as we ease staff back into the workplace, no matter the working style model your organisation will be adopt. Just over a quarter of employees say their company currently does not provide support on key wellbeing initiatives, with furloughed workers saying they are getting the least amount of support (37%). But with COVID-19 forcing employee wellbeing into the spotlight, there are opportunities to adjust working practices to improve employee experience and boost morale and productivity, including adopting more agile working styles if flexible or hybrid working isn’t always possible, communicating with employees on how they would like to return to the office, and extending this to include a Wellness Action Plan for those who would prefer a phased return. 

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