Legacy Bowes Group Articles
Workplace Changes After COVID-19
The future of work and office expectations
Some hope to return to a pre-pandemic “normal” in the workplace, meanwhile continuing to embrace the changes and accommodations made during the pandemic can help retain employees and navigate current difficult situations.
By Tory McNally
We’ve seen many changes in the workplace over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the very least, how employers have navigated it by accommodating their employees and tasks shows both tenacity and resilience. With many now returning to in-office work, let’s talk about what workplace changes have stuck, how to navigate them, and when Human Resources supports can assist in transitioning teams into the new normal.
Changes we’ve seen in the workplace
With relaxed work settings and now many still working remotely, we’ve seen many businesses and organizations implement new ways of working throughout the pandemic. With some workplaces transitioning their teams back into the office, employees are indicating they prefer that some of those temporary changes become permanent. Read on to learn about some of the changes we have seen.
Hybrid and/or remote work models
A lot of people transitioned to working remotely during the pandemic, and a lot of people have made their home offices permanent. Some people are doing a hybrid model as well, where they're splitting their time between working from home and working from the office. Between time saved from morning commutes and balancing family and home responsibilities, working remotely meant increased flexibility and work-life balance for many employees during the pandemic. Now that workplaces are transitioning back to in-office, employees are hoping to keep some of that flexibility through hybrid or remote work models.
Relaxed dress codes
An interesting change we’ve seen is around dress codes. Instead of maintaining a business dress code, employers are relaxing their policies and are leaning towards business casual for employees. After working remotely in sweat pants or shorts over the last two years, a lot of employees prefer comfort over structure. And this also means retailers and brands are shifting to meet the needs of workers with business comfort fashion preferences as well.
Dual duty parenting
When schools opened back up, employers were hopeful that they would be able to move away from dual duty parenting. But something that hasn't gone away, and probably won't go away, is the vigilance of schools to any child that is coughing or sneezing in class. This means a lot of kids are being pre-screened by their parents and kept home for the day because they're sick. Alternatively, if there are any sniffles during the school day, students are also being sent home. During the pandemic, we saw workplaces become more accommodating and we’re advising to employers to maintain that approach.
Employee inclusivity and promotions
When it comes to role changes within an organization, some are wondering if the game has changed in terms of promotions.
There is a worry that an employee who's going in to the office will be able to actually achieve a promotion over someone who is either working remotely or using a hybrid model. The perception could be that the person working from home might be more distant from the manager's mind when those promotions come up.
Here are a few fun ways employers could navigate those challenges with their teams.
- Keep employees in touch is by creating an opportunity for your staff to mingle. Share updates and send memes on a company “watercooler” type group chat. This can provide a place for team members to connect at different moments during their day as if they were stepping away from their tasks to get a drink or water or coffee.
- Create an employee engagement or culture committee. This committee is made up of volunteers within an organization who help plan monthly in person or virtual team building activities, potlucks, staff celebrations, work-life balance initiatives and more. Taking time to learn about what each team member is passionate about and ways for them to have fun together can result in stronger and happier teams.
- Celebrate their great work within the company. Meet with your team members on a regular basis to learn about their career goals and show them how their role makes a difference within the company’s vision. This might include supporting their desire to move laterally within the company. By doing so, you improve your chances to retain your employees and become an employer of choice by investing in your team.
Tension with returning to work
Some have wondered, can the return to work create tension? And if so, what role does Human Resources play? Human Resources can work on all accommodations and can help employers and employees meet in the middle. Employers might feel like they have been doing the best they can to retain their employees, being accommodating and open. But from the employees’ perspective, they still have some of the difficulties they had during the pandemic.
In order to move forward together, it’s important to keep open communication between employers and employees, and if tensions do arise, Human Resources professionals can be called in to help facilitate difficult conversations if they do arise.
Some changes made during the pandemic are here to stay and others might have to stay for a little longer.
A key takeaway is that some employees still need accommodations and that could help retain them in your organization. So, if you need support with HR, call us and we’ll have those hard conversations when you’re too exhausted to do so.