Flexibility in the workplace during COVID-19

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It used to be such a simple concept. All your employees congregate in one place at a certain time, work hard side by side where you can easily discuss plans for the day, make the important decisions, but in a solid eight hours and then go home. Sadly though, while the world remains under lockdown as a result of COVID-19, we have been made to work away from our offices and for some, the 9-5 model is no longer a viable option.


For some, the prospect of working from home has become a blessing in disguise. Those who would normally struggle out of bed in their one bedroom flat, make themselves presentable and then take the long commute to work are now able to begin straightaway with no distractions, wasted time back and forth to the office and are able to work their normal hours and more if they so choose.


For others though, their circumstances have changed dramatically. For those with children, their routine of sending them to nursery or school while they and their partner go to their respective has altered in the opposite direction as schools remain closed, meaning parents need to tend to their needs, sometimes single handedly if their partner is still required to put on a uniform and go out everyday, as well as fit in their allotted time in do their daily work tasks.


And as well as the physical strain, the mental health of employees has been a major topic of discussion for a long time. While working from home may have seemed like a fun idea initially, over time it can become repetitive and real strain. Add in the fact that movement has been restricted meaning popping to see friends or into town is discouraged and it’s not uncommon for people to become overwhelmed and isolated even in a house full of loved ones.


Whatever your situation, the outbreak and lockdown will have affected your working day and even a month after most employees have sent home, some may still not have got the balance right. Spending time with your children can mean your inbox fills up quicker. Sticking to a rigid schedule at your desk can leave your children bored and restless. Therefore, it is very important as an employer to reassure your staff and not be too demanding of them.


As customer priorities have changed during the outbreak and the need for digital transformation has accelerated, many big projects will have started, been postponed to be ongoing, leading to new duties being placed on people, some with little to no face-to-face training, leading to high levels of pressure to get things done as jobs and whole organisation’s livelihoods may depend on it. 


Mistakes will happen. There’s no way of avoiding it. Miscommunication, lack of understanding or the commitments mentioned previously can all mean things slow down or go wrong. However, it is important to remember that for many people, their whole lives have changed. Responsibilities had changed. Priorities have changed. And expecting too much or being inflexible could potentially drive people away.


People will have good days and bad days. Things may get overlooked. In a normal office situation these issues can be talked out face to face, but now we are apart, it’s even more important to make time for your employees. Show them that you appreciate these are hard times and allow them to work in a way that works for them.


Some may not be able to work a full 40 hours a week. If they can do all their tasks in 30 hours, why not let them? If they work better in the evenings when the children are asleep, why not let them? Talk to each employee individually and find out what works best for them. 


Finally, don’t push people to do more than they need to. Allow them time to be with family, recharge and go again the next day. A happy worker is a productive worker. The 9-5 routine may work for some, for others it may have been what held them back from doing their best work, and for others, it’s just not possible given the current climate. If you can find the best ways for everyone to be productive and happy, they will work harder for you in return.


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Global CIO Institute

Administrator, GB Intelligence Ltd

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