At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with almost no warning at all, companies were forced to adapt to the Government’s mandate to introduce home-working, where possible. Initial teething issues with IT equipment and the like were quickly resolved, and companies who had previously had little to no flexibility in their working policies were given an opportunity to explore how home-working could be beneficial for them. We heard about some companies moving their entire systems and workforce online, and what would have taken some large institutions two years to roll out, took just two weeks. If 2020 taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected and as it stands, while writing this in January 2021, the return to office life is mostly still on hold. Without a government mandate forcing a transition back to the office, companies have time to identify how they can use the lessons learnt during the pandemic to strike the right balance between managing the needs of the business and giving staff the flexibility that they crave. This is a time for business leaders to look at 2021 onwards and consider the following:-
- Are you aware of what people have liked and disliked about working from home?
- Do you know if there has been an increase or decrease in productivity, or if staff have been able to achieve a better work-life balance during the pandemic?
- Are you wondering if an element of creativity has left the business because a lack of face-to-face meetings means team members are unable to bounce ideas off of one another?
- Are your line managers effectively engaging their remote teams?
- Do you know what level of flexibility staff would actually like moving forward?
Social housing provider, Bernicia, realised that they didn’t know the answers to some of these questions either, so they commissioned MMC Research & Marketing to consult with their staff to inform decision making around agile/flexible working during the initial 2020 lockdowns. An online quantitative survey was completed by staff to gather thoughts and opinions on Bernicia’s response to the pandemic, how staff were adjusting to home-working, and how they would like flexible working to look in a post-pandemic world. In-depth qualitative interviews were then conducted with a handful of staff and managers to explore the emerging themes in more detail and add an extra layer of understanding to the research findings. By conducting this staff research, Bernicia was equipped with the knowledge of how to effectively support staff in the future as the company moved towards the possibility of more flexible working practices in the longer term. What works for one company won’t necessarily work for another and the next 6-12 months will likely be filled with lots of trial and error for most of us again, but by engaging staff in a conversation and taking a somewhat cooperative approach, the transition into what flexible working means for you and your workplace can only run all the more smoothly. To read more about the work we did for Bernicia, view our case study To speak to someone in the team about understanding what your staff and managers think, get in touch today.