By Nicola Callaghan, Managing Director at HR Caddy

 

The contingency measures set out in the Government’s Plan B for the COVID-19 crisis had been well publicised in advance but, nevertheless, it has created new challenges for employers across the Midlands and the rest of England. 

 

While most businesses are better prepared with the logistics of making this happen, many were just starting to enjoy getting back to some sort of normality. This latest change won’t be taken lightly and will, inevitability, have an impact on the operations of many businesses. 

 

Balancing home and office working has highlighted there are huge benefits for many coming into an office, meeting with colleagues, taking part in training and development, improving response times to customers and many other aspects of work, and while there are great benefits for home working – having all or nothing comes with its own set of issues for both employees and employers.

 

Employers need to be clear about what they expect from their employees and should put any policies in writing so that they are clearly communicated. 

 

They must ensure that they learn from the lessons they faced when bringing employees back to work previously. As the transition can be a difficult one. 

 

While some staff couldn’t wait to get back to the office, others felt they were being punished by being made to return and so employers must balance these needs against those of their business. 

 

The statement “only if you can” also provides a vague definition of what we need to do – many employers may feel this time this gives them justification to say, my business just doesn’t function as well with all my staff at home. 

 

So before making hasty “one size fits all” decisions, employers must speak to their teams and see what they think about it and find out what they feel safe doing so, while trying to be flexible where they can. 

 

In some cases, they may need to separate certain workers who cannot function as well while working at home. Remember, we are all individuals, with unique strengths and weaknesses. Employers must just ensure any policies do not discriminate against those with protected characteristics such as a disability or due to their age, sex or gender. 

 

Pragmatism is key and employers should be realistic and honest with their team, even if some employees find the new measures difficult to take. 

 

Although the Government has promised to review these measures in the new year, this may be in place for many months, so remember to manage expectations and support your team, including focusing on their wellbeing. 

 

The return to home working and the disparity in who can and can’t manage time away from the office can lead to conflict and so there could be real benefits in getting some quick HR advice and support, to make sure your back is covered.