Re-Opening After the Pandemic: What Are The Changes We Can Expect?
When the pandemic started, companies were forced to close their offices and in many cases lay off employees. Now that the pandemic is receding, how are companies tackling re-opening?
In this fifth video, our panelists discuss the kinds of changes that we’re seeing companies make as they adapt to office life and hybrid working post-pandemic. To get their collective insights on this, watch the video below.
Our thanks go to our expert panel members for their time and for sharing their insights so openly:
● Jenn Ryan – SVP Operations – Xometry
● Douglas Krieger – Director Global Sourcing – Herbalife
● Julie Bank – SVP Human Resources – Brighton Health Plan Solutions
● John Rorick – VP, Client Services – AgileOne
● Steve Lagnado – CFO – Insider Inc
Here are some further thoughts on the points raised during the panel discussion above.
The first thing any company should do when planning to reopen offices after the pandemic is to be flexible. Employees have become used to working from home and have come to enjoy the added flexibility and lack of commute time that remote working has brought. Simply reverting back to the old way of doing things could really hurt staff retention rates, as “The Great Resignation” we’ve seen talked about in the media amply demonstrates.
Embracing flexibility is likely to require a change in mindset amongst managers and leadership teams, as well as adapting new technology or processes in order to get their business back open again and functioning in a remote or hybrid environment.
How can your employees communicate effectively with one another (without too much friction) if the location of work is changed? It may be that specific job roles within a company will need to be adjusted to suit whoever is going to be doing them – considering whether those roles are being performed remotely, or in the office, or a mixture of both. Processes and routines that were in place before the pandemic will need to be changed to accommodate the needs of a hybrid team, and this will take time and refinement before they are fully streamlined.
With this new hybrid way of working, meetings will often involve a mix of employees attending in-person in the office, alongside employees attending the meeting remotely. What we’re increasingly learning is that with this meeting dynamic, it is easy for the people in the office to do the majority of the talking – possibly with side-conversations happening in the background of the main meeting.
It is important to limit this as much as possible; companies want the people working remotely to have just as much impact on discussions as people working in the office. Processes will need to be introduced to make sure that “hybrid” meetings are as efficient as possible, and that flexible employees aren’t sidelined. Some companies are even experimenting with having all meetings as Zoom meetings if a portion of attendees aren’t able to attend in person, so that the meeting experience is consistent for everyone and all team members are equally heard. Could be something to experiment with if you’ve been experiencing this kind of dynamic in some of your hybrid meetings?
A big question for lots of companies to be thinking about is their stance on vaccination. Some companies may feel that they want all employees to be vaccinated before they can return to the office. Other companies may feel that only those employees who are at high-risk of exposure should need to be vaccinated.
There’s also the possibility of keeping vaccinated employees separate from unvaccinated employees. This approach doesn’t force employees into any decisions about having the vaccine, and keeps vaccinated individuals feeling like they are safe to come into the office. But it clearly has implications in terms of segregation and the breaking up of teams. Whatever your company’s stance on vaccinations is going to be, the sooner this is formalized the more quickly your business will be able to forge ahead.
A final consideration that’s been receiving a lot of media coverage is around the issue of remuneration. Specifically, some very high profile tech companies have been looking to use the return to the office as a reason to reduce the pay of people choosing to continue working remotely.
This is a topic that could warrant a blog all of its own, but what a company’s stance on this is going to be is something you should prioritize deciding ASAP. It’s easy to understand an employer’s position that part of the remuneration they offer is to compensate people for living in, or commuting to, a high cost city location – and so that element of employees’ remuneration should only be payable if they are indeed working in the office. However, that misses the competitive element.
The competitive element is that far more companies are now willing to employ people fully remote – and a great many of them are offering exactly the remuneration one would expect for an office based role even for those working fully remote. Against this backdrop, implementing any kind of pay reduction for remote employees risks both quickly losing existing employees to the competition and also struggling to be an attractive option for new hires. So be wary of taking this decision – and if it’d help to talk through what businesses are offering in your sector and location, please get in touch with an FPC office to discuss. We’d be happy to help.