In a series of blog posts, we're re-visiting our publication Returning to the Workplace to share our findings and make our work more accessible on our platform.
Returning to the Workplace: Part 2
The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the workforce as we know it. Is your business considering a fully remote model of work, or a hybrid model? Is everyone to come back to the office like all is normal? The following guide will provide informative and simplified notes on preparing on-site and remote jobs for a new world of work.
Agile & Flexible Work
With the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic, the notions of the workplace, how we fulfil our everyday roles, and similar perceptions have unsurprisingly altered. Many employees are learning to balance their work with family responsibilities, especially in the circumstances of working parents and those who have had to adopt the role of a carer. These changes have urged employers to rethink their business operations to support a more agile and flexible way of working.
At the start of a new project development, try to remember novel company values that support flexible work arrangements. This can mean a remote or hybrid model of work that necessitates differing communication standards across teams, for example. Use flexibility as a positive opportunity to support employee wellbeing without losing out on productive workplace meetings.
Wellbeing & Mental Health
Whilst the Covid-19 illness can present differently according to individual health and other factors, there are more vulnerable groups of people to consider. For example, employees who are of older age and/or have underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of contracting severe symptoms of the infection. Management should support employees and be open to individuals who may need to work from home as a prevention method. Of course, any details and information regarding employee health should be kept confidential.
Further, the uncertainties riddled by the pandemic can be a great cause of worry and fear among employees. The health risks imposed by the infection can be a source of stress and anxiety, additionally perpetuated by social isolation. Media information can be overwhelming, and job insecurity can arise. Keep in mind that many individuals such as working parents and carers have additional pressures beyond their jobs in Malta or elsewhere.
There are ways to better support employees and foster an organisational culture that promotes positive mental wellbeing, including:
- Establishing clear communication with employees and allow them the space to voice their concerns, and later point them to helpful resources and supportive material,
- Reminding employees of how the company is responding to the pandemic and their subsequent precautions,
- Provide additional sources of support, such as counselling services, should employees wish to seek these,
- Encourage employees to follow reputable sources such as the WHO regarding Covid-19 updates and to avoid misinformation,
- Ensure all team leaders are empathic to individual employee circumstances and understand what they can do to support workers during matters of distress, and
- If the organisation does not have their own support services to help employees, ensure a list is available including such resources that are accessible and available.
For many individuals, remote work will be a first-time experience, meaning social support is needed to avoid feelings of isolation. You can teach and encourage workers to set up a dedicated workspace in their homes and provide them of any equipment or software they need to carry out their tasks. Additionally, meetings that are set up virtually can mean more than just work updates—these can be a forum to converse about topics outside of their jobs in Malta or elsewhere and become social opportunities for employees.
Other points to support remote workers include:
- Empathic and available leaders who reassure their workers,
- Encourage communication and different means to connect with teams to avoid social isolation, and
- Promote the importance of work-life wellness and for leaders to be proactive role-models in this value.
As mentioned above, there may be workers who need additional support due to circumstances external to work responsibilities. It’s important that management pay particular attention to such individuals and consider further flexible arrangements that can be tailored to their specific needs.
There are bound to be changes within business processes as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s important that leaders communicate any changes to the business and ensure these are heard by all personnel. This can be in written communications as well as face-to-face meetings with employees. Whatever approach or stance the company will make should be understood by everyone.
As a manager and leader, you should continue to promote available and accessible resources to team members. Any updates of policy amendments should be clearly communicated to staff to avoid misunderstandings and worry. Include employees in these discussions and allow them the space to voice their thoughts and concerns. Answer any questions that they may have and always revert to how these changes will appear practically in the workplace. Remember that any changes made to business operations should be fair, inclusive, and considerate of individual circumstances.
We understand that guides such as this one can be comprehensive due to the differences between organisations. Whilst we cannot possibly cover every business situation in this publication, we hope the above serves as a means to begin and continue discussions surrounding RTW principles.
The above summarises some of the key issues that businesses address today, and we encourage employers to continue exploring reputable resources and advice in keeping up to date with the latest recommendations for organisations regarding Covid-19. This publication is not a substitute for specific legal recommendations and advice.
Additionally, whilst we do not typically cite our references in our publications, we do believe in transparency as a duty of care in writing the above. If you’d like to learn more about our sources and gather further access to recommendations, kindly reach out to the publication’s author at email@example.com.