One-metre rule poses dilemmas for employers

COVID-19 and the shift to homeworking for millions of workers is forcing us all to think again about the future workplace.

Relocation day at Nous Communications

Nous Communications relocation day

The latest relaxation announced today of one-metre spacing in public spaces means more colleagues are likely to be called back into the office. However, studies show widespread support for ongoing flexibility.A Working Families study found 84% of 1,000 working parents were able to work from home during the lockdown, compared to 65% before.Almost all – over nine in ten – want that flexibility to continue, a finding the charity is backing with a campaign for keep flexible working post-COVID. Thirty-one per cent now also plan to put in a formal request to work from home or change their working patterns once its business as usual. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________Related content from Relocate Global

Managing flexible working in the multigenerational workplace

Working parents or not, many employees across today’s multi-generational workforce have enjoyed the few benefits of lockdown.With more free time from no commuting and living life on full salary without the significant overhead of season tickets or travel costs, people are looking to keep the good things from COVID once the pandemic is over.London-based PR firm Nous Communications is one company among many in this quandary, temporarily relocating office as all its employees are working from home during the lockdown.Operating from its Soho base before the pandemic hit the UK, Nous Communications' employees all have different views on the way ahead.“First and foremost, this is an issue of safety and my duty of care as an employer, with employee wellbeing in the bigger picture," said director Henry Griffiths. “In team meetings, we agreed as long as our clients were happy and while our contacts were still working remotely, we would wait until there is a vaccine until we all returned to the London office.”But with that some distance ahead, and some employees keen to return to the normality of office life and its clear separation between work and home, the company is having to continually evolve its approach as government protocols, clients and employee needs dictate.

Flexibility in flexible working policies?

“Part of the challenge is to make sure all of the team are listened to and heard,” says Henry. “We canvassed team views in anonymous surveys and face-to-face in leadership and team meetings back in early May once it became clear there was no close end to the lockdown and are acting on those findings.“However, we are getting to the point where it’s obvious a one-size-fits-all approach or previous policies simply aren’t going to work.“Some of our team members who are at relatively early stages of their career live with parents or in shared homes. Working from home permanently is not sustainable for them in the longer term, from a comfort, social or productivity point of view.”For others, permanent homeworking is an attractive option, especially those with family and caring responsibilities. Yet, very often these mid-career and senior leaders are those needed in the office and have line management responsibilities.“It’s knowing how to tread all these lines of autonomy, teamwork, technology, productivity and wellbeing, and that’s challenging to make sure everyone is in the right place mentally and physically to get the job done properly,” said Henry.

'Trying to make the best of it for everyone'

“At the moment, we are just seeing how it all evolves. We have decided though to create a budget for proper office furniture and WiFi connectivity for team members so they can customise their spaces at home.“Sitting on a kitchen chair for seven or eight hours a day is not good for you, nor is sharing bandwidth with your flatmate. We aren’t sure how long the lockdown will last, but we are just trying to make the best of it and look after everyone, clients and team members, as best we can.”

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