We may, perhaps, touching wood, be approaching some sort of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, or at least a return to something a bit closer to the old reality, but some things may never go back to as they were.
One very obvious example is working from home. Whether it is full time working from home, or a hybrid model with a mix of home and office-based working, there is a desire from many to avoid a permanent return to the place of work.
However, in some instances this appears to have the potential to create tension, disagreement and even a sense of alienation.
Naturally, when focussing on increased working from home, this assumes it is practical, even if practical might mean some accomodating of needs. Some jobs, clearly, cannot be done from home. Employees might have been on furlough and now required to return. If they, for instance, were a chef they could hardly do this from their own kitchen.
Similarly, a train driver isn’t much use in terms of their profession when they are at home.
But, in many more cases you can make a broad argument that the job can be done from home, even if the employer might argue it cannot be done so effectively from home. Perhaps elements can be done remotely, but an argument made that interaction in the office or place of work still has benefit.
One very prominent headline of late has been that some major employers are considering cutting the pay of those who continue to work from home. Google has been linked with this policy, although initially in the US only.
Their logic seems to be that in some locations staff are paid more based on the prevailing local labour market, if these people are then to work from home then why should they get this enhanced pay?
This, we should point out, is their logic, we don’t post it here to suggest we support the idea.
It is though easy to see this coming to the UK, especially in cities such as London that are expensive to live in. If someone can do the job they were employed to do in London, but move somewhere cheaper to live might their employer look to therefore cut their wage?
An obvious danger is that those who opt to work from home end up feeling like second class employees. Ultimately, they will then be demotivated and either their performance will drop, or they will leave.
We have seen during the past year that many have felt cut off, work becomes a series of Zoom interactions but not real engagement. There is a reluctance to return to the office or place of work, but that is not to suggest that working from home has been heavenly.
It may simply be the better of two not amazing options.
Until recently, it may have been that everyone was in the same boat, everyone working from home. The same provision and care are therefore given to all.
However, that could change as we see a mixed approach – some returning, others not.
The danger is that those who continue to work from home feel cut off and, if their salary also drops they could feel thoroughly underappreciated. We have, they might say, done the job well for over a year working from home. Now it’s a problem?
In the workplace, there will be informal conversations once more, get-togethers, social gatherings, a sense of camaraderie.
How can we make sure this extends to remote workers too?
One sensible approach is to make sure there are advocates for those who continue to work from home, people who ensure that their needs are met and also that they remain central to every decision.
Many will also give thought to what the return to the office brings in terms of benefits for those who do return and how this can be replicated for all.
If the benefit of returning is partly the social aspect and also the sense of being in a team, then how can this also apply to others?
It could be simple work nights or days out, or it could be mixing up events to also host some online – a continuation of the Zoom quizzes we all know and love. Some of the steps that may have been brought in mid pandemic don’t have to stop simply because some, the majority even are now back in the place of work.
Regular check–ins should continue. In the place of work, it might be easy to have impromptu chats to ask how people are doing, but this is less easy remotely. However, the need remains.
In truth, simply being aware of a potential issue is often half the battle. Any organisation that is aware that those working from home need to be considered with due care is likely to take sensible steps in this direction.
The worry is more those who give this no thought.
However, we would also like to touch upon our specific area of expertise – workplace benefits.
A simple word of advice would be to make sure that benefits are also applicable to those who remain working from home.
This does not mean that all benefits have to be suitable for all people. A cycle to work scheme won’t apply to those who continue to work from home full time, and so nor does this mean that you should scrap this benefit simply because it is not relevant to some.
A balanced suite of workplace benefits means that everyone has some things they can benefit from, even if some are not for them.
What might these be for those who wfh permanently, or in a hybrid model.
It may be that traditional benefits such as discounted gym membership remain popular – and the gym could also be somewhere that fellow employees meet up away from the workplace.
Other benefits might make life that bit easier – a workplace nursery scheme, or options such as Holiday Exchange, whereby employees can buy or sell a week’s holiday as they see fit.
Away from work, the Dining Club might prove popular – up to 50% off food and drink at a huge range of eateries; this could even enable people with different working set-ups, both in office, and at home, to meet in a neutral setting and chew the fat. So to speak.
There is always value in carrying out an audit of your workplace benefits.
Often, they are only truly suitable to a small percentage of employees and do little for others.
When done well, the benefits should help to motivate existing employees, help them to manage their life, but also help to entice those you would wish to employ.
A common error is to only focus on benefits for those already in the team, not those you would like to join. If, for instance, you have a desire to employ a few talented recent graduates then it makes sense to ensure you have some benefits that appeal to this group.
At Enjoy Benefits, we specialise in just this. We work with you to create the perfect package of benefits for your business or organisation – all easy to manage through an intranet and with us taking care of the set up and maintenance.
At Enjoy Benefits, we have great experience in helping companies of all sizes introduce benefits that are suitable for their workplace.
Benefits are easy to set up and ongoing administration is then run through a hub, this allowing employees to manage their own benefits while the employer can see which benefits are proving popular and what level of take-up each has had.
If you would like an obligation free chat to discuss which benefits might work for your business and your employees, please contact us by calling 0800 088 7315 or using our Contact Form.