As we start to think about the return to work, we need to consider what we are going to do about people who will be unable or unwilling to return to the office.
Some vulnerable groups may experience an extended period of safeguarding where they are encouraged not to return to risky situations, perhaps until late 2021.
Other people will be suffering from short or longer term anxiety or other forms of mental health issues that make them incredibly anxious about being with other people.
A third group will be people who actually had a relatively positive experience with working from home, have realized that their jobs can be delivered from home and have seen significant benefits in work life balance, cutting out commuting and personal autonomy.
Several our clients are taking this opportunity to evaluate their policies (and costs) on travel, carbon footprint and remote working. They arer also considering what an inclusive workplace looks like in this new world.
In most of the discussions we’ve had with individuals, we don’t think many people will be looking to work from home full-time, but we do expect that many individuals will be keen to maintain some period of remote working, maybe a couple of days per week as part of their routine.
Some companies and individuals may be more reluctant to continue this. We even spoke to one manager who was concerned that if we gave people too much support, they might have too positive an experience of working from home and wouldn’t want to come into the office!
Some well-known silicon valley companies have famously discouraged remote working and insisted people come into the office – will they revert to this policy or embrace remote working?
What are your plans to cope with these different groups? How will you manage the staged return to work with different groups and different geographies operating different policies? How will you provide opportunities for all of these groups to be included in development, meetings and teams?
We will be faced with this question so it’s worth starting to talk about it now. Do you see this as an opportunity or a threat?