InsightsInsight - Employment & HR - POSTED: September 30 2020
COVID: what opportunities can we take?
Join us as Partner and Head of Employment, Catherine Daw, reflects on the impact of COVID and what it might mean for working lives.
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As we face the reality of greater restrictions, I feel it’s important to take a look at not only what is being removed, but on what we could gain as both individuals and employers in an uncertain world.
Over the past six months, I like many have benefitted from the opportunity to wear-down a spouse, so that the puppy the rest of my family has wanted for years, has now joined the family. I would like to say that he is more vicious than the picture would suggest but that would be a lie – he is delightful.
It has also been a great joy to be able to spend more time with my teenagers who will soon leave home, even if spending time with us was not their first choice – we would not have had this time in other circumstances. This does not take away from the serious and life changing implications for many during the pandemic, but we have tried to find positives, and to gain some lasting benefit from what has been forced on us.
In my working life as part of Brachers’ Employment and HR team, I, like most decamped to work from home in March. The team started to return to the office in September but have now largely gone back to home working. We now come into the office when clients need a face-to-face meeting or for work which cannot be done from home but the reality is IT changes we adopted last year mean most of our work can be done remotely.
This time has forced us to try a new way of working and although the team did some work from home before, never have we worked exclusively from home.
None of my team would ideally like to be based at home all the time, as working together and being able to see clients is too important to us, but it has given us the chance to spend more time with our families, to do school drop offs which weren’t possible before, to finish work and avoid the commute, and to flex the day so that not only we, but our clients benefit from more flexible hours.
Some of our clients start early and two of us in the team who are early birds have been able to speak to clients when they are working at the end of a night shift, or before the business day starts. It has been a huge advantage to be able to have some quiet time with clients to think and plan before everyone else starts work. Similarly, those in the team who work better later in the day have been able to offer evening appointments, working around employees’ working days.
I read a great article recently about how normalising flexibility in the workplace could change lives for some disabled employees. Employees and campaigning groups have been advocating the benefits of flexible work where traditional models have not met the needs of individuals who need a more flexible pattern of work.
Many of our clients have found that remote and hybrid working models, really do work. Productivity has not dropped and employees have on the whole reported greater satisfaction with having more control over their working lives. Some clients are making decisions about premises and longer-term strategies based on the positive benefits they have found from adopting different approaches to work.
Times remain tough for many employers with some having to consider redundancies that they had hoped could be avoided, but for others there are significant benefits to having had to try a different model of working. This is supported by the CIPD’s 2019 Flexible Working Survey which indicates flexible working benefits employers, improves working culture, and increases staff retention and employee happiness. I maintain that happy employees do good work, and anything which increases employees’ engagement at work – in my experience – has wider business benefits.
We hope as many of Kent’s businesses as possible survive this challenging year and that some positives – including alternative ways of working – offer a lasting benefit to employers and employees.
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